Whew, have you recovered from All-Star Week in D.C. yet? Honestly, I haven’t. That was both an exhilarating and an exhausting few days.
Fortunately, we all still get a condensed All-Star break before the Nationals return to action Friday night for their second-half opener and the opener of a big series with the Braves. We’ll look ahead to all that Friday morning, but today let’s take one look back at the now-completed first half of the season. (Yeah, technically they’ve already played 60 percent of the season, but tradition says we’re supposed to divide it into pre-All-Star break and post-All-Star break, so that’s what we’ll keep doing here.)
It’s time to hand out some grades to the entire Nats roster. A few of these are good. Some really are not good. All, however, have an opportunity to change before the 2018 season comes to an end.
MATT WIETERS: D+
Missed nearly two months with a hamstring injury, so it’s tough to fully evaluate him at this point. He does have value as the most trusted catcher in the organization, but his offensive production remains miniscule.
PEDRO SEVERINO: F
Not in the majors anymore, but he has played the most out of the Nats’ catchers to date. Unfortunately, he didn’t play well, with a paltry .510 OPS and surprisingly poor work behind the plate.
SPENCER KIEBOOM: C-
Wasn’t supposed to play a significant role on this team, but was forced into semi-regular action and earned No. 2 job over Severino for now. Hasn’t hit much, but pitchers do like working with the 27-year-old rookie.
RYAN ZIMMERMAN: D-
In every way (performance, injury, preparation) 2018 has been significantly worse than 2017 for Zimmerman. He’s on track to come off the disabled list on Friday. He’ll have to get off to a hot start to justify being the No. 1 first baseman.
MATT ADAMS: A-
Mike Rizzo took heat for signing him over Adam Lind, but the move has paid off exceptionally well so far. He would’ve been the top lefty off the bench, but he has become perhaps the top lefty in the lineup and worthy of continued playing time, even with Zimmerman returning.
MARK REYNOLDS: B+
One of the streakiest hitters in the game, he’s managed to have two long hot streaks sandwiched around one ice-cold streak so far. He does have value, but is there a role for him with Zimmerman returning?
DANIEL MURPHY: INC
Given his late start to the season, it’s not fair to give him a grade yet. The good news: His swing finally started to come together in the last week. The bad news: He’s a major liability on the bases and in the field.
WILMER DIFO: C-
Was thrust into regular playing time due to injuries, and he didn’t really seize the opportunity. Has his moments both at the plate and in the field, but he’s more valuable as a utilityman off the bench than as an everyday starter.
TREA TURNER: B+
There have been times when he’s been a “A” player this season, but he’s still prone to slumps, so that holds him back from a better grade. Still, he has the ability to do it all, and he’s emerging into a clubhouse leader as well.
ANTHONY RENDON: A
One of these days, fans and fellow players are going to have no choice but to vote him into the All-Star Game. Somehow, it still hasn’t happened, despite the complete game he brings to work every day.
ADAM EATON: B+
When he’s playing, he’s really good, a true sparkplug that makes this lineup work. But he hasn’t been able to play enough because of his surgically repaired knee and ankle. Nats need at least 250 plate appearances from him the rest of the way.
MICHAEL A. TAYLOR: C+
April/May (.204 batting average, 34 percent K rate) were a disaster. June/July (.318, 25 percent) have been much better. But now there’s no spot for him in the everyday lineup. It makes for a tough situation.
BRYCE HARPER: D
Yes, he’s still got the homers and the walks. But half of each came in the first third of the season. Since May 5, he’s hitting .190/.317/.394 and striking out in 30 percent of his plate appearances. Maybe his Derby performance will jump-start him. If not, it’s going to be tough to watch him the rest of the season.
JUAN SOTO: A
The Nats never had any plan for him to be a significant contributor in 2018, but here we are. The 19-year-old has proven he’s more than ready for this challenge, and he has become invaluable to the daily lineup.
BRIAN GOODWIN: C-
Figured to be an important piece off the bench, but his playing time has been reduced to next-to-nothing. He’s 1-for-26 as a pinch-hitter, which perhaps has left his roster spot vulnerable.
MAX SCHERZER: A+
His ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate all are better than they were in 2016 or 2017 ... when he won back-to-back Cy Young Awards. He has become the perfect pitcher for this new era of power baseball.
STEPHEN STRASBURG: B
His ERA is up nearly a full point from last year, but the only real difference is a doubling of his home run rate. He’s due to come off the DL on Friday; the Nats desperately need him to be the best version of himself the rest of the way.
GIO GONZALEZ: B-
He was making an All-Star case for himself at the end of May at 6-2 with a 2.10 ERA, but he’s 0-4 with a 6.51 ERA since. A positive start before the break was an encouraging sign. He may benefit from Wieters’ return more than anyone.
TANNER ROARK: D
For the first time in his major league career, he looks defeated. That’s a problem. He’s going to have to rediscover his command and his confidence soon, or else the Nats have to start looking elsewhere.
JEREMY HELLICKSON: B
Who knew the Nats were getting such a reliably consistent starter with this late-March signing? He’s been a revelation, helped by the way they’ve pulled him before he can get into trouble late in outings.
ERICK FEDDE: C-
This was the season the Nats’ top pitching prospect was going to ascend into a big league regular, but his starts continue to be underwhelming. It’s still a small sample, but he’s got a way to go to earn a regular job up here.
JEFRY RODRIGUEZ: C-
Circumstances forced his arrival ahead of schedule. He dazzled in his surprise debut but hasn’t looked ready for prime time since. He’s going to have to develop more reliable secondary pitches to have success against big league hitters.
SEAN DOOLITTLE: A+
Among all MLB relievers with at least 15 appearances, he ranks first in WHIP (0.536) and strikeout-to-walk rate (16.33-to-1), with a 1.45 ERA and 22 saves in 23 attempts. As long as his foot injury isn’t serious, he’s headed for the best season ever by a Nats reliever.
RYAN MADSON: C
Getting hit much harder than he did last year. Is that an inevitable regression? A byproduct of age? Overuse early this season? Whatever the case, the Nats need him to turn it back on.
BRANDON KINTZLER: C+
Like Madson, he hasn’t been the same guy so far in 2018 that he was in 2017. And like Madson, early-season overuse may have caused arm trouble. A lower workload could lead to better results in the second half.
KELVIN HERRERA: C-
If we were giving him a full-season grade, it would be an A-. But we’re only evaluating him as a National here, and the truth is that he’s been underwhelming since his acquisition. Is it a slow adjustment to a new league and role, or something else?
SHAWN KELLEY: B
Yes, he gave up a bunch of longballs early, and he’s rarely used in anything but low-leverage spots. But the veteran we all wrote off has a 2.54 ERA and 0.847 WHIP. Might be time to try him again in a more significant situation.
SAMMY SOLÍS: C
That the lefty’s oft-injured arm survived 40 appearances in the season’s first 80 games was remarkable. He wound up getting demoted because of the one option he still had, and he wasn’t happy. How will he respond when he returns to the majors later this summer?
MATT GRACE: B
Quietly has a 2.80 ERA and 1.019 WHIP this season. Like Kelley, doesn’t usually pitch in big spots. But the lefty has proven himself to be a valuable reliever who can provide multiple innings when needed.
JUSTIN MILLER: B
Came out of nowhere to become a force in this bullpen early on, but has now been scored upon in eight of his last 15 appearances. Does he have a bounceback in him, or is this who he actually is?
DAVEY MARTINEZ: C+
He’s been forced to cobble together lineups and a rotation after a spate of injuries and surprisingly underachieving performances. None of that’s his fault. But he does need to get better with bullpen and lineup decisions. Players do seem to appreciate his upbeat approach to things, but it’s time for that to start paying off.
MIKE RIZZO: B
The additions of Adams, Reynolds and Hellickson have paid off big-time, and the trade for Herrera could still prove huge. But he has to shoulder some blame for the lack of rotation and catching depth. Will he do something bold in the next two weeks? This season’s outcome may depend on it.