PLAYER REVIEW: ALEX CALL
Age on opening day 2023: 28
How acquired: Claimed off waivers from Guardians, August 2022
MLB service time: 74 days
2022 salary: $700,000
Contract status: Under team control, arbitration-eligible in 2026, free agent in 2029
2022 stats (CLE/WSH): 47 G, 131 PA, 114 AB, 18 R, 27 H, 3 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 3 SB, 3 CS, 15 BB, 30 SO, .237 AVG, .336 OBP, .412 SLG, .748 OPS, 116 OPS+, -1 DRS, 0.6 fWAR, 0.3 bWAR
Quotable: This guy is willing to play, eager to play, every single day. Even when he’s on the bench, he prepares himself well, in case he has to come in the game. … I know what I’m going to get from him when he goes out there to play. He’s all-in, 150 percent every day from that kid, and I can’t ask more of him.” – Davey Martinez
2022 analysis: The victim of a roster crunch in Cleveland, Alex Call was designated for assignment Aug. 5, then claimed by the Nationals two days later. He spent all of a week at Triple-A Rochester, then not only was called up to D.C. but actually found himself leading off and starting in left field in his Nats debut against Padres lefty Blake Snell.
Call’s playing time was limited at first, but he forced his way into the lineup on a semi-regular basis with a combination of timely hits, surprising power and a whole lot of hustle in the outfield. The highlight of his season came Sept. 8 in St. Louis, when he went 4-for-5 with a double, a homer and five RBIs to lead the Nats to an 11-6 victory. He then followed up that performance with a three-hit game and another homer in Philadelphia the next night.
That sequence proved the high point of Call’s two months with the Nationals. Despite taking over regular duties in left field after Yadiel Hernandez was placed on the 60-day injured list with a calf strain, he batted a scant .197 with a .638 OPS over his final 19 games.
2023 outlook: The Nationals saw something in Call that made them want to take a flyer on him last summer. The question is: Did they see enough in two months to believe he could be a part of their plan moving forward?
Call has a good eye at the plate, hence an on-base percentage nearly 100 points higher than his batting average. He also showed he can hit the ball in the air in a manner that comes as a surprise given his 5-foot-11, 188-pound frame. And though his natural skills in the outfield leave something to be desired, there’s no doubting the effort he gives on every play.
All of that makes Call an intriguing bench piece for 2023, but probably not more than that. The Nationals, as has been stated before, are woefully thin in the outfield. At the moment, they’ve got Lane Thomas penciled in as their starting right fielder, Victor Robles as their center fielder and perhaps a platoon of Call and Yadiel Hernandez in left field, with Josh Palacios also an option. That’s not going to cut it.
If they can acquire a more established hitter to play left field, they could use both Hernandez and Call off the bench as a potentially potent lefty-righty combo. That seems the ideal scenario heading into next spring. If they don’t acquire that bat, though, Call should be ready and willing to take on a more prominent role.
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