Where can the Nationals find more power in 2024?

The Nationals’ acquisition of Joey Gallo this week – which still won’t be official for another day or two, by the way – was made with one primary purpose in mind: To inject some power into a lineup that sorely needs it.

The Nats ranked last in the National League with 151 home runs last season. And they had only one individual player top 18 homers: Lane Thomas, who finished with 28.

Gallo, for those who don’t know, has averaged 30 homers in each of his last six full major-league seasons and hit 38 as recently as 2021 with the Rangers and Yankees. He hit only 21 last year with the Twins, but he did that in only 332 plate appearances. His 6.3 percent home run rate was actually right in line with his career average, not to mention more than double the major-league average.

So, Gallo’s presence is going to help the Nationals. But he alone isn’t going to turn the league’s worst power-hitting lineup into even an average one. For that, the Nats will need blasts from others.

There’s still a reasonable chance Mike Rizzo adds another bat this winter, because at the moment the team’s Opening Day designated hitter appears to be … Riley Adams? Jake Alu? Stone Garrett (if he’s healthy)? The options aren’t great, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Rizzo spends a bit more money on another hitter with power potential.

The Nationals, though, still have a long way to go in this department. They hit 151 homers last season. The MLB average was 196. That’s an additional 45 homers that need to come from somewhere in 2024.

Fortunately, there are a few returning players who should be capable of increasing their power numbers, even if it’s not dramatic improvement.

CJ Abrams and Keibert Ruiz each hit 18 homers last year. And while those are solid totals for a young shortstop and a young catcher, there’s probably more in there waiting to come out.

Abrams hit 11 of his home runs during a 51-game stretch from mid-July through mid-September. He totaled only seven in his first 82 games, and he went homerless over his final 18 games. A more consistent stroke this season could easily produce another seven homers, bringing him up to 25 in total.

Ruiz also could be in line for a higher total with a bit more consistency. He hit five homers a piece in May and August but hit only two in each of the season’s four other months. A leap to 25 might be too much to ask, but something in the low 20s seems reasonable.

The Nationals hope their biggest power improvement comes from Joey Meneses, who has now finished with 13 home runs in each of his two big-league seasons. The problem: He hit 13 homers in only 240 plate appearances in 2022, then wound up with the same total in 657 plate appearances in 2023.

Meneses, as it was finally revealed at last month’s Winter Meetings, dealt with a sore knee for much of the season. The Nats believe he often compensated for it by settling for way more singles to the opposite field instead of trying to pull the ball in the air. Healthy again, he could be ready to show off a more potent power stroke this year, with the potential to double his 2023 total, maybe even do more than that.

And then, of course, there’s the expected arrival sometime during the season of three top prospects who all have serious power potential: James Wood, Dylan Crews and Brady House. They may not combine to take 600 major-league plate appearances, but even in a small dose all three have the ability to hit the ball out of the park once given the opportunity to play at the highest level.

None of this is going to morph the NL’s worst power-hitting lineup into one of its best overnight. Expectations need to reasonable here.

But an increase of 30-40 homers from last season feels reasonable for a lineup that on paper should be better than last year’s version. For this team, any increase in big blasts will be warmly welcomed.

Better, same or worse in 2024: Pitchers
Why the Nationals are signing Gallo

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