The Home Run Derby and All-Star Game have come and gone, but now we’ve got the long, two-day wait without any baseball until the second half of the season opens Friday night at Nationals Park.
So we’ll spend these two days looking back at what has transpired so far and looking ahead at what may transpire the rest of the way. Tomorrow, we’ll break down the top storylines of the second half for the Nationals. First up today, though, we look back at the first half and hand out grades for the guys who took the field wearing curly W caps and helped their club reach this juncture with a six-game lead in the National League East ...
WILSON RAMOS: A+
A truly remarkable first half for “The Buffalo,” who has become the best-hitting catcher in baseball (and already was one of the better defensive ones). Worthy of all the praise he’s receiving right now.
JOSE LOBATON: C-
After serving as Gio Gonzalez’s personal catcher for two months, Lobaton has begun working with other members of the staff. He’s not a big threat at the plate, but he remains a very capable backup.
RYAN ZIMMERMAN: D
Zim has never struggled like this in his career without also being hurt, but he insists he was healthy before straining his ribs last week. He needs to figure it out quick when he returns or else Nats face a tough decision.
DANIEL MURPHY: A+
What more could the Nats possibly have asked for out of him when they signed him in December? An already good hitter has elevated himself into a legitimately great hitter.
DANNY ESPINOSA: B
He was hitting .199 on June 1 and hearing lots of calls to be benched. By July 4, people were seriously asking if he deserved All-Star consideration. A stunning in-season resurrection.
ANTHONY RENDON: B-
After a sluggish start, he’s slowly but surely putting it back together at the plate, though the power stroke still is coming back. Back at third base permanently, he has been exceptional.
STEPHEN DREW: B
A starter throughout his career, he needed some time to adjust to life on the bench for the first time. But he has proven quite productive in this new role, not to mention more versatile than most realized.
CLINT ROBINSON: C+
Started the season in a 1-for-22 slump, but has hit like his usual self since then. Nats need him to keep this up while Zimmerman is on the disabled list.
JAYSON WERTH: B-
After a miserable April, he quietly has turned back into the guy we’ve been watching for six years now. Move up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup has allowed him to do what he does best: Work the count.
BEN REVERE: D+
Pulled an oblique muscle on opening day, spent a month on the DL and has been trying to find himself ever since. There have been glimpses of late, but the Nats can only wait so long for it to happen.
BRYCE HARPER: A-
After winning NL Player of the Month in April, he looked poised to repeat his MVP campaign. It hasn’t remained that way, but the guy still is on pace for 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .399 on-base percentage. That’s not exactly disappointing in the big picture.
MICHAEL A. TAYLOR: D
Given an opportunity to play every day while Revere was injured in April, he failed to seize it. Hasn’t been the dynamic player (at the plate or in the field) consistently enough, and even found himself demoted to Triple-A before the break.
CHRIS HEISEY: C+
Dusty Baker put him on the roster because of his track record as a pinch-hitter. Heisey hasn’t disappointed in that regard with three pinch-hit homers already.
TREA TURNER: Incomplete
We’ve seen him only in two brief stretches so far, most of it spent on the bench. A major question for the second half is whether the Nationals can find a place for him to contribute.
MAX SCHERZER: B+
There are some warts, most notably his league-high home run total. But overall, he has been really good, with his share of absolutely dominant starts and plenty more quality ones.
STEPHEN STRASBURG: A
In this, his seventh big league season, he is putting it all together and becoming a complete pitcher. He’s the first NL hurler to start out 12-0 since 1912, and he might have two more wins if not for his brief DL stint.
GIO GONZALEZ: C
A fantastic April left you wondering if the lefty had turned a major corner, learning how to pitch his way out of tough spots. But since then, he has reverted back to his old self, leaving his long-term status in question.
TANNER ROARK: B+
Back in the rotation on a full-time basis, the right-hander is back to the guy who dazzled everyone in 2014. His two-seamer on the inside corner to left-handed batters has become a signature (often unhittable) pitch.
JOE ROSS: B
The young right-hander has now pitched in 32 big league games. His total numbers: 12-9, 3.56 ERA. That’s not bad at all for a 23-year-old who is only going to get better. Current DL stint may leave him fresh for September and beyond.
JONATHAN PAPELBON: B
The eye test says he doesn’t miss enough bats and makes your blood pressure rise too much. The numbers (and the actual results) say he actually has been pretty good. Not dominant, but good.
SHAWN KELLEY: A
The Nationals made a three-year commitment to him over the winter, and he has been worth it so far. Giving up fewer than seven hits per nine innings, striking out more than 13 batters per nine innings.
FELIPE RIVERO: C-
His arm is electric, of that there is no doubt. But his lack of consistency has been a real problem, and it has left Dusty Baker with waning confidence to use him in situations of consequence.
BLAKE TREINEN: B
Has some scary moments when he can’t find the plate (or can’t retire left-handed hitters) but overall he’s been quite good. Leads the majors in induced double plays by a reliever.
OLIVER PEREZ: C+
He’s been best when used exclusively against left-handed batters in quick bursts, but Dusty Baker has been forced to use him for multiple innings more regularly, which doesn’t play to his strength at this point.
MATT BELISLE: B-
The numbers (in limited action due to a calf injury) have been good. But they haven’t come in many situations of consequence: Only three of his 18 appearances have been in games that were either tied or the Nats led by fewer than five runs.
SAMMY SOLIS: B+
He didn’t make the big league bullpen until Belisle suffered his injury, but he has refused to give the spot back since then. The one-time top pitching prospect has blossomed into quite an effective reliever, entrusted in some big spots over the last month.
YUSMEIRO PETIT: A-
He has the most thankless job on the staff, but he does it exceptionally well. Who else can throw four-plus innings in relief, record a save and make a six-inning start?