Our offseason player review series continues today with Andrew Stevenson, who spent most of the summer at the alternate camp site in Fredericksburg, then wowed the Nationals after his late-season promotion.
PLAYER REVIEW: ANDREW STEVENSON
Age on opening day 2021: 26
How acquired: Second-round pick, 2015 draft
MLB service time: 1 year, 122 days
2020 salary: $563,500 (prorated $71,645)
Contract status: Under team control, likely arbitration-eligible in 2022, free agent in 2026
2020 stats: 15 G, 47 PA, 41 AB, 11 R, 15 H, 7 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 2 SB, 0 CS, 5 BB, 11 SO, .366 AVG, .447 OBP, .732 SLG, 1.179 OPS, 207 OPS+, 1 DRS, 0.8 fWAR, 0.8 bWAR
Quotable: “I think it’s just believing in yourself. I believe I’m a great player, and if I get an opportunity, I can go out and produce. So that was kind of always in the back of my mind (while waiting in Fredericksburg to be called up). Just to be ready. You never know. And take advantage of all the work you’re putting in each day, because eventually it’s all going to pay off.” - Stevenson
2020 analysis: Stevenson has spent much of his career as the 26th man on a 25-man roster. But with a 30-man roster permitted to begin this season, he not only found himself at Nationals Park on opening night, but in the lineup as the starting left fielder after Juan Soto tested positive for COVID-19. Stevenson’s first 2020 stint in the majors didn’t last long. He went down to the alternate training site in Fredericksburg one week later, and he didn’t return until Sept. 18, after Adam Eaton suffered a season-ending injury.
This time, Stevenson made the most of his opportunity. And then some. He started 10 of the Nats’ final 13 games and merely hit .417 (15-for-36) with seven doubles, a triple, two homers, 12 RBIs and a 1.321 OPS. He recorded at least one hit in all 13 of those games.
Stevenson was especially productive out of the leadoff spot, where he saw plenty of pitches to hit batting in front of Trea Turner and Soto. He even homered twice off Jacob deGrom (one of those a fluky, inside-the-park scamper around the bases).
It was a very small sample, but the all-around performance was impossible to ignore.
2021 outlook: At minimum, Stevenson shouldn’t have to worry about being the odd man out of the Nationals roster next spring. With Michael A. Taylor electing free agency after clearing waivers, Stevenson has the inside track for the fourth outfielder’s job. The question is whether he can force his way into the lineup.
It’s not like his September 2020 performance came out of nowhere. Stevenson was really effective off the bench in 2019, excelling as a pinch-hitter. In 84 big-league plate appearances over the last two seasons, he’s batting .366 with a .464 on-base percentage and .620 slugging percentage. That’s not nothing.
The fear has always been that Stevenson would get exposed if he played every day. Pitchers would figure him out, and he would prove himself not worthy of a starting job. That may very much prove true. And all signs point to the Nationals attempting to add another corner outfielder with a big bat this winter, so that may force Stevenson to the bench.
But there is probably a scenario - maybe not Plan A or Plan B, but Plan C - in which general manager Mike Rizzo spends his money on a first baseman or a third baseman or a catcher instead and decides to see what Stevenson can do as an everyday player. Don’t bet the farm on such a scenario. But as long as Stevenson continues to produce the way he has whenever given the opportunity, the Nats can’t just ignore him.