Found June 06, 2012 on The Nats Blog:

jayson-werth-usp2The Washington Nationals have dealt with a slew of injuries in the 2012 season, but as time goes on, the Nats continue to say in the mix despite some key offensive injuries to Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos. Though Ramos will be gone for the rest of the season, Werth is scheduled to return for a playoff push.

If you look at the Nationals regular lineup now, it’s a whole lot better than when it was at its weakest. Seeing a high on-base guy at the top of the lineup in Steve Lombardozzi is helpful, and despite not producing in very few at-bats, everyone should be happier with Michael Morse in the lineup. But how do things shift once Werth gets back if everyone stays healthy? Well, that’s a fun discussion.

Werth has spent the majority of his MLB career hitting second, fifth, or sixth, and it stands to reason that’s where he feels most comfortable. When he gets healthy, he could find a way to slide into that role, but I argue that Werth would be most valuable hitting at the top of the order for the Nationals. He has a career .360 OBP and is fast enough to steal some bases, too.

Former manager Jim Riggleman tried hitting Werth first in 2011, and Werth wasn’t all that excited about it. If he hits second, it displaces Bryce Harper from a place where he’s succeed. Some would argue, including me, that Harper belongs in the middle of the order with his insanely good numbers, but it’s not that easy. Moving one guy to another role creates domino-effect like changes to the lineup.

Say, for example, that Werth hits second and Harper is moved to hit fifth. If you shift Michael Morse back to hit sixth, or switch Morse and Adam LaRoche between fourth and sixth depending on the pitching matchup, it displaces Ian Desmond. Desmond has had some success hitting fifth, and his low on-base percentage would hurt the Nats in the leadoff spot. However, there’s not a real logical spot to put him besides leading off if he can’t hit fifth or sixth. 

Morse, Werth, and Harper are all everyday outfielders, even with Lombardozzi’s early-season success. The only way to keep Lombo in the lineup is by platooning with Espinosa at second base. Lombardozzi is hitting .352 with a .410 OBP against righties this year while Espinosa is hitting .333 with a .429 OBP against lefties this season. They’re both switch hitting second basemen, so it can really work in the Nats’ advantage if Davey Johnson is willing to implement a platoon.

So all of that is the long way of getting to this prediction. This is what I’d ideally like to see from the Nats once everyone that can be back is back from injury this season.

vs. RHP

  1. Steve Lombardozzi - 2B
  2. Jayson Werth - RF
  3. Ryan Zimmerman - 3B
  4. Bryce Harper - CF
  5. Michael Morse - LF
  6. Adam LaRoche - 1B
  7. Ian Desmond - SS
  8. Jesus Flores - C
  9. Pitcher

vs. LHP

  1. Jayson Werth - RF
  2. Bryce Harper - CF
  3. Ryan Zimmerman - 3B
  4. Michael Morse - LF
  5. Adam LaRoche - 1B
  6. Ian Desmond - SS
  7. Danny Espinosa - 2B
  8. Jesus Flores - C
  9. Pitcher
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