New Nationals’ catcher Derek Norris offered his unsolicited take on how things might line up for Washington this season when he spoke to reporters last month, though he apologized and assured everyone he wasn’t trying to do Dusty Baker’s job.
Norris, who was drafted by the Nationals and traded to the Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres before he returned to D.C. this winter, was asked how things changed since he was last in the organization.
“There are some core guys still here, but overall, I think we’re going to have a little bit different type of a team,” Norris said.
“You’ve got the two power bats in the middle with [Daniel Murphy] and you’ve got [Bryce] Harper and [Jayson] Werth and [Ryan Zimmerman] and myself hopefully peeking some home runs in there and you’ve got two speedsters at the top — that’s kind of how I see it.
“I’m not trying to do Dusty’s job or anything. But you’ve got [Trea] Turner and [Adam] Eaton can — fairly similar style of play — they’re scrappy they got on base, they steal bags, they play great defense — that’s kind of what I envision, setting the table for those two big boppers in the middle and then hopefully some of us down towards the bottom of the order can filter in some power and drive in some runs.”
Baker talked at the Winter Meetings about where he envisioned Eaton hitting after the Nationals acquired the outfielder from the Chicago White Sox, though he said he didn’t have a set spot in mind.
“Right now I'm not sure,” Baker said. “I have to lay eyes on him first, see how my lineup balances out. He could hit a number of places from top to seventh, even, just depends on if I want to break the left-handers up. I have to talk to [Eaton] first to see what he feels most comfortable with and I have to talk to all the subjects that are going to be in line, and I gotta talk to everybody and just sorta see.
“What you do in the beginning doesn't necessarily mean that that's how it's going to end up. That's what Spring Training is for, what the beginning of the season is for. So, you know, we'll figure it out.”
Baker said he wasn’t too concerned about potentially having Eaton, Murphy and Harper back-to-back-to-back even though they’re all left-handed and could be countered with a left-handed reliever.
“In Adam's case (.284/.369/.361 vs lefties in 2016, .285/.359/.352 career) and especially in Murphy's case (.329/.376/.548 vs LHPs last season, .280/.314/.398 career), they hit equally against left-handers and right-handers,” Baker explained.
“We do know that it poses a problem for us with quality left-handers with all three of them possibly being back-to-back-to-back, but that remains to be seen.
“Until I lay eyes on them and on a daily basis, we do have options to break 'em up. One thing is for sure, Murphy and Harper are going to be somewhere in the middle of that lineup. We will just have to determine where I put everybody else.”
“We like the fact that they're balanced hitters,” GM Mike Rizzo added, “... all three of those left-handed hitters. I don't worry about any three -- either of those three hitters coming up and bringing [in] a left-handed pitcher. Adam is almost completely balanced against lefties and righties. Murphy also. And Harp has been outstanding. Those are our big bats.”
And at the top? Baker was asked if he had a preference for Turner or Eaton leading off.
“I have to talk to [Eaton],” he said. “I gotta communicate with him, I gotta give him some of my thoughts and get some of their thoughts. But I have been around quite a bit longer than they have, so I imagine that they will listen to my thoughts probably even more than I will listen to theirs. But I will listen to theirs... to a degree.”
Turner said he didn’t necessarily have a preference.
“I think being a leadoff hitter you get a few more stolen base attempts,” Turner told reporters, “because when you get to three-four, you’re starting to shut it down on the basepaths, which is fine — because I hit two basically all my minor league career all the way up until last year [when] I started leading off a little bit more, but with the Padres I hit two-three and when I first got traded over I hit two. It doesn’t matter to me, just whatever works, whatever scores more runs is what I’m voting for.”
So how do you think Baker will line them up? What’s your preference? Are you one of the “lineup construction doesn’t make that much of a difference”-types? Baker did not promise to listen to your ideas...