Nearly a year removed from surgery on his ankle and almost two years removed from a full ACL tear, meniscus tear, and a high ankle sprain, Adam Eaton is in camp with Washington’s Nationals preparing to play right field and hoping to stay healthy after two injury-impacted seasons in D.C. How does he look early this Spring?
“I haven’t seen him limping around like he was last year,” manager Davey Martinez said with a laugh when he spoke to reporters about the outfielder on Wednesday afternoon.
“But he’s good, he’s solid. Man, he’s hitting — he’s so strong, I mean, he’s hitting balls — and I tell him, ‘Man, would you please save some of those for the season?’ But he’s so excited to get going, and he’s fired up. He’s that little spark plug.”
Eaton talked at the start of Spring Training about enjoying a rehab-free winter in which he got to go through a relatively normal offseason routine.
“You’ll manage your whole life with this injury,” Eaton said last week, “but there’s been no rehabilitation this offseason. It’s been strength. A normal offseason. But continued body maintenance. We’ve talked at length the last two years about how this will give longevity to my career because I’m forced to do more body maintenance and take a lot more time out for that. It’s been a focus on making sure I’m ready, and probably in a better way than I have been in the past. It’s been a good strengthening offseason, and I feel strong. I’m just ready to get after it.”
When healthy over his first two seasons with the Nationals, Eaton has posted a combined .300/.394/.422 line with 25 doubles, seven home runs, 52 walks, and 82 strikeouts in 477 plate appearances, over which he’s been worth 2.4 fWAR.
“The biggest constant about Adam is just getting on base,” Martinez said when asked what he saw from Eaton when he was healthy last season.
“His on-base percentage is unbelievable. Now the other things? Whether he hits for a high average? If he continues to do what he did, yeah, and the other thing is how much power is he going to hit for? But we just want him to get on base and do the little things. That’s one guy, he’ll take a hit to left field, he doesn’t care how he gets on, he’s just going to try to get on.”
Eaton said he was preparing to play all 162, and Martinez said the noticeable limp is gone, but what does the manager expect from the outfielder in right field? Playing in right field back in 2016 in Chicago, he had a .990 fld%, +22 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and a +18.5 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), earning an AL Gold Glove nomination.
After playing just 23 games in 2017, Martinez played Eaton in right field predominantly last season when the outfielder was health, and he finished up with a .986 fld%, -4 DRS, and a -0.1 UZR.
“It’s funny that you ask that, because I ask myself that too,” Martinez said to a reporter who asked the manager what he expects from Eaton in right.
“Because we do have Robles, we do have Michael [A.] Taylor, so do I want to ever take him out for defense? No. But that’s all up to him, and we’ll see that when he starts playing this Spring and see where he’s at.”