Davey Martinez plans to pencil Kyle Schwarber, Victor Robles, and Juan Soto into his lineup as much as possible as long as they’re healthy this season. But in Spring Training the fourth-year manager has decisions to make about who’s going to make the Opening Day roster as a backup to the top three. How is he making that decision? What’s he looking for in a fourth outfielder?
“We’re looking for a guy that can play all three outfield positions, especially center field,” he said in his pregame Zoom call before the Grapefruit League home opener Monday morning.
“[Andrew] Stevenson is going to start out there today,” Martinez added.
“[Gerardo] Parra has played some center field. We feel like he can possibly play center field as well.”
Stevenson, after impressing in a bench role the past couple seasons, and putting together a strong month of September last year, was considered the presumptive leader for the fourth outfield spot going into Spring Training, but he’ll have to earn the spot this spring.
“We’re looking for a guy that can play all three outfield positions,” Martinez reiterated.
“I like left-handed hitters. So if a guy is a left-handed hitter like Stevenson and Parra, I like those guys.
“So we’re out there, we’re searching, we’re looking, but I really feel like Stevenson can do the job and so can Parra, so those guys are going to play a lot of center field here in Spring Training.”
Stevenson collected hits in all twelve games he appeared in last September, going 15 for 36 (.417/.488/.833), with seven doubles, a triple, two home runs, four walks, eight strikeouts, and one stolen base in 12 games (10 starts) and 41 PAs over the final weeks of the 60-game 2020 campaign.
In 45 games and 84 PAs in the majors between 2019-20, the left-handed hitting defense-first outfielder has put up a combined .366/.464/.620 line with eight doubles, two triples, two home runs, 11 walks, 22 Ks, and two stolen bases when he’s been called upon to help out at the big league level, in an obviously small sample size.
Parra, after helping the Nationals win the World Series in 2019, while also doing a lot to turn the club into a tight-knit group after joining the organization, played in Japan in 2020, but a year later, he took a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training and returned to the U.S. and Washington.
He’s returning to full strength following offseason knee surgery and looking to work his way back onto a major league roster. His thoughts on having to fight for a spot this year?
“I never put in my mind every time, there’s no this year, I want to make the team every year,” Parra said earlier this month.
“So it’s not a surprise for me, like I said, I’m doing my best. Happy every time, and nothing, I don’t do nothing different, I just play the best that I can play.”
Both Stevenson and Parra can handle center field, which Martinez said is something that he wants his fourth outfielder to be able to do. Why the focus on their play or any fourth option in the outfield’s play in center?
“Because I deem that you need to play all three,” Martinez explained. “When you’re a backup outfielder, if something goes down, you need to be able to play all three.
“If you don’t have a center fielder, per se, you can always call one up. But if it’s only for two or three days, you need someone who can play center field for those two or three days, you just don’t want to bring somebody up.”
Parra’s a known commodity at this point in his career. Stevenson has shown he can produce at this level, but it’s hard to crack the big league outfield in D.C.
“For me, like I said before,” Martinez began, “... here’s a guy — and if you look at our outfield even last year, we had three pretty good outfielders in front of him, so it was tough to crack the lineup.
“I like his at bats, especially against right-handed pitching, so you might see him play against more righties in the future. But he works good at bats.
“The biggest thing for me is he’s gotten a lot more aggressive in the outfield making plays, and so, but we like Stevenson a lot. He’s done well for us.
“And as you said, in spurts, he can help us a lot, and his at bats off the bench — I personally nickname him, ‘3-2.’ Because every at bat he’s almost 3-2.
“He had another one yesterday, first game of Spring Training, and working counts to 3-2, and worked a walk.
“I love his at bats, and it’s good to have a guy like that. And also too, a guy that can steal a base on occasion, a guy that can pinch run. He can do all those things for us.”