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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez; Ryan Zimmerman; Kris Kline on 1st half; bench role; draft strategy...

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Some random notes and thoughts from the Nationals as we wait for the start of the second half of the 2021 season...

New Faces By Necessity:

While discussing the difficult of judging what the Washington Nationals have, as a team this season, with all of the injury issues they’ve dealt with, manager Davey Martinez said after his club dropped three straight in San Francisco heading into the break that it has been difficult this year, though he looked forward to getting healthy in the second-half.

“It’s hard when you don’t have all your pieces,” Martinez acknowledged. “All the pieces that you thought leaving Spring Training that you’d have, but then again, it’s part of it. And like I said, I never dwell on things that happen. I try to stay as positive as I possibly can, and get these guys ready to play every day.”

With some of the expected everyday players unavailable, however, the Nationals have had an opportunity to look at some others who have contributed to the cause in the first half.

MLB: Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

“You start seeing the guys that have stepped up, we talk about — I know Kyle [McGowin] is on the IL right now, but McGowin, who has [given] us some really important innings.

“The [Andres] Machados. Jefry [Rodríguez] stepping up and doing what he’s done.

“Ryne Harper coming in and doing what he’s done. I mean, those guys matter, and during Spring Training, when we leave Spring Training, and I talk to these guys — I always tell them that they’re going to play a very important role throughout the season, so just because you don’t make the team, you’re going to be up here and you’re going to help us win and they’ve done that.”

Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer, talking over the final weekend of the first half, said he thought the club has the pieces to compete if they can get it together in the second half.

“We’re hanging in there, we’re dealing with some injuries, we got bit pretty hard there for a bit, but we’re a pretty darn good team,” Scherzer said, “... and you know when you’ve got three All-Stars, four All-Stars, everybody playing at a high level, you can do some things, especially if we can get [Stephen Strasburg] back. If we can get him back that can really provide us a shot in the arm to really get going, and that’s the way we’re going to have to win this year.”

So far this season, three players have made their MLB debuts with the Nationals, with Sam Clay, Jakson Reetz (last weekend), and Cody Wilson (remember him?) all getting their first taste of major league action, though only Clay has made significant contributions thus far in 2021.

Drafty Strategy With Asst. GM Kris Kline:

After taking a high school shortstop with their top pick in the 2021 Draft (11th overall in the first round), Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops Kris Kline talked to reporters about how the team was approaching their selections this time around, noting that in this year’s class there wasn’t a potential frontline pitcher like 2020’s top pick, Cade Cavalli, who stood out from the crowd and made it an easy choice once they were on the clock.

So given that fact, how were the Nationals approaching this year’s picks? Kline explained.

“I think when you put a draft board together, you put it together — let’s say that you were playing the GM of a brand new franchise,” Kline explained, “... that’s how I look at it every year, we build the board like we are building a major league team, so how do you do that, you start with anybody that you think that might be a frontline stater, Cade Cavalli, guys like that, [2019 1st Round pick Jackson] Rutledge, and [2020 2nd Round pick] Cole Henry, and then you start to build your team through the middle: catcher, shortstop, center fielders, guys that can have tools that can run, do other things, and guys that can hit, along with playing those positions, and then you kind of branch out to the corners, where power and the bat are the priority, and you try to line them up the best that you can, and it’s never going to be perfect, but we can try.”

The next day, the Nationals chose six position players in nine picks.

Through 10 rounds, the Nationals selected seven position players and three pitchers.

If the high-end pitching wasn’t there, did they just continue to fill out the rest of the field in Rounds 11-20?

“Sometimes that’s just the way it falls,” Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Baca said. “You still line them up in a preferential order, always taking the best player available, and it’s the way it fell, but I don’t think anybody could be more pleased by the way all of it transpired.”

“There’s always going to be little speed bumps along the way right,” Kline said, “... because you have the board lined up the way you like it and you reach out and they’re just — they’re not comfortable with maybe the dollar amount and the round, and there’s some hurt feelings out there with kids who didn’t go as high as they want, because they read somewhere that he was going in the third round and he ended up going in the ninth round, but it’s an honor and a privilege to be drafted, and in the Top 10 rounds, that’s saying a lot.”

In rounds 11-20, the Nationals took seven pitches, two catchers, and one outfielder.

SOBs - Ryan Zimmerman on his bench role + more:

In a new role with the team, in his 16th season after the Nationals selected him in the first round of the 2005 Draft, Ryan Zimmerman has put up a .242/.270/.464 line with a total of seven doubles and nine home runs in 61 games and 159 plate appearances coming off of the bench and subbing in at first for Josh Bell on occasion.

In 30 games and 127 PAs as a starter this year, Zimmerman, 36, has a .264/.299/.479 line, with five of his doubles and seven of his home runs when he starts, with a .156/.156/.406 line, two doubles, and two home runs as a sub, going 4 for 30 with two doubles and one home run as a pinch hitter. So how has he adjusted to the bench role?

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

“I mean, it’s hard,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve obviously pinch hit before. It’s tough. But that’s what I signed up for. I knew what I was getting into. [Josh Bell] got really hot there for the last week or two, and has been swinging the bat well, so when he does that, he’s obviously going to play ... I just have to keep having good at bats, swinging at strikes off the bench, and try to [succeed] in the situations I’m put in, but yeah, I’ve enjoyed it, we’ve gone through a lot in this first half, if you really think all the way back to the beginning of the year, and like I said, we’re still in a position to be in it, and that’s all you can ask for, so we’re going to enjoy some time off and come back and be ready to go.”