Oct 8, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2014: 34
How acquired: Free agent, Dec. 2010
MLB service time: 10 years, 102 days
2013 salary+bonuses: $16 million
Contract status: Signed for $20 million in 2014, $21 million in 2015, $21 million in 2016, $21 million in 2017, free agent in 2018
2013 Stats: 129 G, 532 PA, 84 R, 147 H, 24 2B, 0 3B, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 10 SB, 60 BB, 101 SO, .318 AVG, .398 OBP, .532 SLG, .931 OPS, 1 E, -3.3 UZR, 4.6 WAR
Quotable: “Even last year, I was dealing with some circumstances with the wrist. I think right before I did get injured, I was starting to get rolling and feel pretty good. But I would say ever since I came back from the DL [June 4], I’ve been feeling more like myself and I think the type of player that I knew I was. In the end, that’s what brought me to Washington.” — Jayson Werth
2013 analysis: It’s easy to forget now, but there were legitimate questions entering this season about Werth’s power stroke, or lack thereof. Though he hit .300 in 2012, Werth clubbed only five homers in 344 plate appearances (plus, obviously, one kind-of-important one in the NLDS). But a full year removed from his broken wrist, Werth entered 2013 feeling much more confident about his ability to drive the ball, and that confidence only grew as the season progressed.
A lingering hamstring injury cost Werth a month early. Once he got past that, he turned into arguably the most-productive offensive player in the National League. From June 15 through the end of the season, he hit .349 with a .437 on-base percentage, 20 homers and a 1.033 OPS.
One of the keys to Werth’s success: He found a balance between his usual work-the-count approach and a more-aggressive attack. He put the first pitch of an at-bat into play 43 times this year and hit .381 with six homers and a 1.229 OPS in those at-bats.
In the end, the only downside to Werth’s season was the hamstring injury and the games that cost him. If he stayed in the Nationals’ lineup all season, he would’ve been the NL’s top MVP candidate.
2014 outlook: The question that will hang over Werth next spring: Can he do this again, or was this season an outlier and impossible to duplicate, especially as he ages? The easy answer is that Werth can’t sustain this and inevitably will decline, but very little about this guy’s career has followed a typical path.
An admitted late-bloomer, Werth didn’t become an everyday big leaguer until his age 29 season. There’s still a lot of baseball left in him … if he can keep himself on the field. At this point, the biggest problem-areas are probably his legs, which were an on-and-off issue this year. If he can avoid those nagging strains, he should be OK.
It will also be interesting to see where the new manager decides to slot Werth in his lineup. Forced into the leadoff position out of necessity in 2012, Werth was supposed to bat second in 2013 but wound up hitting cleanup. He could conceivably wind up anywhere from second through fifth in the Nationals’ 2014 lineup.
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