Oct 25, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2014: 25
How acquired: 19th round pick, 2008 draft
MLB service time: 2 years, 23 days
2013 salary+bonuses: $501,000
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2015, free agent in 2018
2013 Stats: 118 G, 307 PA, 25 R, 75 H, 15 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 4 SB, 8 BB, 34 SO, .259 AVG, .278 OBP, .338 SLG, .616 OPS, 3 E, -0.7 UZR at 2B, -2.9 UZR in OF, -0.7 WAR
Quotable: “He’s been a mainstay on the bench. It’s a tough job, and he’s handled it very well mentally and physically. He’s been my best pinch-hitter all year long.” — Davey Johnson on Steve Lombardozzi
2013 analysis: A key contributor as a rookie in 2012, Lombardozzi entered this season expected to contribute again off the bench. But he struggled early, especially when forced into a starting role due to injuries to lineup regulars, and it took some time to get back on track.
Lombardozzi hit only .252 with a paltry .271 on-base percentage as a starter (he hit .286 with a .306 OBP when coming off the bench). Break down the numbers even more and it’s interesting to note Lombardozzi’s terrible offensive numbers when asked to play left field (.179/.195/.205) as opposed to his numbers when playing his natural second base position (.304/.323/.392).
In the end, Lombardozzi proved the Nationals’ best pinch-hitter this season, but he was far from a top performer, playing at a sub-replacement player level for the year while drawing an inordinately small number of walks (leading to the seventh-lowest OBP by any NL player with at least 300 plate appearances).
2014 outlook: Given how unproductive the Nationals’ bench was as a group this year, and the fact Lombardozzi was the best of that bad bunch, it stands to reason he’ll return next season. He’ll need to refine a few parts of his game, though, to become a more valuable reserve.
Clearly, Lombardozzi performed better as a second baseman than a left fielder, so perhaps it’s time for the Nats to give up on the idea of him being a “super-utility” player and have him stay in the infield. If that happens, though, he’ll need to become serviceable enough at shortstop and third base to be used around the infield and not only at second base.
Lombardozzi also is going to have to work on his plate patience. Light-hitting backups have to be able to work the count and draw the occasional walk. Lombardozzi incredibly only drew eight free passes in 307 plate appearances this season. That’s simply not going to cut it in the future.
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