Jan 23, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2014: 32
How acquired: Free agent, Dec. 2013
2014 salary: $5 million
2013 stats (w/BAL): 146 G, 593 PA, 76 R, 137 H, 31 2B, 4 3B, 12 HR, 36 RBI, 30 SB, 53 BB, 86 SO, .258 AVG, .329 OBP, .399 SLG, .729 OPS, 1 E, 4.0 UZR, 2.5 WAR
2014 storyline: After resurrecting his career in Baltimore, McLouth now finds himself in D.C., secure with a 2-year, $10.75 million contract. A former All-Star and Gold Glove winner in Pittsburgh six years ago, he’s versatile and can play all three outfield positions well. He’s speedy and just stole a career-high 30 bases last season. And he’s got some pop in his bat, having clubbed 12 homers and 31 doubles for the Orioles.
Playing time won’t come easy for McLouth with the Nationals, who have three established starting outfielders in Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth. But manager Matt Williams wants to give his regulars days off, and GM Mike Rizzo astutely noted that his club’s fourth outfielder received roughly 300 at-bats each of the last three seasons. So McLouth should find his way into the lineup and onto the field, holding down a key role.
Best-case scenario: McLouth’s best-case scenario would probably involve a worst-case scenario for somebody else in the Nationals’ outfield, because it’s the only way he’ll get considerable playing time. But let’s suppose he’s forced into the daily lineup and gets 500 plate appearances. Based on his performance last year in Baltimore, he’s certainly capable of hitting .270 with 15 homers, 35 doubles and 30 steals. Not bad production from a fourth outfielder.
Worst-case scenario: Yes, he’s coming off a great year with the Orioles, but McLouth is only a couple years removed from some awful performances in Atlanta and Pittsburgh. It’s not outrageous to worry he could slip right back into that rut, struggle to keep his batting average at the Mendoza Line and not get many opportunities to utilize his speed. Most troubling in this scenario is the fact the Nats have already committed $5 million to him in 2015, not to mention a $6.5 million club option (or $750,000 buyout) in 2016.
Most-likely scenario: McLouth should be an upgrade over Roger Bernadina as the Nationals’ fourth outfielder and top left-handed bat off the bench. It may be a challenge for Williams to get him 300 at-bats, but in whatever playing time he gets, McLouth should be able to hit .250 with a .330 on-base percentage, produce some timely extra-base hits, play solid defense around the outfield and swipe 15 bases.
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