Jul 17, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
Yes, I fully understand the first half of the 2014 baseball season ended more than two weeks ago and that at this point the Nationals have played 57 percent of their regular-season schedule. To which I say: So what? There weren’t a bunch of days off following Game 81 that required creative blog post ideas to bridge the gap until the Nats take the field again.
It’s the All-Star break, so that means it’s time to hand out first-half grades to the entire roster, plus the manager and GM. I am quite certain nobody out there will agree 100 percent with these grades, but I did my best to hand them out in as fair and objective a manner as possible.
It was particularly difficult to judge several players who spent considerable time on the DL, but there are no Incompletes here. Everybody appeared in enough games to warrant an actual letter grade. So here goes…
WILSON RAMOS — B
Two stints on the DL kept him sidelined about 7 weeks, but when he has been on the field he has been rock solid.
JOSE LOBATON — D+
Acquired in February because he could take over if Ramos got hurt, he hasn’t proven much of a threat at or behind the plate.
ADAM LaROCHE — A-
He has cooled off just a bit the last few weeks but otherwise has been Mr. Reliability and was worthy of All-Star consideration.
ANTHONY RENDON — A
Has done anything the Nats have asked him do, and has done it all extraordinarily well for such a young player.
IAN DESMOND — B-
Remains one of this team’s best offensive threats, and has again overcome defensive woes. But strikeouts continue to haunt him.
RYAN ZIMMERMAN — B
It’s been a wild adventure for the Face of the Franchise, but he continues to produce on the field and lead in the clubhouse.
DANNY ESPINOSA — C-
A great April at the plate left you wondering if he finally turned a corner, but he’s back to his old self from the left side of the plate.
KEVIN FRANDSEN — C
Signed on the final day of spring training, he proved valuable right away when thrust into the lineup. Hasn’t done much since April, though.
BRYCE HARPER — C
Missed 9 weeks with a torn thumb ligament, and he’s still trying to find his swing two weeks after returning to the lineup.
DENARD SPAN — B
No, he doesn’t draw enough walks. But he’s among the league leaders in doubles and he has been elite in center field.
JAYSON WERTH — B+
The veteran right fielder has been streaky at the plate. But when he’s hot — like he is right now — he can carry this lineup.
NATE McLOUTH — D
Given a 2-year deal to serve as perhaps the best 4th outfielder in baseball, he struggled so much he was banished back to the bench even when Nats were banged-up bad.
SCOTT HAIRSTON — C
Eats up left-handed pitching. Does very little against right-handed pitching. And in left field … well, it ain’t pretty.
STEPHEN STRASBURG — B+
The good: Leads the league in strikeouts and has clamped down on baserunners. The bad: Still can’t consistently get through big innings late.
JORDAN ZIMMERMANN — A-
Aside from a brief spurt in May when things turned sour, he’s been downright dominant and earned his 2nd straight All-Star selection.
GIO GONZALEZ — B-
Some shaky starts early on, and then his first career DL stint with shoulder inflammation. But he has come back strong since.
DOUG FISTER — A
He missed the first month with a strained lat. Since then, he has been absolutely everything the Nats could have hoped he would be.
TANNER ROARK — B+
Has legitimately pitched like an ace at times. Has come back to earth a bit since, but he’s still far better than any other No. 5 starter out there.
RAFAEL SORIANO — A
22-for-24 in save opportunities. A sub-1.00 ERA. Fans and teammates have completely turned around on the enigmatic closer.
DREW STOREN — A
Since returning from Syracuse late last summer, he has made everyone forget Game 5 and his disastrous first half to 2013.
TYLER CLIPPARD — A-
Aside from some early meltdowns against the Braves, he has been his usual dominant self, often recording the biggest outs of a particular game.
AARON BARRETT — A-
An afterthought when spring training opened, he wound up making the club and impressing everyone with his stuff and his composure.
JERRY BLEVINS — C
Acquired to be the reliable lefty the Nats could count on against tough opposing hitters, he has been rather pedestrian so far.
CRAIG STAMMEN — B-
The versatile right-hander will do whatever is asked of him. A few too many times, though, he has melted down in key spots, including three times in extra innings.
ROSS DETWILER — C
Converted to reliever at the end of camp, he was misused early on and has yet to really find his place in the Nationals’ bullpen.
MATT WILLIAMS — B
The rookie manager has had to deal with plenty more than he bargained for. There were some early questionable decisions, but he seems to be growing with the job and figures to be a better manager at season’s end than he was at the outset.
MIKE RIZZO — B
The Fister trade looks brilliant. The McLouth, Lobaton and Blevins moves don’t. Above all else, though, he has done a very nice job assembling a roster that has been capable of making up for injuries and other unforeseen twists.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
TUE: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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