While sliding into third base on Friday night against the San Diego Padres, Bryce Harper tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. Harper had surgery on his injured thumb earlier this week and will be out until at least early July.
The Washington Nationals recalled outfielder Steven Souza Jr. from AAA Syracuse to fill up the 25-man roster. With the starting left field spot open, Nationals fans should expect to see a platoon of Nate McLouth and Kevin Frandsen. McLouth batted leadoff for the Baltimore Orioles last year when they faced right handed pitchers, so he should not have a problem stepping into an increased role with the Nationals.
Unfortunately neither McLouth nor Frandsen are five tool players, and they will struggle to replace the power and arm strength that Harper provides. Washington will miss Harper’s bat in the middle of the order, and they will need an increase in production from Ian Desmond to help pick up the offensive slack.
So far in 2014, the Nationals have struggled to pick up base hits with runners in scoring position, so I do not expect the Nationals’ production to drop off from where it is currently. Also, Wilson Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman will return from the DL within the next month, providing much needed pop for an offense that is currently operating with only 5 of its 8 regular starters.
When Ryan Zimmerman returns from his hand injury, it appears that Espinosa will once again be relegated to bench duty. However, with left field open, I cannot help but wonder if manager Matt Williams is contemplating a short term shift to left field for either Anthony Rendon or Espinosa. Rendon and Espinosa are both swinging solid bats, and if one of them could handle the outfield for one month, the Nationals offense would have more depth.
Williams has already played Frandsen, an infielder by trade, in left field multiple times. Rendon and Espinosa both possess more natural athleticism than Frandsen as well as the arm strength to handle a corner outfield spot. Within the next two months we can expect to see a combination of Kevin Frandsen and Nate McLouth in left field as well as the possibility of a shift from the infield to the outfield from Danny Espinosa or Anthony Rendon.