Nationals Stock Watch: Nats firing on all cylinders

Nationals Stock Watch: Nats firing on all cylinders
June 11, 2014, 12:00 pm
Share This Post
(Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)
We take a look at the Nationals' past week, at a glance:

Record:
 6-1
Team slash: .273/.337/.457
Team ERA:  1.34
Runs per game: 6.42

STOCK UP 

Ian Desmond, SS: .333 AVG/2 HR/9 RBI/.750 SLG

The Nationals' offense continues to hit its stride, as different members of the lineup are taking turns getting hot, and this week it was Desmond who led the charge. He's been solid his last seven games, but his three hit, five RBI performance  in Monday night's win over the first place San Francisco Giants stood out. Washington's shortstop hasn't hit for average so far this season, but he continues to be one of the better power hitting shortstops in the game. He now leads the team in home runs with 13 and is currently on pace for 33, which would be a career high. Who knows, if he can raise his average a few points, maybe he'll have a chance to earn his second career All-Star nod. 

Jordan Zimmermann, SP: 1-0/9.0 IP/0.00 ERA 

It's funny how a quality start or two can completely change the narrative of a pitcher's season. A few weeks ago, Nats fans were wondering what was wrong with Zimmermann, and if he'd return to his old self. The concern was legitimate, as he had a tough May in which he allowed three or more runs in four consecutive starts. Well, if his last two starts are any indication -- especially Sunday's effort against the Padres -- Zimmermann is back. He dazzled in San Diego, hurling a complete game shutout while racking up 12 punchouts and walking none. He displayed the pinpoint command that fans have come to expect from him, as Padre hitters couldn't muster a hit until the sixth inning. So far in June, Zimmermann has pitched 17 innings and has yet to allow a run, while also piling up back-to-back wins for the first time all season. Yeah, we'd say he's rebounding quite well.

Doug Fister, SP: 2-0/14.0 IP/1.29 ERA/0.93 WHIP

Remember the time Fister struggled in his season opening start against the Oakland Athletics? That seems like a lifetime ago, as he's since gone 5-0 with a 1.95 ERA and has suddenly become the Nationals' most consistent pitcher. He made his debut a little over month after the season started, yet he's already just one win behind Stephen Strasburg for the team lead. As Nats fans are seeing, when Fister's sinker is working, he's nearly unstoppable. He works quickly, induces ground ball after ground ball, and lets the defense make plays behind him. It sounds like a simple formula, but it's so hard to do on a nightly basis. He rode that formula to another win Tuesday night, pitching seven shutout frames against a tough Giants club to make it five in a row. At this rate, it's looking like downright theft that the Nationals were able to acquire Fister for prospect Robbie Ray, Steve Lombardozzi (who was later traded to the Orioles) and reliever Ian Krol. 

Danny Espinosa, 2B: .360 AVG/.480 SLG/5 RBI

Espinosa's had himself a bit of an up-and-down season. When he was first called off the bench early on in April, he filled in quite nicely and was commended for resembling more of the 2012 version of himself rather than last year's. He then began to regress quite a bit in May, falling victim to many of the same things -- strikeouts, namely -- that made him struggle in 2013. But as the Nationals offense has rebounded and found some consistency recently, so too has Espinosa. He's still struggling with the strikeouts (he's K'd nine times over the last week), but his average continues to climb and his run production is steadily improving. When Espinosa was playing well in 2011 and 2012, many wondered if he would emerge as one of the better power hitting second basemen in the league. No one knows if he'll ever be that guy, but there's no reason he still can't be a productive member of the lineup in other ways. 
 
STOCK DOWN

Rafael Soriano, RP:  3.0 IP/6.00 ERA/1 BS

It's another one of those weeks at Stock Watch where it's hard to find quibbles; that'll happen when the Nationals win six of seven games. However, Soriano has been a little shaky in his last couple of outings. His blown save against the Padres over the weekend led to the only loss suffered by the Nats over the last week. Had he converted that save opportunity, perhaps we're talking about the Nats riding a season-high seven game win streak. He didn't make things any easier in his next outing against the Giants, allowing a run before he and the Nationals narrowly escaped with a 2-1 victory.  This isn't to say Soriano is slumping; he's blown just two saves all season. But on nights where there isn't a ton of cushion for him, a three-up, three-down inning every now and then would do a lot to calm the nerves of fans.