WASHINGTON — While the NFL Draft was crawling along and the Wizards were eliminating the Atlanta Hawks from the postseason, the Nationals continued their 162-game grind Friday night.
In addition to suffering a loss to the New York Mets, the Nationals endured a much greater loss when centerfielder Adam Eaton injured his leg running to first base.
While details on Eaton’s injury remain scarce, it looked devastating at the time and Eaton was unable to put any weight on the leg. Meanwhile, the Nationals don’t appear to be getting their hopes up, as they’ve already placed the centerfielder on the DL.
The move was in part precautionary, and in part a logistical move. Outfielder Rafael Bautista was called up to the Nationals for the first time in his career to replace Eaton.
But the 24-year-old prospect isn’t the only one Nationals manager Dusty Baker will be looking to to help fill Eaton’s role.
Michael A. Taylor has been an up-and-down player since going pro, but his potential is hard to ignore. That said, he has struggled to put it all together for more than a game or two at a time, and his inability to put the ball in play has been a significant hindrance thus far; he has 261 strikeouts to 169 hits in his MLB career, and his batting average through parts of four seasons is just .224.
Bryce Harper will remain in right field, per Baker, though the most likely candidate to move to center was perhaps Trea Turner. Turner held down the middle of the outfield in 2016 while Danny Espinosa occupied the shortstop position, but once the Nationals traded for Eaton, Espinosa became expendable as the Nationals moved Turner to his natural shortstop position.
But Baker made it clear that he’s not interested in moving Turner away from shortstop, at least for the time being, and it appears as though the Nationals will use a mixture of Taylor, Bautista and others at centerfield going forward.
If Taylor or Bautista emerge as a useful weapon while Eaton is out, this whole debacle could prove to be a blessing in disguise, as it wouldn’t hurt to have another bat off the bench when Eaton comes back. But if neither can pick up the slack, Washington’s so-far potent lineup is going to take a major hit.