Report card time! Don’t worry, it’s not a report card for you. I’m giving out marks to the Washington Nationals.
It’s about halfway through the Major League Baseball season, so now’s a good time to give the players their grades for the first half. I should warn everyone: I don’t give out any easy A’s or B’s. A grade of C means the player is average for a major-league starter at that position. So let’s have look at the first-place Nats.
●Stephen Strasburg: A
●Gio Gonzalez: A-
●Jordan Zimmermann: B+
●Edwin Jackson: B
●Tyler Clippard: A
●Sean Burnett: A-
The reason the Nats are doing so well — so far — is that their pitching has been terrific. Starters Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez have been true all-stars. Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson are not far behind. The bullpen, led by right-hander Tyler Clippard and left-hander Sean Burnett, has been just as good as the starters.
●Jesus Flores: C
●Adam LaRoche: C+
●Danny Espinosa: C-
●Ian Desmond: B+
●Ryan Zimmerman: C-
The Nats’ infield has earned all A’s with defense. So everybody gets extra credit for their gloves. But some of these guys have struggled with the bat. Adam LaRoche started red-hot at the plate but has cooled off. I love Danny Espinosa and all-star Ian Desmond as the Nats’ double-play combo, but Espinosa strikes out too much and Desmond hardly ever gets a walk.
Ryan Zimmerman won’t say it, but I think his injured shoulder has turned the slugging third baseman into a singles hitter. Jesus Flores has done a solid job replacing the injured Wilson Ramos at catcher.
●Michael Morse: C
●Rick Ankiel: D+
●Bryce Harper: B+
Teenage sensation Bryce Harper has been the Nats’ best offensive player for the past 40 games. Remember, my grade for Harper is based on how he compares to the average major-league starter. If I were marking him against the average 19-year-old, Harper would get an A++.
Although Michael Morse missed a lot of games, the Beast is hitting his stride. I root for Rick Ankiel, but the Nats’ center fielder just can’t hit a high fastball — and so he sees a lot of them.
I may be a tough grader, but I still think the Nats are going to win the National League East division. Especially if Zimmerman and Morse hit better in the second half.
The Nats in the playoffs! Wouldn’t that be a great report card to bring home to Washington baseball fans?
Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 17 sports books for kids, including eight baseball books.