Most of the headlines, even for fantasy baseball owners, surrounding the Washington Nationals last season dealt with starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg and his innings limit. But the Nationals’ roster is full of good fantasy options, as Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann all had nice seasons in 2012.
There is a question at one spot in Washington’s lineup as the 2013 season nears, with second baseman Danny Espinosa reportedly dealing with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder. He hit .247 with 17 home runs, 56 RBI and 20 stolen bases last season, and produced at a similar level as a rookie in 2011 (.236, 21 home runs, 66 RBI, 17 stolen bases). But his high strikeout total (189 last season) and struggles as a left-handed hitter (.227 career batting average) had led to speculation about a platoon with Steve Lombardozzi even before news of his shoulder issue. To this point Espinosa has decided against having surgery, but that could easily change before Opening Day.
So with Espinosa possibly limited early in the season as he tries to play through an injury, does Lombardozzi have a chance to make an impact for fantasy owners?
2012 was Lombardozzi’s first full season in the big leagues, and he hit .273 with three home runs, 27 RBI, 40 runs scored and five stolen bases over 416 plate appearances. He was essentially the Nationals’ primary utility man, seeing time at three infield positions (second base, third base and shortstop) as well as in the outfield. He hit .298 with a .369 on-base percentage, 183 RBI and 74 stolen bases over four minor league seasons, so there appears to be some further upside potential here.
Lombardozzi is unlikely to become a fantasy stud right out of the gate this season, but a potential increase in playing time puts him on the radar in NL-only leagues. He will not stand out in one particular category, but he can help fantasy owners in batting average and stolen bases (54 steals during the 2010 and 2011 seasons in the minors), and if he takes a spot toward the top of Washington’s lineup he could score plenty of runs as well. If Espinosa’s shoulder takes a turn for the worse during spring training, Lombardozzi would become worthy of a late-round draft pick in very deep mixed leagues.