The Washington Nationals may have their starters figured out in the field, but there are several spots on the bench up for grabs. With the hot bat that infielder Zach Walters is been swinging, he’s looking like a front-runner for one of those spots.
In 2013, Walters received a short stint on the big-league team. In eight at-bats, he had three hits, including a triple and an RBI. He also scored two runs. Walters was then sent back down to the minors and was given directions from former manager Davey Johnson to work on his power. Walters did as he was told and hit 29 homers with a .517 slugging percentage.
Walters has now carried that momentum into the spring. In seven at-bats, he’s collected three RBI on six hits including two doubles, a triple and a home run on Monday against the New York Yankees. He leads the team in batting average (.857), on-base percentage (.875) and slugging percentage (1.857). Walters has also scored four runs.
The 24-year-old has been taking reps at shortstop in Spring Training, a position currently occupied by Ian Desmond. While his defense certainly isn’t near Desmond’s, his hitting ability is, and that will land him on the bench. At the same rate, his defense doesn’t lack enough to really make that a worry. He his currently 6-for-6 on fielding chances and has turned a double play.
Last year, pinch-hitting was something that failed the Nationals. They traded with the Chicago Cubs in July for Scott Hairston, but there was still room for improvement. Tyler Moore wasn’t the power hitter that he was in 2012. Chad Tracy and Steve Lombardozzi just weren’t consistent enough, either.
Now, Lombardozzi and Tracy are no longer with the team. Moore runs the risk of being the odd-man out due to the offseason acquisition of Nate McLouth. That means Walters has a legitimate chance of making this team. If he can prove to be reliable with his bat, which he certainly has, I see no reason why he can’t make the team on the bench.
Mike Fontenot, Jamey Carroll and Matt Skole likely pose the greatest threat to Walters’ spot. However, neither of the three are swinging as hot a bat as Zach Walters. If he can continue to play solid defense and crush the baseball with his bat, Walters will find himself in the Nationals’ dugout come Opening Day.