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Nationals Offseason Analysis: The Outfield

November 10, 2013

As the Nationals look at ways to improve their roster for the 2014 season, there should not be many questions surrounding the outfield as long as everyone manages to stay healthy.

Washington returns all three starters, who are also All-Star-caliber players. But the Nationals could look to add more depth in the free-agent market.

Left fielder Bryce Harper already underwent offseason surgery to repair the bursa in his left knee. That injury, suffered when he crashed into the right-field scoreboard at Dodger Stadium May 13, hampered him for much of the season. As a result, Harper spent more than a month on the disabled list, missing the team's games from May 27-June 30.

Nationals 2013: Bryce Harper
Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox

Harper did not appear to fully recover from the injury, playing in 118 games total in 2013 -- he also battled a sore hip near the end of the season. His slash line was .274/.368/.486 with 20 home runs, but those numbers are likely to rise if he can stay healthy. Harper appeared fully optimistic of a full recovery.

He tweeted: "Since everybody is finding out, everything went well [with the surgery]! Thanks for all the support and prayers! Be back strong as ever!"

Center fielder Denard Span was a Gold Glove candidate in 2013 and was a solid leadoff hitter. He did not commit an error despite appearing in 153 games. He batted .279 with 47 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. Span also boasted a 29-game hitting streak, which ended Sept. 19 against the Marlins.

Right fielder Jayson Werth is coming off his most productive season since signing a $126 million, seven-year deal with the Nationals in 2010. He was the team's nominee for the 2013 Hank Aaron Award, which recognizes the most outstanding offensive performer in each league.

Werth batted .318 with 24 doubles and 25 home runs, leading the team with 82 RBIs during 129 games. He also showed more patience at the plate and managed 60 walks and scored 84 runs. Werth also had a .931 OPS and a .532 slugging percentage.

He picked up his 1,000th career hit in dramatic fashion: a two-run homer against the Phillies, which gave the Nationals an 8-5 victory Aug. 10.

"Jayson was consistently fantastic this season, not only at the plate, but in the field, on the base paths and in the clubhouse," said Mike Rizzo, Nationals president of baseball operations and general manager. "He answered the call wherever he was asked to hit in the lineup, batting in every spot from leadoff through the six-hole. The essence of Jayson is that he is selfless and will do whatever it takes to win a game. He's the ultimate teammate."

If the injury bug hits the Nationals again in 2014, Scott Hairston proved that he is capable of picking up the slack after Washington acquired him from the Cubs in July. After struggling early, he finished with 10 home runs and will likely earn quality playing time this season.

In addition to playing first base, Tyler Moore also played 35 games in the outfield. He could get some bats off the bench after coming on strong near the end of the season, bouncing back from a demotion to Triple-A Syracuse. Moore played in 63 total games and batted .222 with four home runs and 21 RBIs. 

Corey Brown will try to make a case as a fourth outfielder after being recalled in September from Triple-A Syracuse, where he batted .254 with 19 home runs, 56 RBIs and a .799 OPS during 107 games. Roger Bernadina appeared in 85 games for the Nationals in 2013 and batted .178, and was acquired by Philadelphia after Washington released him in August.