Davey Martinez lays out Nationals' 2021 batting order with Kyle Schwarber, Josh Bell

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Matt Weyrich
·3 min read
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Davey Martinez lays out Nats’ batting order with Schwarber, Bell originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Nationals’ lineup for the 2021 season is slowly coming together. After trading for first baseman Josh Bell on Christmas Eve, GM Mike Rizzo signed free agent outfielder Kyle Schwarber to a one-year deal Saturday to give Washington two bats capable of 30-homer seasons in the middle of its batting order.

Manager Davey Martinez still has about a month before spring training begins and more than 11 before Opening Day, but on Sunday he revealed to MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM what his “cocktail napkin lineup” looks like with the way his roster stands following the Schwarber signing.

SS Trea Turner

RF Juan Soto (L)

1B Josh Bell (S)

LF Kyle Schwarber (L)

2B Starlin Castro

C Yan Gomes

CF Victor Robles

3B Carter Kieboom

Pitcher

“We’ll see how that works but the beautiful thing is we have options and I kinda like that a lot,” Martinez said. He lauded Castro’s “bat-to-ball skills” while adding that Robles has the potential to move up if he shows signs of improvement.

The No. 2 spot would be relatively new to Soto, who has started just 36 career games there compared to 43 at third, 151 at cleanup and 70 in the No. 5 spot. While placing him second instead of third goes against traditional lineup strategy, the Nationals don’t have a player with a high on-base percentage who fits in between Soto and Turner. By moving Soto and his .415 career OBP up a spot, the Nationals would get about a dozen extra plate appearances out of their best hitter throughout the season.

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Bell has spent a majority of his career as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ cleanup hitter. Though it’s a small sample size, he’s struggled as a No. 3 hitter with a .200/.281/.309 slash line in 45 games at the spot. If Davey’s tentative lineup strategy holds, Bell will be relied on to protect Soto in the lineup. The jury is still out on his ability to replicate his 2019 success, but Washington is bullish on his chances.

“When we looked at Josh, [his switch-hitting ability] was a big piece of what we were trying to do,” Rizzo said in a Zoom press conference after the Bell trade. “He fits in that middle of the lineup somewhere — again, that’s a Davey conversation — but he fits in the middle of that lineup somewhere for us and being a switch hitter only adds to his value as far as keeping the lineup long, making it more manageable for the field manager and a guy that we have high expectations for.”

The Nationals could very well have another move in them. Third base is an area they could upgrade with struggling former prospect Kieboom slated to be their everyday option there. Their only other in-house options are utility man Josh Harrison, who hasn’t been an everyday player since 2017, and young infielder Luis García, a 20-year-old that impressed with a 40-game MLB stint in 2020 but likely will start the year in the minors to preserve roster flexibility.

Washington reportedly inquired about Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez but talks didn’t advance very far when it declined to include top pitching prospects Jackson Rutledge and Cade Cavalli in any trade packages. The Nationals have also been linked to free agent DJ LeMahieu this winter, though he may be out of their price range.

Martinez still has lots of time to sort his lineup out. He could have another name or two added to the mix before winter’s end. But for now, he’s got a group that has significantly more power upside than the lineups he was rolling out last year.