Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .249/.299/.422
Team ERA: 4.65
Runs per game: 4.14
Bryce Harper, RF: 2 HR, 5 RBI, .500 SLG
Though he hasn't played up to his usual standards, there have been recent signs that Harper is slowly but surely hitting his way out of a month-and-a-half slump. For the first part of June, he'd been making solid contact more often, was often settling for singles. However, on the Nats' current west coast swing, he's rediscovered his power stroke, notching a pair of opposite-field homers in a six-game span. He's hitting .294 in June with 9 RBI — nothing close to his blistering April, but enough to provide hope that a breakout month could be on the horizon.
Michael Taylor, OF: .444 AVG, 2 HR, 1.389 OPS
Perhaps competition has brought out the best in Taylor. After being relegated to the bench after Ben Revere returned from injury in May, the 25-year-old centerfielder has responded with solid performances almost each time he's been called upon. In fact, Taylor's done so well lately — he's hitting .348 in June— that Dusty Baker has had no choice but to put the righty bat in the lineup nearly every game the Nats face off against a left-handed starter. Of course, one could surmise that Baker is merely playing the best matchups, but the prevailing thought in spring training was that Revere was acquired from the Blue Jays to be the everyday centerfielder. So if Taylor does enough change those plans and earn platoon status, that would be an accomplishment in and of itself.
Gio Gonzalez, SP: 0-1, 5 ER, 4 BB
Wasn't it just a month ago that Gonzalez was in the midst of a career renaissance? It sure felt like it, as he raced out to a 3-1 start with a 1.86 ERA over his first eight outings.
Unfortunately for the Nats' rotation, Gonzalez has suddenly reverted to his 2015 form and hasn't been able to snap out of it. He's lost five out of his last six starts, posting a 7.60 ERA over 34 1/3 innings. And as is usually the case when he's struggling, Gonzalez has had trouble with command and pitch efficiency; he's registered four walks in three of his last six appearances.
For the most part, the back-end of the rotation has done well behind the dynamic duo of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. But if Gonzalez continues to struggle, it's fair to wonder if there's going to be clamoring among Nats fans to see top prospect Lucas Giolito sometime soon.
Felipe Rivero, RP: 0-1, 3.1 IP, 6 ER
After Saturday's eighth-inning meltdown in San Diego, it's fair to ask what Rivero's future in the Nats bullpen might be. The club hoped that by now the hard-throwing lefty would have developed into a key late-inning option, but instead he's 0-3 with a team-high 6.61 ERA. What makes matters worse is how in-flux the rest of the relief corps is; Jonathan Papelbon is out indefinitely with an intercostal strain, and even if Shawn Kelley is effective in his absence, Baker has said he wants to be careful not to overuse him. So in addition to figuring out the issue at closer, it's up to the Nats' skipper to figure out who can take the load off his struggling setup man.