Nationals

Oft-overlooked Andrew Stevenson enjoying late-season surge

Nationals

When Andrew Stevenson arrived at the major leagues in 2017, he was a 23-year-old just over two years removed from being selected in the second round of the MLB draft out of LSU. The Nationals had other top outfield prospects in Victor Robles and Juan Soto on the way, but Stevenson was a few years ahead of them in age and development.

Stevenson’s initial stay in the nation’s capital was, like all of his subsequent MLB stints, short-lived. He registered only 57 at-bats that season, then 75 the year after, 30 in 2019 and 25 so far in 2020 heading into play Wednesday. With only 33 career starts to his name, Stevenson has had few opportunities to play on an everyday basis in the bigs.

But for the first time, Stevenson has his chance. The Nationals lost starting right fielder Adam Eaton for the year Sept. 17, creating a hole in the lineup. That hole has been filled by several outfielders in Washington, including Stevenson, Michael Taylor and Brock Holt. Yet, it’s been Stevenson who’s made the most of his opportunity.

Since starting in right field Sept. 18, Stevenson has hit .400 with three doubles and seven RBIs over 23 plate appearances while racking up a seven-game hitting streak. While not a very big sample size, Stevenson’s hot streak has caught the attention of his skipper.

“He’s working good at-bats,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said in a Zoom press conference Saturday. “I’ve seen Stevenson now for a couple of years. He’s a guy that grows on you, man. He plays the game hard, he works good at-bats, it always seems like he’s 3-2 every count.”

 

Though he’s been mostly lauded for his glove as a prospect, Stevenson does have a history of producing at the plate. During his three years at LSU, the former Tiger hit .311 with 40 stolen bases and 116 runs scored. He primarily hit sixth, three spots behind eventual No. 2 overall pick Alex Bregman. Although he never did hit for much power, Stevenson boasted a low strikeout rate and proved to be a singles machine under LSU head coach Paul Mainieri.

It’s not immediately clear what the future holds for Stevenson in Washington. Martinez teased reporters Wednesday to “use your imagination” to guess who will be playing opposite Soto in the outfield next season, implying the Nationals could be active in the free agent market. That could mean any of the top outfielders available like George Springer, Marcell Ozuna or Michael Brantley are on the table.

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Even if a realistic goal for Stevenson is to make the team as a fourth outfielder in 2021, he may end up having to compete with Taylor (again) for a roster spot if Washington decides to tender him a contract for the final year of his rookie deal. The Nationals could non-tender Taylor and insert Stevenson, who has one option remaining, as their fourth outfielder.

For now, Stevenson only has to focus on continuing to produce at the plate for the Nationals’ remaining five games. What happens after that is out of his control.