Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .265/.348/.416
Team ERA: 4.50
Runs per game: 4.85
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B: .435 AVG/ 8 RBI/ 1.375 OPS
It appears that treating the plantar fasciitis in his left foot was all that Zimmerman needed to turn his season around. Now healthy, he's finally resembling the power-hitting corner infielder that Nats fans have grown accustomed to over the years. Since coming back from the disabled list, the 30-year-old first baseman is hitting .327 with four home runs and 11 RBI, providing the middle of the order with exactly the kind of thump it needs -- and just in the nick of time, too. With the team scuffling to get rolling these days, Zimmerman's reemergence has to be seen as one of the big positive developments as the stretch run draws nearer.
Ian Desmond, SS: .391 AVG/ 3 HR/ 1.331 OPS
He hasn't found himself listed here much this season, but Desmond and the Nats have to hope that the shortstop is the midst of salvaging what's been a pretty disappointing season thus far. He's had a few hot stretches at the plate this year where Nats fans have asked whether or not Desmond is "back", only to see him regress again. But he's starting to produce over a larger sample size, so you wonder if this is the breakout everyone has been waiting for. Consider this: Before the All-Star break, Desmond had a slash line of .211/.255/.334 with seven home runs and 24 RBI in 323 at-bats. Since the break, he's hitting .274/.337/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in just 87 at-bats. It's hard to believe based on the rough start to his season, but he has a realistic chance of reaching the 20-homer plateau for the fourth straight year.
Gio Gonzalez, SP: 2 GS/ 1-0/ 1.38 ERA
Nats fans have been concerned about the rotation's lack of consistency (and rightfully so), but Gonzalez has quietly put together a pretty impressive string of starts. Since June 21, he's 5-0 with an ERA of 1.48, and hasn't lost since June 15. Surprisingly, he now ranks second on the team in wins (9) and has lowered his season ERA to 3.50. He still has issues here and there with command and pitch efficiency, but he's done so without allowing the big inning. Unfortunately, his recent run of success comes at a time when the rest of the starting staff needs to get in a groove as well.
Drew Storen, RP: 3.0 IP/ 0-2/ 18.00 ERA
It was just last week where we were talking about how dominant Storen had looked since taking over the eighth inning role. Then the Rockies series happened. He turned in his two worst outings of the season, blowing a 4-1 lead on a go-ahead grand slam to Carlos Gonzalez Friday night and yielded a two-run single to DJ LeMahieu that broke a 4-4 tie on Sunday afternoon. Obviously, Storen has been so dominant for most of the season that he has earned a mulligan here and there, a sentiment his teammates echoed over the weekend. But the issue right now is timing, and the Nats can't afford to have the back-end of the bullpen -- an area they believed was addressed after acquiring closer Jonathan Papelbon -- have hiccups as the team attempts to make a push for the playoffs.