Baseball players are known for their statistical volatility in the early years of their career, and Adam Eaton was no exception. After three seasons in the league, he had six homers to his name and a 48-point variance in his batting average. Over the past two seasons, Eaton's production has been incredibly stable in just about every category. He became the perfect tablesetter for the Chicago lineup, getting on base 36 percent of the time in each of the past three seasons while running the bases very well. All of his power comes from the right side (13 of his 14 homers came against righties), but he is split-neutral in terms of batting average. While Eaton hits too many groundballs to see his power numbers grow substantially, there is upside in the runs scored and stolen base categories following his trade to Dusty Baker's Nationals in December.
Eaton went 1-for-3 with a solo home run, his first of the spring, in Sunday's Grapefruit League game against the Astros. He's hitting just .250 (6-for-24) so far in his first spring in Florida, but Eaton has been making plenty of contact, only striking out twice. Expect the hits to start falling in for the career .284 hitter once Opening Day rolls around, if not sooner.
Eaton hit sixth during Monday's Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals, going 0-for-2. Nationals manager Dusty Baker seems committed to keeping Trea Turner in the leadoff spot, but hasn't yet figured out what to do with Eaton. His fantasy value would take a noticeable hit if he ends up batting lower in the order, with the likes of Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Wieters to drive him in instead of Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy, but there's still a long way to go until Opening Day.
Eaton will hit second behind Trea Turner in the Nationals' Grapefruit League opener Saturday against the Mets, Jamal Collier of MLB.com reports. Nats manager Dusty Baker made it clear that he hasn't decided on an Opening Day batting order, but Eaton will most likely hit first or second during the regular season. Given the speed the team will feature at the top of their order and the green lights that will come with it, Eaton could be in line for his first 20-steal season in 2017.
Eaton's spot in the Nationals' batting order is still up in the air, The Washington Post reports. He primarily hit leadoff for the White Sox, and his career .357 OBP would seem to make that the logical spot for Eaton, but Trea Turner made a huge impact last season as the Nats' leadoff hitter and may be tough to dislodge. Hitting Eaton second would then set up a batting order with three straight left-handed hitters, however, as he'd be followed by Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy, something manager Dusty Baker would like to avoid. The logical solution would be to hit Eaton first and Turner second, but it remains to be seen whether Baker reaches the same conclusion by the end of spring training. If Eaton does hit at or near the top of the order, the 28-year-old would be primed for his first season with 100-plus runs scored.
Eaton was traded to the Nationals on Wednesday in exchange for pitching prospects Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning, FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Eaton is a quiet superstar, or at least he was last year, posting a 6.0 fWAR. A lot of that value comes on defense, but he was no slouch with the bat, hitting .284/.362/.428 with 14 home runs, 91 runs, 59 RBI and 14 steals. His on-base skills and speed should allow him to hit near the top of the Nationals' lineup, which should allow him to once again challenge for 100 runs in 2017. He will start in center field with Trea Turner moving back to shortstop. Eaton is under team control through the 2021 season.