On Monday night Bryce Harper became the first Nationals player since the team moved to Washington to win the N.L. Rookie of the Year award. He was, however, not the first player in club history to have a good rookie year. The Nationals have built a winning team on young talent and have seen several players have success right from the start.
Here are the best rookie seasons since the Nationals moved to Washington in 2005:
1. Ryan Zimmerman - 2006
157 G - .287/.351/.471 – 20 HR – 110 RBI – 84 R – 47 2B
Zimmerman finished second to Hanley Ramirez in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting in 2006, but with the numbers he posted could have won it almost any other year. After being picked fourth overall in the 2005 draft, Zimmerman needed less than a calendar year to establish himself as a franchise cornerstone. He is still a major part of the Nationals’ operation and signed his second contract extension with the team in 2012.
2. Bryce Harper – 2012
139 G - .270/.340/.477 – 22 HR – 59 RBI – 98 R – 18 SB
Harper became the first Nationals player to win the N.L. Rookie of the Year award on Monday after a tremendous first season. The number one overall pick in 2010 was called up on April 28 and provided a quick spark to a Washington team dealing with major injuries at the time. He and the Nationals won 98 games and their first N.L. East division title. To think he did all of it at just 19 years old suggests he could some day, perhaps very soon, be an MVP candidate.
3. Stephen Strasburg – 2010
12 G - 5-3 – 2.91 ERA – 1.074 WHIP - 92 SO – 68.0 IP
Taken with the number one overall pick in 2009, Strasburg was an instant sensation. He struck out 14 batters in his major league debut and showed immediately he was one of the best young pitchers in baseball. His rookie year was cut short by a torn ligament in his elbow that required Tommy John surgery, but it was a season baseball fans will remember for a long time.
4. Wilson Ramos – 2011
113 G - .267/.334/.445 – 15 HR – 52 RBI – 48 R – 38 BB
Ramos came over to the Nationals in a trade with the Minnesota Twins. He had played a total of 22 games across 2010 and 2011 before breaking out as the starter for the Nats in 2011. He ended up fourth in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting after exceeding expectations at the plate and playing solid defense. Since his rookie year, Ramos has had a string of unfortunate events with getting kidnapped in Venezuela and tearing his ACL last May. The 25 year old should be back in 2013 and ready to regain his role as the full time starter.
5. Danny Espinosa – 2011
158 G - .236/.323/.414 – 21 HR – 66 RBI – 72 R – 17 SB
Espinosa placed sixth in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting in 2011 after leading the Nationals in games played with 158. He also finished second on the team with 21 homers and 72 runs. Espinosa’s emergence gave the Nationals another piece in building towards being a playoff team. Though he struggled with his batting average and strikeouts in 2012, he is one of the most talented young second baseman in the majors.
6. Ian Desmond – 2010
154 G - .269/.308/.392 – 10 HR – 65 RBI – 59 R – 17 SB
In his first full season, Desmond affirmed the talent and potential that had made him a top prospect in the organization. He struggled at times with his batting average and errors in the field, but overall put in a very good season. Desmond flashed the power, speed, and defense that made him an All-Star in 2012. Now that he has raised his batting average and cut down his errors, the sky is the limit for the young shortstop.