Player Profile: Nationals 1B Adam LaRoche
Thursday January 10th, 2012
Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer): Follow @BernieOlshansky
With the news of Adam Laroche’s signing of a 2-Year deal with the Washington Nationals breaking on Tuesday, it seems fitting for a profile to be done on this unsung hero. Last week, I profiled underrated star Billy Butler of the Royals. I will stick with this underrated theme as I cover the highlights of the career of power-hitting first baseman Adam LaRoche.
The 29th round pick of the 2000 amateur draft, Adam LaRoche broke into the league with the Atlanta Braves in 2004. He had a solid Rookie season, hitting .278 with 13 HR and 45 RBI in 110 games. LaRoche got steadily better from there, increasing his HR total by seven to 20 in 2005 and by 12 to 32 in 2006. 2005 was actually his worst year Batting Average-wise, in which he hit .259. LaRoche hit .172 in 2011, but he only played in 43 games – so I do not regard that as a true representation of what he would have hit had he played. Aside from his Rookie season and the season he was injured and only played 43 games, LaRoche has never played less than 140 games in a year. This is something that is very valuable to teams when they are looking for a power-hitting first baseman—and really any player for that matter. This is the main reason why I believe the Nationals rewarded him with his contract.
MLB Talk Radio / Audio For the Deal Analysis
LaRoche is just what any team would want in their First Baseman. Every year from 2006-on, LaRoche has produced around at least 25 HRs and about 80-90 RBI. In 2012 with the Nationals, the slugger hit 33 HRs and plated 100 runs. If LaRoche did this earlier in his career, he would be regarded as one of the premier first basemen in the league, compared to Pujols, Fielder and Teixeira, among others. LaRoche was largely responsible for the Nationals making the playoffs for their first time as a franchise, and he should continue to produce for as long as he is in Washington. Another reason LaRoche is valuable to the Nationals is because of their rising-star, Bryce Harper.
With all the hype surrounding Harper’s call-up, teams might be afraid to let Harper see the amount of pitches that normal Rookies usually see. Instead of pitching to him with the bases empty, they could choose to walk him. With LaRoche, this will not be happening. LaRoche provides sufficient protection for Harper to be able to succeed and grow as a hitter. LaRoche also takes some of the pressure off of Third Baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman has been very streaky, getting injured for parts of seasons. But, the former First Round (4th selection) pick of the 2005 Amateur Draft has a tremendous amount of talent and definitely benefits from Adam LaRoche in the lineup.
The one guy that will probably be affected by the signing of LaRoche is Michael Morse. Morse has been a fixture in the Nationals lineup, but has not really had a fixed position. Morse spent the majority of 2011 at first base when LaRoche was injured, but moved to the outfield upon LaRoche’s return. The Nationals signed outfielder Denard Span this winter, so with and outfield including Span, Harper, and Jayson Werth, Morse might be edged out. The Nationals could consider trading Morse, but getting rid of a bat like his could be a mistake. Signing LaRoche could have provided the Nationals with a bit of a conundrum.
Just like Billy Butler, Adam Laroche does not get the attention he deserves. He finished sixth in voting for MVP last year for goodness sakes. After another few years like his 2012, look for LaRoche to be compared to the top First Basemen in the Major Leagues.
(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)
Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer Bernie Olshansky. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Bernie on Twitter. Follow @BernieOlshansky
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Posted on January 10, 2013, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged @bernieolshansky on twitter, adam laroche, albert pujols, bernie olshansky, billy butler, bryce harper, denard span, jayson werth, kansas city royals, mark teixeira, Michael Morse, NL east, NL MVP Voting, prince fielder, ryan zimmerman, washington nationals. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.