Throughout the offseason, The Nats Blog will look back at every player’s 2012 season to summarize and analyze his performance, and we’ll look ahead to his possible role in 2013. We’ll go from #1 Steve Lombardozzi all the way to #63 Henry Rodriguez until Spring Training. Enjoy.
Until yesterday with the surprise signing of Rafael Soriano, first baseman Adam LaRoche was probably the hottest topic of the Washington Nationals offseason.
After LaRoche’s first season in Washington, which was derailed almost immediately when he injured his shoulder, Nats fans and even manager Davey Johnson’s expectations were low. LaRoche hit just .172 and struck out 37 times in 43 games in 2011, but he quickly proved to his D.C. audience that those were not numbers they should come to expect from him.
In LaRoche’s team-MVP-caliber season in 2012, he finished with an offensive slash line of .271/.343/.510 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI. He ranked among the top 25 players in the National League in six offensive categories: home runs (4th), RBI (8th), slugging percentage (12th), on-base plus slugging (13th), walks (12th), and doubles (18th).
LaRoche's offensive production earned him his first Silver Slugger award, and his steady defense (.995 fielding percentage) won him his first Gold Glove as he became known as the anchor of the Nationals infield.
His incredible contributions to the team are what prompted Johnson to say that the Nationals needed LaRoche back more than they needed him back (an especially radical claim after Johnson won NL Manager of the Year) and why he offered to fly LaRoche and all of his cattle to Florida for Spring Training if that was what it took to get him to be a National in 2013. When a manager is willing to go to those lengths to re-sign a player, even if only in jest, you know that player is something special.
Next Year: After signing his $24 million deal, LaRoche is slated to be the Nationals’ first baseman for the next two years, with a mutual option for a third. His steady hand at first gave the Nats one of the best infields in baseball in 2012, and now all the pieces are in place for a repeat performance in 2013.
Up Next: #26 Jesus Flores