Dukes Busting Out

Not a lot of things have gone right in Washington this year, even if you just focus on their baseball team. Ryan Zimmerman hasn’t progressed into the franchise player as hoped, Austin Kearns took another step backward, Nick Johnson got hurt, and the GM and one of his top advisers are being investigated for crimes of fraud. Despite moving into a new park, the team has been horrible and is driving fans from the park.

However, in that overwhelming cloud of darkness, there has been one glowing light, growing in strength the last few months and giving Nationals fans some hope for the future. That unlikely bright spot is Elijah Dukes.

The oft-troubled Dukes is finally making noise for what he’s doing on the field, living up to the reputation as a potential all-star hitter he built while in Tampa Bay’s farm system. After a terrible start to the season (.167/.311/.208 in May after missing April entirely), Dukes is hitting .300/.404/.585 since June 1st, compiling 235 plate appearances while hitting like one of the game’s elite players. 29 of his 60 hits during that span have gone for extra bases, and he’s essentially become Washington’s only legit power threat.

If we extrapolated his production the last four months out to 600 PA, we’d see Dukes has been sustaining a pace that would give him 36 2B, 5 3B, 33 HR, 77 BB, and 26 SB in a full season. That kind of performance would make him one of the game’s best all around players, as we discussed yesterday.

Now, clearly, hitting well for 235 PA isn’t the same thing as doing it for a full season, and Dukes has a lot to prove after years of injuries and off field problems. But Jim Bowden’s strategy has always been to acquire high ceiling under-performers and watch one or two turn into legitimate stars, and he may have hit the jackpot again with Dukes. If he can stay out of jail and off the DL, he has the talent to be a frontline player, and the Nationals could certainly use more of those.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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