With Zim out, Nats need LaRoche to hit 

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
1:58
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No National League team entered play Thursday with a better record than the upstart Washington Nationals. Manager Davey Johnson's team has been able to thrive due to terrific pitching (major league-leading 2.20 ERA), timely hitting, a whole lot of walks (third in baseball) and let's face it, a cake schedule. However, oft-injured third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's shoulder is hurting, and if he misses weeks instead of days, it's reasonable to wonder if this team can score enough runs to keep winning these close games.

[+] EnlargeAdam LaRoche
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesNormally a slow starter, Adam LaRoche is hitting .313 with 14 RBIs in 18 games.
That's where first baseman Adam LaRoche comes in. Including his three hits Wednesday, LaRoche is batting .313 and leads the club in pretty much every offensive category except stolen bases. He's first in batting average, tied for the lead with two home runs, is the only National in double digits in RBIs, and he sports an .880 OPS. Washington's top five options on the ESPN Player Rater are pitchers, but LaRoche leads the offense, and he's 73rd on the Rater among all hitters. It's not fantastic, but there's value here.

Entering Thursday, LaRoche ranked fifth among first basemen on our most-added list, and he's owned in 78.2 percent of leagues. That seems legitimate; fantasy owners should be interested in a player who has shown consistent power, when healthy, through the years. However, it was a bit tough to make a case for LaRoche back in March, which is why ignoring him on draft day made sense. After all, he missed most of 2011 after left shoulder surgery, and when he did play, it was unimpressive (.172 batting average). Of course, how can someone hit effectively with a bum shoulder?

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