TAMPA, Fla. -- Entering this season, the Nationals' biggest concern is their bench. In 2013 and '14, Nationals pinch-hitters weren't productive, hitting .208 and .144 respectively.
Manager Matt Williams is hoping the production will improve this year. He would like to see more power from the left side.
"It's important to have the ability from both sides [of the plate] in multiple aspects of it -- have a little bit of power from both sides, have a little bit of speed from both sides and guys that can grind it out and get on base if we need that, too," Williams said.
Entering Spring Training, infielder Kevin Frandsen, catcher Jose Lobaton and second baseman Danny Espinosa are the only players who are guaranteed to come off the bench for Washington this season. Frandsen was Williams' main man off the bench last year, and most productive, hitting .234 as a pinch-hitter. Frandsen also provided solid defense in the infield and outfield. Lobaton and Espinosa are more known for their defense than what they do in the batter's box.
The Nationals are hoping to get production out of outfielder Nate McLouth this year. He is coming off a serious shoulder injury, and Williams hopes McLouth can help the bench from the left side of the plate.
While he hasn't appeared in a Major League game this spring, McLouth took live batting practice at Minor League camp the last two days and played in intrasquad games. He was able to get three at-bats in each game. McLouth hasn't played defense yet because he is still rehabbing the shoulder.
Mike Carp is another left-handed hitter who could help the bench. He could be Ryan Zimmerman's backup at first base.
Also trying for bench spots are Ian Stewart, Kila Ka'aihue, Tony Gwynn Jr., Derrick Robinson, Matt Skole, Dan Uggla, Tyler Moore and Michael Taylor. Uggla, Moore and Taylor are the only ones in this group who hit right-handed.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.