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There are players who don’t need very long to make an impression on their team. Over the Nationals’ history, emerging young talents and veterans alike have stood out in their debut seasons in Washington. This list covers position players and pitchers, and there were a lot of strong options to choose from, with close calls between top five and honorable mention — so there is a sixth on here. It is worth noting this highlights debut seasons vs. rookie seasons, which would have included players like Trea Turner and Ryan Zimmerman.
1. Bryce Harper, 2012
Harper entered the Major Leagues in historic fashion. The first overall pick in the 2010 Draft, he made his debut on April 28, 2012, at age 19. In 139 games, Harper slashed .270/.340/.477 with an .817 OPS and a 118 OPS+. He also recorded 144 hits, 22 homers, 98 runs, 59 RBIs and 18 stolen bases. After being named National League Rookie of the Month in May and September, he capped off the season by becoming the second-youngest player to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He also was the youngest position player to earn an All-Star selection.
2. Max Scherzer, 2015
Scherzer tossed not one but two no-hitters in his first season with the Nationals. With stellar performances on June 20 vs. the Pirates and Oct. 3 vs. the Mets, he became only the fifth pitcher in baseball history to throw a pair of no-hitters in the same season. Scherzer posted a 14-12 record with a 2.79 ERA and 276 strikeouts that year. Among all pitchers, he ranked first in strikeout-to-walk ratio (8.12), second in strikeouts (276), third in strikeouts per nine innings (10.9) and fourth in WAR (6.9). Scherzer was named an All-Star and finished fifth in Cy Young Award voting.
3. Daniel Murphy, 2016
Murphy made his mark on the Nats in just one season. In 2016, he set a franchise record when he hit .347 — just .001 shy of tying the Rockies’ DJ LeMahieu for the Major League batting title. Murphy also tied Washington’s single-season record of 184 hits. Overall, he paced the NL in slugging percentage (.595), OPS (.985) and doubles (47). He finished second place in NL MVP Award voting, garnered his second All-Star selection and earned his first Silver Slugger Award.
4. Alfonso Soriano, 2006
In Soriano’s debut — and only year with the Nationals — he set a franchise record for most homers (46) and runs scored (119) in a single season. He also paired his home runs with 41 stolen bases, becoming only the fourth 40-40 player in Major League history. Over 159 games, Soriano posted a career best in OBP (.351), slugging (.560), OPS (.911) and OPS+ (135). With this achievement, he earned his third consecutive Silver Slugger Award, fifth straight All-Star selection and finished sixth in voting for the NL MVP Award.