March 26, 2013 in Nationals Roster
By Staff Writer John Manuel:
The Washington Nationals are coming off their most successful season in the franchise’s short history but many felt their playoff exit was way too early. The defending NL East champions did not spend the winter just talking about their young stars potential in 2013, they went out and added to their roster.
Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson are going for a world series and will not be satisfied with just a division crown this time. Here is a rundown of what the Nats got going on.
It was very obvious the past couple seasons that the Nationals had one major hole in their everyday lineup. Washington needed to acquire a true centerfielder and more importantly someone to stick in the leadoff position. Mike Rizzo was able to accomplish both by trading for the Twin's Denard Span. Span not only gives them finally a true leadoff guy but should improve their outfield defense.
Former part time leadoff guy Jayson Werth moves to a permanent second spot. Werth's career with the Nats has never lived up to his big contract although he now owns the most famous at bat in the club’s history. But in this lineup I see him going back to being the Phillies Werth and putting up solid numbers.
Then comes the phenom. Bryce Harper to no one’s surprise has been tearing it up down in Florida and should bring that up north next week. Harper should be seen as a potential MVP candidate.
The person on the Nats that I see as a sleeper pick for MVP is Ryan Zimmerman though. If he can get his health back there is no reason Zimmerman shouldn't have a big year with the 3 guys in front and the 2 guys behind him. I see a huge year from Zimmerman in 2013.
The offseason's biggest question is whether Adam LaRoche would be back. He is and it was a big deal for Rizzo to keep him. It is funny that we talk about Harper, LaRoche, Zimmerman, and Werth and forget that last season the best player in the everyday lineup may have been Ian Desmond.
That just shows how good this team could be. Desmond took his game to a higher level in 2012 and if he can do it again this lineup suddenly gets scary. What could really make it scary is if Danny Espinoza does what Desmond did last season. I wouldn't call it out of the question either. And if Espinoza struggles the Nats have a great insurance policy in Steve Lombardozzi, who should still see plenty of action.
Finally the question of who will catch and Washington has two options now and both should be solid. Both Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos coming off injury are capable backstops for the Nationals to rely on this season. This is the kind of lineup that even if a star went down they should still have no issues scoring runs. Roger Bernadina, Chad Tracy or Tyler Moore can also step in and then you do not lose much.
Sometimes it isn't a bad thing to stink for a few years. Especially when that is in the past and gave you what could be a ridiculous starting five in 2013. Going into the spring all five positions were locked in barring an injury. Now it’s a new season so the debate of shutting down Stephen Strasburg should be finally over. Strasburg leads what could be the majors’ best rotation and is looking for his first of hopefully many Cy Young’s.
Speaking of Cy Young, it is a pretty good thing to have the guy who finished 2nd last year as your number two starter in Gio Gonzalez. Gio is a number one for probably 25 teams and here he is a number two.
Or maybe he could end up a number three with Jordan Zimmermann becoming another Cy Young type contender. It wouldn't be out of the question.
Now it gets kind of crazy when you look at the Nationals potential at number four. Ross Detweiler is another guy who has the potential to up his game this season and become one of the better starters in the National League.
Finally, you have a former top of the rotation guy in Dan Haren. Rizzo made a solid one year investment in Haren as hopefully an upgrade over Edwin Jackson. Most teams looked at Haren to come in as a 3rd of 4th guy maybe even a 2nd, but with Washington he sits in the 5th spot.
One concern for the Nationals could be what if two of these guys go down? But if that was to happen I feel Rizzo would go out and get another legit starter for this team so I don't see it as much of a concern. The Nationals have the potential of having a 1990s Atlanta Braves like rotation for the next few years. Once again, we can look back and thank the years of sucking.
The bullpen catches most of the blame for how 2012 ended. Good news is that most of the season the bullpen was very strong, even though Drew Storen missed a huge part. But did the Nationals like most teams sit back and just say we are good enough there?
Rizzo and Davey didn't and paid big money for closer Rafael Soriano to bolster the pen. Soriano come off a huge 2012 with the Yankees and makes the Nats bullpen very strong. Drew Stroren will need to knock off the feel of how the Cardinals series ended, but he should be good.
Tyler Clippard is Tyler Clippard and expect the same. Ryan Matheus and Craig Stammen also return to bolster the pen. Only worry right now could be a lefty out of the pen. Looks like Washington is depending on Zach Duke to be the guy, but I could easily see them adding another one. Just like with starters if the bullpen has injuries or struggles, I fully expect Rizzo not be to patient and make a move.
Much like with my review of the Orioles, I feel that Davey Johnson is just a winner. When he goes somewhere the team is going to win, and in possibly his final year he will go all out. They lost Bo Porter to the Astros, but Davey will find a way to make up for that.
The X Factor's with this team is the number potential players who can take their games to new levels and become award candidates. Harper, Zimmerman, Desmond, Strasburg, Gio, Zimmermann and Detweiler just off the top of my head.
Very Early Prediction:
The Atlanta Braves are a very formidable foe in the NL East and the Phillies have talent to once again challenge the defending champion Nationals. But what I see is a team of young stars who have mostly already shown what they are capable of doing. I don't think Jayson Werth was far off in his comments. This team should be good, actually they should be great in 2013 and beyond. There is way too much talent and so few holes for them not to be a powerhouse.
Final call. 105-57 and I had closer to 110 before I rethought. NL East, NL and World Series winners after taking down Atlanta and San Francisco in the playoffs and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.