Take On Me - Nationals

Myworld is a little biased picking the Nationals to make the playoffs in 2012.  Since moving to Washinton D.C. they have yet to finish with a record over .500.  Davey Johnson thinks they are capable.  When you look at the potential of that pitching staff, this could be a dynamite rotation.

Overall Review: The Nationals picked a pretty good time to have the worst record in baseball for two straight years, acquiring Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.  Last year, one of the best players in the draft fell to them in Anthony Rendon because of injury concerns.  They ended up having so much depth in their minor leagues that they traded four pretty good prospects for Gio Gonzalez, a veteran presence that will be needed for what appears to be a young rotation.  No team in this division, except perhaps the Marlins has improved the team as much as the Nationals.

Why They Will Win: The rotation looks quite strong.  While there are no aces, the young Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman are future aces in the making.  The opening day starter will probably be Gio Gonzalez and their ace of last year John Lannan may not be able to crack their rotation.  That is because Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler could claim the other rotation spots.  Ryan Zimmerman is one of the best third baseman in the game and has more walkoff homeruns than any current active player.  He was hurt to start the season and never appeared healthy as the season progressed, especially his throws to first.  If he can remain healthy to start the season Jayson Werth will have a better offensive year, though he is far from the value they are paying him.  Mike Morse proved that 2010 was not a fluke and after a slow start to the season became one of the top hitters in the National League.  He belongs more at first base than left field, but the Nationals have Adam LaRoche for first.  Danny Espinosa also had a rough second half of the season and is bound to improve.  Wilson Ramos got better as the season progressed and should only improve.  He took over the catching job from future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez.  Myworld’s concern is that he had a poor winter campaign after being rescued from his kidnapping ordeal.  Drew Storen is one of the best closers in baseball and there is no better set up man than Tyler Clippard.  He gets more swings and misses than anyone with a fastball that registers in the low 90s.

Why They Won’t Win: They really have no one for centerfield.  They are talking about allowed Bryce Harper to win an outfield spot, which would mean a move of Werth or Harper to centerfield, making the outfield defense potentially one of the worst in the National League.  Ultimately, they will probably platoon Mike Cameron with Roger BernadinaAdam LaRoche has not shown he can hit in Washington.  Another slow start will force the Nationals to move Mike Morse to first.  Adam has traditionally been a slow starter.  Ian Desmond cut his errors down from 2010, but he has to reduce them further, or raise his offensive game.  He showed potential to be an offensive shortstop, but last year was a disappointment.  He covers a lot of ground at short, but he still makes too many errors.

Top Prospects to Make the Roster: The Nationals say they will give Bryce Harper an opportunity to make the roster out of spring training.  They do have an open outfield spot.  More realistically, expect a mid season promotion.  Steve Lombardozzi hit over .300 in the minor leagues last year, but struggled in his Nationals debut (.194).  He could make it as a utility infielder, though his best position is second base.  If he has a good spring the Nationals could try to make a centerfielder out of him.

Long Range Prospects: Tyler Moore has hit 31 homeruns two years in a row. If he replicates that in AAA and LaRoche continues to struggle Moore could provide himself an opportunity.  Anthony Rendon does not really have a position yet with Ryan Zimmerman established at third base, but his bat could allow him to rise quickly.  Eury Perez is probably the Nationals best centerfielder at this point, but his bat is not yet ready for the major leagues.  If he has some success at AA he could get a mid season callup.  Atahualpa Severino should see bullpen time.  He pitched well in his six appearances last year and provides bullpen depth.  Jhonatan Solano is their catcher depth.  If Jesus Flores gets traded before the season starts or an injury requires the need for another catcher Solano will be the backup.

Significant Transactions: The biggest transaction they made was acquiring Gio Gonzalez.  They gave up four pretty good prospects in the transaction, but they solidified their rotation.  They also acquired Ryan Perry to add depth for their bullpen for Collin Ballester.  Both pitchers have a wealth of potential but were disappointments.  Both teams are hoping that a change of scenery will turn their careers around.  They signed Mike Cameron and he appears to be at least the back up centerfield option, if not the platoon partner for Roger Bernadina.  Mark DeRosa is another free agent signing that will take over a corner infield and outfield spot.  He will also be the primary pinchhitter coming off the bench.  Finally, the Nationals signed free agent Brad Lidge.  It was always fun to look at the reaction of Phillies fans as Lidge came into the ballgame.  At least he won’t be the closer for the Nationals as he was for the Phillies.  Hopefully, myworld won’t have that same look of dread with each appearance, similar to what Nationals fans experienced with Joel Hanrahan in his brief time as the Nationals closer.

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