30 Clubs in 30 Days: Washington Nationals

Posted: March 26, 2014 in Uncategorized
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nations1Despite their 86-76 finish a year ago, the Washington Nationals have gone about rebuilding the right way. Teams like the Edmonton Oilers and Cleveland Browns wish they could be this successful after years upon years of top draft picks. The Nationals lost 100+ games in 2008 and 2009, earning the top pick in the subsequent season’s draft. Unlike other mediocre franchises, Washington cashed in on those picks by selecting RHP Stephen Strasburg and OF Bryce Harper. Both have become franchise cornerstones, and they’ll look to lead the Nationals back to the playoffs for the second time in three years.

In 2013, the Nationals’ offense was porous, as their run production dipped from 731 in 2012 to 656. Granted, offensive production was down as a whole in the National League, so it’s not as though Washington was alone in their struggles. They’ll look for bounce back campaigns from outfielders Denard Span (.279-4-47) and Harper (.274-20-58). The latter dealt with numerous nagging injuries, so one shouldn’t be surprised to see him return to his former glory in 2014.

Jayson Werth performed up to his contract for the first time, hitting .318-25-82 in just 129 games. If he can keep that up, it will give youngster Anthony Rendon time to get acclimated to a full season at the MLB level, as the 24-year old takes over as the full time second baseman.

The pitching staff behind Strasburg, who went just 8-9 last year despite sparkling peripherals (3.00 ERA, 191 K, 56 BB), is the best in the division and perhaps in the entire league. Jordan Zimmermann (19-9, 3.25) is coming off of the best season of his career. He’s had injury issues in the past, so one has to keep an eye on that. Lefty Gio Gonzalez (11-8, 3.36) was once again a godsend in the rotation. Though, much like Strasburg, he was hurt by poor run production. The loss of Dan Haren to free agency didn’t deter the Nationals, who traded a package of prospects to Detroit to land 6’9″ RHP Doug Fister. A workhorse with tons of postseason experience, Fister went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA in the American League last year. So, one could expect even better peripherals moving to the Senior Circuit in 2014.

The bullpen is as deep as ever, with Rafael Soriano (3-3, 3.11, 43 Sv) being set up by the talented right handed duo of Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen. Veterans like Jerry Blevins, Ross Detwiler, and Mike Gonzalez provide support.

All in all, this rendition of the Washington Nationals is one of the most talented rosters in the league. There’s little doubt that they’ll be in contention all the way to the end.

Key Arrivals

2B Jamey Carroll (Royals)
OF Nate McLouth (Orioles)
RHP Doug Fister (Tigers)
LHP Jerry Blevins (Athletics)

Key Departures

C Kurt Suzuki (Twins)
RHP Dan Haren (Dodgers)
LHP Fernando Abad (Athletics)

Projected Lineup and Rotation (with Projected Stats)

OF Denard Span – .292-4-47
3B Ryan Zimmerman – .275-22-64
OF Bryce Harper – .286-28-93
OF Jayson Werth – .273-20-73
1B Adam LaRoche – .256-21-69
SS Ian Desmond – .273-19-77
2B Anthony Rendon – .265-12-68
C Wilson Ramos – .281-21-56

RHP Stephen Strasburg – 14-7, 3.08
LHP Gio Gonzalez – 14-8, 3.47
RHP Jordan Zimmermann – 13-7, 3.46
RHP Doug Fister – 13-7, 3.36
RHP Tanner Roark – 7-7, 3.76

RHP Rafael Soriano – 3-3, 3.75, 35 Sv

Outlook

The Atlanta Braves may be defending NL East champions. But, the Nationals are unquestionably the most well-rounded team heading into 2014. Whether or not they put it all together is another story. But, all signs point to Washington contending for a playoff spot yet again this year.

nations2Their offense is rife with power throughout, with the lone exception being their leadoff hitter, Denard Span. The team expects to get more consistent at 2B with Rendon playing the whole season over the platoon of Danny Espinosa and the recently traded Steve Lombardozzi. Meanwhile, talented offensive catcher Wilson Ramos returns after slugging 16 homers in just 78 games last year.

With a deep rotation and a bullpen filled with talented arms, there aren’t a lot of weaknesses to speak of in our nation’s capital (besides Congress). Washington, barring injury, will be the class of the East for the second time in three seasons. I foresee the Nationals winning between 90-96 games to capture the division crown.

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