Friday, March 16, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Washington Nationals

2011 Record: 80-81

Key Additions: Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Brad Lidge, Rick Ankiel, Mark Teahen

Subtractions: Matt Stairs, Jonny Gomes, Laynce Nix, Ivan Rodriguez

2012 Outlook: After finishing a half a game below .500 last season, the Nats went out and rebolstered there pitching staff by acquiring Gio Gonzalez, and Edwin Jackson. Add those two pitchers to a rotation that already includes flamethrower Stephen Strasburg, up and coming youngster Jordan Zimmerman, and a solid #5 guy with John Lannan, and you realize that the Nats can ride their pitching a long way this season. With further development from Strasburg and Zimmerman, the Nationals may have the best staff in the NL when it is all said and done, although they have pretty fierce competition with some other teams with a lot more experience. My one worry with the starting pitching is that Gio won't be able to pitch in Washington nearly as well as he did in the pitchers friendly Oakland Coliseum. If he can pitch near that mark, and the rest of the rotation progresses normally, they are going to be a fun bunch to watch.

Where is Bruce Harper going to start the 2012 season? That is the question everybody is asking, but yet, nobody knows the answer. Right now, most people are saying in the minors, but some still say the majors. After a minor injury earlier in Spring Training, Harper has struggled, and that struggling may be the reason he wont break camp with the Nats, but instead go to AAA. It is just Spring Training, but I think the Nats will want him to get comfortable again, and start hitting again, before he comes up to the bigs. If I had to choose, I would put him in AAA to start the year, and handle his situation like the Jays did with Brett Lawrie last year, hand injury aside. I expect him to be in Washington and contributing to the Nationals lineup by June 1st, but I hope not on April 5th. The Nationals shouldn't rush him to the Big leagues like J.P Riccardi did with Travis Snider, because it could ruin his very promising young career. That being said, the entire Nats offense could be based on him, so it might be a good time to get him to the bigs as soon as possible.

Without Harper, the Nationals offense looks like this. Ryan Zimmerman.After having a great 2010 with the Phillies, and signing a long term contract the with the Nationals, the 32 year old former Blue Jay Jayson Werth had a horrific 2011 which saw his WAR drop by more than 3 points, and his OPS+ by 47. Werth will be making $13 million this season, and needs to produce like he deserves his lucrative contract if the Nats are going to be able to produce on offense this season. The well traveled Adam Laroche will also need to comeback this season, although he missed more than 100 games last season due to injury. This offence will need to improve from the 2011 team that finished in the bottom of third in runs scored last year, and they can`t wait fro Bryce Harper to be called up for it to happen. Zimmerman will have to keep on improving, and Werth and Laroche will need to return to their 2010 forms if the Nats want to complement the starting staff with some runs.

The Final Count: 81-81

The Nationals definitely have the potential to exceed this mark, drastically, but with the improvement of the Marlins, and the unbalanced schedule in the MLB, it will be tough for the Nats to do much better than .500. If Gio and Jackson can come into this park, and thrive, and Jasyon Werth bounces back, then 90 wins could be very possible for the Nats.

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