The Washington Nationals have finished in last place in the NL East in four of the five seasons since the team left the northern land of hockey, so the team certainly hopes to improve on that unfortunate consistency. It remains to be seen if the improving offense and the young, inexperienced starting rotation can make the team respectable for the upcoming season. Despite the team’s mostly grimace-inducing roster, there are a few gems to be found if one can remain unbiased about team standing.
|C Ivan Rodriguez||.249||.280||.384||55||10||47||1||425||w/ Hou|
|1B Adam Dunn||.267||.398||.529||81||38||105||0||546|
|2B Cristian Guzman||.284||.306||.390||74||6||52||4||531|
|SS Ian Desmond||.280||.318||.561||9||4||12||1||82|
|3B Ryan Zimmerman||.292||.364||.525||110||33||106||2||610|
|LF Elijah Dukes||.250||.337||.393||38||8||58||3||364|
|CF Nyjer Morgan||.307||.369||.388||74||3||39||42||469|
|RF Josh Willingham||.260||.367||.496||70||24||61||4||427|
Unsettled: Second Base. Now that the Nationals have punted on Milledge and Kearns, the outfield has been pretty much settled. The catcher position, which might have been iffy due to Jesus Flores’ rather unspectacular showings the past few years, has been given a stopgap solution in Rodriguez. The only position that could change is second base, for there has been discussion of moving Guzman to second base and letting the young Ian Desmond become the starting shortstop. However, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman has recently mentioned that there haven’t been any ongoing efforts of moving Guzman, thus opening up the idea that the team might bring in a free agent to fill that spot and relegate Desmond to pinch hitting duties. With a few weeks to go before spring training, there is still time for the team to weigh their options.
Target: Ryan Zimmerman. One could certainly act upon Willingham’s resurgent season or Morgan’s Pierre-like abilities, but one certainly has to go with Zimmerman as the player to go for this season. Not only did he have a spectacular, albeit sometimes streaky, season last year, but Zimmerman is one of the few strong third basemen available at a relatively scarce position. Unlike the other 3B options Zimmerman is only 25 years old, so it is conceivable he could build upon his breakout year if the rest of the lineup holds up. His OBP and walks were the highest of his career thus far, and given the fact that he will continue to hit in front of Dunn, he will still get plenty of pitches to hit. The main conversation point about Zimmerman is how early to draft him, for with a great year and a scarce position tends to make people reach. I think that, despite his team, Zimmerman is worth reaching for and will likely at least maintain his 2009 numbers.
|Jason Marquis (R)||15-13||4.04||1.38||115||80||216||w/Col|
|John Lannan (L)||9-13||3.88||1.35||89||68||206.2|
|Scott Olsen (L)||2-4||6.03||1.72||42||25||62.2|
|Ross Detwiler (L)||1-6||5.00||1.59||43||33||75.2|
|Craig Stammen (R)||4-7||5.11||1.29||48||24||105.2|
Unsettled: My stomach. It’s just another wretched collection of arms that will be able to start games but have slim odds of finishing them well. Granted, Marquis surprised everyone last season with an excellent four months of baseball before tiring out, so he could continue his success this year in a new, pitcher friendly ballpark. However, this is Jason Marquis and we saw what happened after his great year with the Cubbies. El Implodo. However, he may be a end of the rotation sleeper of sorts since many don’t believe he’ll be able to do it again, so don’t totally toss him away from your draft lists. The rest of the starters are likely to swap in and out of the rotation and spend a few ‘vacations’ down in AAA, so if it wasn’t already obvious I would ignore more of them except for Strasburg. Speaking of which …
Target: Stephen Strasburg. I know, like everyone else you have bought into the overwhelming (and deserved) hoopla regarding his stuff. He could be embarking on his first full season in the big leagues with that 100+ mph fastball and wicked change-up, so it would be difficult to ignore his exciting potential. However, he could also be called up in September if he is deemed too unseasoned. Either way, it will be difficult for to actually end up drafting the 6’5” Strasburg given the multitude of salivating, hyped up drafters out there gunning for him. Consider the team he is on, as well as the likely up and down season of a rookie pitcher, before breaking the bank on this guy. If it’s a keeper league you do what you have to do to get him, but this may not be the year to take Strasburg over someone who may give you more predictable numbers in a redraft league. Still, that strikeout potential …. mmmm ….
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Matt Capps (R)||27||5.80||1.66||46||17||54.1||w/Pit|
|Brian Bruney (R)||0||3.92||1.51||36||23||39||w/NYY|
Chasing Saves: Mike MacDougal is out as the streaky closer that no one thought would amount to much last year. Now residing as the closer is the experienced Matt Capps, who has proved in the past that no matter what team you’re on, you can accumulate 30+ saves. Therefore, even if the Nationals will be squeaking out wins with their bats thanks to their worrisome pitching staff, it is likely that Capps will put up a solid amount of saves if he can stay healthy.
Since the bullpen had a heck of a time trying to get anyone to stick last year as a closer, it is not surprising the team went out and nabbed a few guys that at least have some sort of history of setup work. Bruney, who helped setup Mariano Rivera last year with decent success, is the most likely pitcher to spot save if and when Capps needs some rest or has a recurring injury episode. There has been talk that Eddie Guardado could step in once in awhile, but aside from a decent stretch in Texas a few years ago he has mostly been “Unsteady Eddie” and I would be surprised if he got more than a couple vulture saves this year.
The only players that will likely garner any significant interest early in a draft is Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and, depending on if there are any excitable nuts in your league, Stephen Strasburg. Zimmerman has been mentioned and, if one can handle the batting average and strikeout total, Dunn will continue to predictably impress despite the team he is on. Other than that, most of the Nationals will either be 4th outfielder or bench types for a fantasy baseball team.
Evan Mauser is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Evan in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of MashinSpuds.
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