The Washington Nationals usually offer nothing but disappointment to their fans, but there was an air of optimism surrounding the team and the city in 2010. That’s because pitching wunderkind Stephen Strasburg made his much anticipated debut and somehow found a way to exceed expectations. Then, in true National form, Strasburg suffered an injury that required Tommy John surgery. Don’t expect to see Strasburg at all in 2011. Bryce Harper, keep your eyes open for baby grands suspended 50 feet in the air and stray banana peels strewn around the clubhouse. The baseball gods may be coming for you next.
In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2011 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Wilson Ramos||.278||.305||.405||5||1||5||0||79|
|1B Adam LaRoche||.61||.320||.468||75||25||100||0||560||w/ARI|
|2B Danny Espinosa||.214||.277||.447||16||6||15||0||103|
|SS Ian Desmond||.269||.308||.392||59||10||65||17||525|
|3B Ryan Zimmerman||.307||.388||.510||85||25||85||4||525|
|LF Roger Bernadina||.246||.307||.384||52||11||47||16||414|
|CF Nyjer Morgan||.253||.319||.314||60||0||24||34||509|
|RF Jayson Werth||.296||.388||.532||106||27||85||13||554||w/PHI|
Unsettled: Catcher, Second Base and Left Field. Ivan Rodriguez is on his last legs at catcher, so the Nationals were wise to acquire a quality catching prospect in Ramos. While he won’t be ready for full-time duty in 2011, he bears watching this season. At second, Espinosa is likely the starter, though the team could always add a veteran or give Jerry Hairston Jr. consistent playing time. Espinosa has 20/20 potential if he gets 500-plus at-bats, and he actually hit 28 HRs and stole 25 bases across three levels last season. Bernadina is ticketed for left field, but Hairston, Rick Ankiel, Mike Morse or Matt Stairs could all see time.
Target: Espinosa and Ian Desmond. Low batting averages are tough to swallow, but if you managed to pack your fantasy lineup with high BA guys early in the draft, either one of these middle infielders could pay off in the power and speed departments at shallow positions. Espinosa suffered an injury in winter ball that required wrist surgery, but he’s expected to be ready for spring training. Desmond has less power upside than Espinosa but a stronger grip on a starting job. If you can snag either one in the late rounds of your draft, they could contribute much more than your average scrub.
|Livan Hernandez (R)||10-12||3.66||1.32||114||64||211.2|
|John Lannan (L)||8-8||4.65||1.56||71||49||143.1|
|Jordan Zimmermann (R)||1-2||4.94||1.32||27||10||31.0|
|Jason Marquis (R)||2-9||6.60||1.70||31||24||58.2|
|Tom Gorzelanny (L)||7-9||4.09||1.50||119||68||136.1||w/CHC|
Unsettled: Obviously the loss of Strasburg leaves a massive hole in the starting rotation, but the Nationals are teeming with warm bodies to take his place. The veteran Hernandez and the developing youngster Zimmermann are likely the only two guys locked into the rotation right now. Gorzelanny is likely to land a spot after coming over in a trade with the Cubs, while Marquis’ salary should keep him in the rotation, however undeserving. Lannan is the former No. 1 starter for the Nationals and should be locked in as well. If Gorzelanny falters, Ross Detwiler and Yunesky Maya would be candidates for the rotation with some upside. Chien-Ming Wang and J.D. Martin could also compete for that final spot.
Target: Jordan Zimmerman. Dynasty-league owners should try and use the opportunity to buy low on the phenom if at all possible, but the Nationals rotation also features another young gun that deserves attention. Zimmermann dealt with his own Tommy John surgery over the course of 2009 and 2010, coming back to post a solid 2.7 K/BB ratio in seven starts at the end of last season. Fantasy owners took notice in 2009 when he notched more than a strikeout per inning over 16 starts, and he was nearly as good in 2010. He’ll likely go dirt cheap in drafts, but his K and BB upside make him a pitcher worth reaching a bit for.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Drew Storen (R)||5||3.58||1.27||52||22||55.1|
|Tyler Clippard (R)||1||3.07||1.21||112||41||91.0|
Chasing Saves: After Matt Capps was sent to Minnesota, Drew Storen and Sean Burnett split closing duties, with Tyler Clippard around to help if needed. However, Storen is the team’s closer of the future and should see himself with the closer job full-time in 2011. The “other” guy in the draft that brought Strasburg to Washington, Storen is capable of racking up Ks as well as saves, and he should be considered among the best options as a second fantasy closer. Clippard had a nice start to last season, vulturing wins left and right before ultimately notching 11 wins over the course of the season. However, his value as a multi-inning guy could push Burnett or Henry Rodriguez into an eighth-inning role. Still, Clippard’s high K-rate gives him significant end-game value even without the saves.
Ryan Zimmerman will come off the board very quickly, and Jayson Werth will follow suit soon after. Neither present great value in drafts, though Zimmerman is about as solid as they come at the hot corner. However, guys like Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Adam LaRoche should offer plenty of value late in drafts. Nyjer Morgan can offer some SB help as a one-trick speed racer, but he’ll hurt in every other category. Drew Storen is likely to be the first Nationals pitcher taken in drafts, but Jordan Zimmermann offers nice upside for those willing to draft a Washington pitcher.
Check back tomorrow as we kick off the NL Central.
R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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