The Washington Nationals are a franchise steeped in tradition and history – if you’re six years old or under. The old Expos relocated to Washington in 2005 after years of playing baseball anonymously with no fans in Montreal. They moved to Washington and promptly continued the losing ways. Let’s see what will happen in 2010…
The Nats had one "Marquis" signing this year: Jason Marquis, who was 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA last year in Colorado. Also, they picked up Pudge Rodriguez and gave a minor league contract to Livan Hernandez. Rumor has it former Red Willy Taveras is in camp too. He must be the one running around with a bag on his head.
The Nationals didn’t lose anyone of note over the offseason, but recently gave Elijah Dukes the ol’ heave-ho. Former Reds Austin Kearns and Dmitri Young also moved on in the offseason. Austin went to the Indians, and Dmitri retired. Mike MacDougal wasn’t good enough to keep his closer role, so he took his ball and went to Florida.
C Iván Rodríguez
Yep, that Iván Rodríguez. Pudge is back, playing for his 5th team in 6 years. What Pudge has gained in experience and knowledge, he’s lost in age; at 38, he’s at the end of his career as a "seasoned veteran" and getting dangerously close to being downright "old for a baseball player." He’s got tons of experience though, and with a slash line last year of .249/.280/.324, he may still have enough in the tank to provide some pop.
1B Adam Dunn
It’s still strange to see Adam Dunn wearing red and blue instead of, well, just red, but the Big Donkey is kicking it at a new position. After spending his career in Cincinnati in LF, the Nats have been working on converting Adam to 1B, where his lack of defensive prowess can be minimized. Other than that, he still strikes out a lot (177 last year), walks a lot (116), and hits HRs (38.) He will be a key to the offense for the Nationals.
2B Adam Kennedy
Adam comes over this year from Oakland, where he spent a year holding down the middle infield for Adam Rosales. Kennedy is a solid player, but nothing special. He carried an OPS+ of 101 last year, with an OBP of .348, so he could be a table setter for the big boppers.
SS Cristian Guzmán
Cristian has been a respectable shortstop for the Nationals for the past few years, and was an all-star as recently as 2008 (although, being a Nationals all-star is similar to being the best looking guy at an all-girls school). He’s been decent for the Nationals, slashing .282/.315/.394 for Washington in his 4 years there. He has company at SS though, as he has young phenom Ian Desmond breathing down his back (more on him later.
Ryan Zimmerman is the cog at the center of this Nationals lineup. He is the bright young star that the Nationals hope will lead their team into the future. Last year, the 24 year old phenom OPS+’d an impressive 133, with 33 HR and 106 RBI. His future development is the key to the Nats’ future, and indeed, even the key to this season.
Josh Willingham is another young player, cast off by the Marlins, who has developed into a fine young ballplayer over the past few seasons. In the past, he’s been stuck in a platoon/rotation with other young players in the Nationals organization. He had a very respectable OBP of .367 last year, and looks to continue to stay on track.
CF Nyjer Morgan
Besides having the oddest name on the team, Nyjer Morgan is one of the brightest stars on this team, with a lot of potential. After being traded from the Pirates for Lastings Milledge, Morgan went on to have one heck of a season with the Nats, OPSing .888 in just 49 games in Washington. If Morgan can continue to perform at this level, the Nats will be set at the top of the order.
Elijah Dukes is a troubled young man who has a world of baseball potential. He has some rough edges, but can develop into a fine young ballplayer with some time and supervision.
What’s that? The Nationals cut Dukes? Who’s going to start?! Willie Harris?!?! What the heck?! Well, Willie is a 9 year player with a career OPS+ of 80. Don’t look for much from Willie, other than to be riding the pine after a while.
After the first 3 spots, there are a lot of names up for the final two spots. The favorites are probably Livan Hernandez, who has pitched for the Nationals before, and Garrett Mock, a young kid. Craig Stemmen and J.D Martin, with Collin Balester working to prove himself in the minors. There’s also some kid named Strasburg, but we’ll talk about him later. Chien-Ming Wang is recovering from his latest injury, so he could get a shot once healthy. An August rotation of Lannan, Marquis, Olsen, Strasburg, and Wang? That could be dangerous.
There really is no one else of note here in this bullpen. Bruney came over from the Yankees and will set up for Capps, signed from the Pirates. Burnett and Slaten are the primary LHP options. Villone is also in camp, and could sneak in ahead of Slaten.
Not much of note here. Wil Nieves is a place-holder until Jesus Flores’ s shoulder has recovered. Willy Taveras could be here instead of Morse, but either way, the Nationals hope that they don’t have to rely on these guys too much.
This team used to be almost entirely populated by former Reds, but now just fringe guys Ron Villone, Willy Taveras, and first baseman Adam Dunn spent any real time with the Reds.
Any discussion about Nationals prospects is centered around Ian Desmond, a young middle infield prospect, and some kid named Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg is their Aroldis Chapman, (except he’s shorter, doesn’t throw as hard, and has less control. Suck it, Nationals!) He’s currently in AA, but look for him to get called up mid-season. Desmond is getting close to being ready to play full-time, and may get a chance if Guzman’s shoulder isn’t completely healthy. Both of these guys should be staples by year’s end.
I don’t see great things ahead for the Natty boys this year. Their young players are a year older, the older players are a year older. There are still a lot of question marks, but this team could be just a year away from being contenders, if they get the right pieces. Look for the Nationals to go somewhere in the neighborhood of 68-94. Hey, it could be worse. Leatherpants could still be running the show.