A little while back nycredsfan and myself answered five questions from The Nats Blog which can be found here. In return, TNB's Ted Youngling was kind enough to answer five questions from Red Reporter in exchange. The Nationals intrigue me a little since they look to have a lot of young talent coming or already there, and will have a lot of money to spend in the near future (even with the monstrous Jayson Werth contract). Questions and answers after the jump.
RR: With his meteoric rise and fall due to injury, how do you see the career of Stephen Strasburg playing out?
TNB: As expected, the news that Stephen Strasburg would likely be missing the entire 2011 baseball season due to Tommy John surgery definitely took some wind out of the Nationals fans' sails. Just the words "Tommy John" gives me the chills. You especially have to feel bad for Strasburg, who breezed through the minors on his way to the Nats, where he actually found success and become one of the more explosive pitchers in the game. To have his season come to a premature end was a shock for everybody.
As far as the rest of his career is concerned, and I'm being as optimistic as possible, I think we will look back on it as a very successful one. I truly believe that Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Jordan Zimmermann will bring this team to the next level in coming years. Sure Strasburg will probably have a few more "scares" with his arm, but I see no reason why he shouldn't collect a 20-win season or more.
RR: The other prized possession of the Nats' farm system, Bryce Harper, is just starting his road to the major leagues. What's a realistic date we might see him in Washington, and can he possibly be as good as advertised?
TNB: Bryce Harper has been has been as good as advertised down in Class-A Hagerstown. As of Sunday, he has a .306 batting average with three home runs and 14 RBI in his 15 games played. The kid has essentially dominated at every level he's played and I expect that to carry in the minors and beyond. Don't be looking for Harper to make an appearance anytime this season, and honestly, I wouldn't expect him to break camp with the Nats in 2012, not because of his performance, but to simply give him more time to grow in the minors. That being said, I wouldn't rule out a late season appearance in August or September depending on Washington's place in the standings. If that doesn't happen, I think there is no question we will see him in right field on Opening Day 2013.
RR: Other than the two stud prospects listed above, what minor leaguer do you think can/will have the biggest impact in the next couple of years?
TNB: First name that comes to my head is left handed pitcher Sammy Solis. He was the Nationals' very next pick after Harper when they selected him in the second round out of the University of San Diego last June. Solis will be a staple in the Nats rotation and could be in the majors sooner than most people think.
Washington also has two stud catching prospects in Wilson Ramos
and Derek Norris. Ramos, who Washington acquired in the Matt Capps
deal last season, had no place with the Minnesota Twins
thanks to Joe Mauer
and is currently splitting time with Ivan "Pudge" Rodriquez. Ramos has actually performed quite admirably in this role with a .351 batting average.
As for Norris, who was once thought to be the Nationals catcher of the future, he failed to make the team out of camp and has been sidelined in the minors with an ankle injury until recently. Unfortunately for him it looks like Ramos will be the man for the time being which gives him an uncertain future in Washington. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
RR: The Nationals look to have a bit of payroll flexibility in the coming years; what free agent would you like to see the club pursue? What holes might they need to fill once the young players have all established themselves?
TNB: With Ryan Braun recently being extended through 2020 with the Milwaukee Brewers one would have to think that they would not be able to bring back Prince Fielder, who is a Scott Boras client. Many people questioned why the Nats would give Jayson Werth a seven-year, $126 million deal but it was for situations like this. Washington GM Mike Rizzo wanted to prove that the Nationals were willing to break the bank open and bring in big time free agents. Hopefully Fielder will take this into account as Washington will be certain to make an offer.
Another need would be a spot in the outfield, but the free agent outfield class this winter lacks the star power the Nats would hope for. I could see Washington settling for a guy like Ryan Ludwick or Nick Swisher
, if the Yankees
don't pick up his option for 2012.
Surprisingly the Nationals already have several pieces in place, they are just waiting for it to come to fruition. Ryan Zimmerman at third, Ian Desmond
at shortstop, and Danny Espinosa
at second are expected to hold down the infield where Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper are expected to do the same in the outfield to go along with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann
, and hopefully Sammy Solis leading the rotation with Drew Storen
closing games. Now of course that would only happen in a perfect world but time will tell.
RR: Lastly, a two part question - What's the deal with the inordinate number of former Reds who have found their way to Washington, and how old is Livan Hernandez, really?
TNB: I had never noticed the trend of former Reds making their way to the Nationals until now. Laynce Nix, Jerry Hairston, Todd Coffey are the ones that immediately come to my mind, but I honestly couldn't give you a straight answer as to how or why they migrated to DC.
According to ESPN.com, Livan Hernandez, who made his 450th consecutive start on Saturday, is 36-years young and I wouldn't be surprised if he reached 550 consecutive starts at the rate he's going.