Tagged: Washington Nationals

2010 Washington Nationals Preview

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nationals.gif2009 Record: 59-103, 5th NL East

2009 Prediction: 55-107, 5th NL East

2010 Prediction: 5th NL East

 

Impact Player: Ryan Zimmerman

Impact Pitcher: John Lannan

Top Prospect Player:
C Derek Norris

Top Prospect Pitcher:
RHP Stephen Strasburg

 

Manager: Jim Riggleman, 2nd Season
(33-42, .440)

 

Significant
Acquisitions
: C Ivan Rodriguez,
2B Adam Kennedy, OF Chris Duncan, UTIL Eric Bruntlett, OF Willy
Taveras
, OF Jerry Owens, RHP Jason Marquis, RHP Matt Capps, RHP Brian Bruney,
LHP Eddie Guardado, RHP Miguel Batista, RHP Tyler Walker

Significant Losses: C Josh Bard, OF Austin Kearns,
RHP Mike MacDougal, LHP Ron Villone, LHP Joe Beimel, RHP Julian
Tavarez
, RHP Livan Hernandez,
RHP Saul Rivera, RHP Kip Wells

 

The Washington Nationals finished with baseball’s worst
record in 2009 going 59-103.  They were
bad on all facets of the game and the hope that arose out of signing slugger Adam Dunn to a 2-year deal last
February died after a 26-61 start that saw the firing of manager Manny
Acta.  His replacement, Jim Riggleman,
did guide the team to a slightly better record after that point (33-42), but
the damage was done.  Silver lining
anyone?  Why, sure!  His name is Stephen Strasburg who was selected first overall in last June’s
draft and is considered by most to be a can’t-miss superstar; he should see
time at the major league level this season and might even make the opening day
starting rotation.  Other top-tier
prospects such as catcher Derek Norris,
pitcher Drew Storen and shortstop Ian Desmond give the franchise some
hope as it goes forward.  Will 2010 be a
corner-turning year?

 

Pitching

john-lannan.jpg

The Nats have some promising young hurlers who are ready for
breakout years.  John Lannan is one of them and although he was only 9-13 last
season, he posted a 3.88 ERA in 206.1 innings. 
He doesn’t strike out many (only 89 in ’09), but he also doesn’t walk
many and hitters have a hard time getting it in the air off of him.  Veteran Jason
Marquis
was signed to a deal in the offseason and is the de-facto ace after
going 15-13 in Colorado last season.  He’s
a durable innings eater who should help mentor the younger pitchers.  The other three spots are totally up in the
air.  Lefty Scott Olsen could nail down a spot; if he’s completely recovered
from shoulder surgery, he could be a solid number 3 at some point.  J.D.
Martin
showed promise last season and Jordan
Zimmermann
will be given every opportunity to get in the rotation.  Zimmermann is only 23 and could form a
dominating 1-2 punch sometime in the future with Strasburg.  As I said in the opening, if Strasburg proves
he can pitch at this level, he may make the opening day roster; it is likely,
however, that he’ll start the year in High-A or Double-A with a significant
shot at a mid-season call-up.  Lefty Garrett Mock will also be given a shot
to make the rotation.  The Nationals also
signed free-agent pitcher Chien-Ming
Wang
to a one-year deal just a few days ago, but he won’t be available
until sometime in May and may need some time to fully recover from his shoulder
problems.

 

Washington’s bullpen was atrocious last season and they
stripped it down completely for 2010. 
Gone are Mike MacDougal, Ron Villone, Joe Beimel, Julian Tavarez,
Saul Rivera, and Kip Wells and in are Matt Capps, Brian Bruney, Eddie Guardado,
Miguel Batista, and Tyler Walker.  Capps should be the closer after being
non-tendered by the Pirates.  At only 26,
he could still get better.  He did have a
rough 2009 though.  The Nationals acquired
Bruney from the Yankees in an offseason trade and he should be their setup
option and could close if Capps struggles. 
Jay Bergmann and Tyler Clippard return in middle-relief
although Bergmann could also compete for a spot in the rotation.  Clippard was outstanding last year finishing
with 4 wins and a 2.69 ERA.  He has the
stuff to close and could end up doing that someday.  The two lefties are expected to be Sean Burnett and Guardado who is
39-years-old.  Batista was also signed in
the offseason and he too is 39.  Walker
should also compete for a spot along with Ryan
Speier
, Logan Kensing, Joel Peralta, and Doug Slaten.

 

 

ROTATION

Age

B/T

Jason Marquis*

31/2

L/R

John Lannan

25

L/L

Scott Olsen

26

L/L

J.D. Martin

27

R/R

Jordan Zimmermann

23/4

R/R

 

 

 

BULLPEN

 

 

Matt Capps*

26

R/R

Brian Bruney*

28

R/R

Jay Bergmann

28

R/R

Tyler Clippard

25

R/R

Eddie Guardado*

39

R/L

Miguel Batista*

39

R/R

Sean Burnett

27

L/L

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

Tyler Walker*

32/3

R/R

Stephen Strasburg

21/2

R/R

Doug Slaten*

30

L/L

Ryan Speier*

30/1

R/R

Logan Kensing

27/8

R/R

Joel Peralta*

34

R/R

Garrett Mock

27

R/R

*=newly acquired

 

Lineup

ryan_zimmerman.jpg

One thing the Nationals were able to do decently last season
was score runs.  They were 9th
in that category and 6th in OBP, which is significantly better than
any other area.  The outfield looks to be
a strength in 2010, starting with Nyjer
Morgan
in center.  He was terrific
after coming over mid-season from the Pirates and finished the season hitting
.307.  Leftfielder Josh Willingham had a good first season in Washington with 24
homeruns and Elijah Dukes is still
just 25 and looks to have a breakout season in right.  Willie
Harris
could unseat Dukes with a great spring, or a bad one by Dukes.

 

The corner infielders are the franchise’s stable points.  Dunn will be the first baseman and is coming
off another terrific season.  He hit 38
homeruns (5th straight year with at least that many) and drove in
105.  Dunn also hit a career-high
.267.  He strikes out a lot, but who
cares when he nears .400 in OBP and hits that many homeruns.  Ryan
Zimmerman
is the face of the franchise and had a breakout 2009 to justify
his long-term extension signed the previous winter.  He hit 33 HR and had 106 RBI while be elected
to the All-Star Game, and winning both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger.  He appears poised to take his spot among the
elite third basemen in baseball.  This
lineup is surprisingly old for such a bad team with second baseman Adam Kennedy (34), shortstop Cristian Guzman (32) and future
Hall-of-Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez
(38) who was signed in the offseason. 
None of these players are at their physical prime and are all mere
stop-gap options until prospects Norris (C), Jesus Flores (C), Desmond (SS), and Danny Espinosa (2B/SS) are ready.

 

Harris will likely be the fourth outfielder on the bench and
will be joined by veteran backup catcher Wil
Nieves
who is only making the team because they don’t want Flores backing
up; he’ll start in Triple-A.  Chris Duncan, Jerry Owens, Mike Morse,
Willy Taveras, Roger Bernadina, and Kevin
Mench
will compete in the Spring for the fifth outfielder position while Alberto Gonzalez, Desmond, and Eric Bruntlett will compete for the
extra infielder spots.

 

Pos.

 

Age

B/T

CF

Nyjer Morgan

29/0

L/L

SS

Cristian Guzman

32

S/R

3B

Ryan Zimmerman

25

R/R

1B

Adam Dunn

30

L/R

LF

Josh Willingham

31

R/R

RF

Elijah Dukes

25/6

R/R

2B

Adam Kennedy*

34

L/R

C

Ivan Rodriguez*

38

R/R

 

 

 

 

 

BENCH

 

 

UTIL

Willie Harris (LF, CF, 2B, 3B)

31/2

L/R

C

Wil Nieves

32

R/R

SS

Ian Desmond (3B, 2B, RF)

24

R/R

OF

Chris Duncan* (LF, RF, 1B)

28/9

L/R

INF

Alberto Gonzalez (SS, 3B, 2B)

27

R/R

 

 

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

UTIL

Eric Bruntlett* (2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF)

32

R/R

OF

Jerry Owens*

29

L/L

C

Jesus Flores

25

R/R

OF

Mike Morse (RF, LF, 1B)

28

R/R

OF

Willy Taveras* (CF, LF)

28

R/R

OF

Roger Bernadina

25/6

L/L

OF

Kevin Mench*

32

R/R

*=newly
acquired

 

Will the
Nationals be as bad as they were last season? 
Probably not; although, it’s hard to be that bad.  They seemed to gel more under Riggleman and
they’re hoping they can carry that into this season, but let’s face facts:  The rotation won’t be good until Lannan,
Zimmermann, and Strasburg reach their full potential and their lineup is full
of aging stop-gap players that won’t be with the team long-term.  They’re headed in the right direction, but
they’re still more than a few years off.

Final Prediction: 69-93, 5th
NL East

’09 Preview — Washington Nationals

nationals.gif2008 Record: 59-102, 5th NL East
2009 Prediction: 5th NL East

Impact Player: Ryan Zimmerman
Impact Pitcher: John Lannan
Top Prospect: Jordan Zimmerman, RHP

Significant Acquisitions: OF/1B Adam Dunn, OF Josh Willingham, P Scott Olsen, P Daniel Cabrera, C Javier Valentin, INF Alex Cintron
Significant Losses: INF Aaron Boone, OF Willie Harris, INF Emilio Bonifacio, P Tim Redding

The Washington Nationals were the worst team in baseball in 2008.  In fact, since their move from Montreal in 2005 their best record was in that year when they went 81-81.  The Nationals made a big push for Mark Teixeira in the off-season and just lost out to the Yankees in the end and they eventually signed maybe the most prolific slugger in the majors in Adam Dunn.  The Nats also pulled off a deal to acquire troubled lefty Scott Olsen and outfielder Josh Willingham from division-rival Florida.  On paper, the Nats look better, but in reality players like Scott Olsen and another off-season acquisition Daniel Cabrera are not exactly character guys and have yet to fulfill the promise they once showed.  I just don’t see how the Nats are going to be much better this year; their young players still need to get better.

Pitching
The Nationals were 14th in the NL in ERA last year and ranked no higher than 12th in any pitching category.  To allieviate that the Nats acquired Olsen and Cabrera to try and boost their rotation which is without a true #1…or #2 for that matter.  The two underachievers were a combined 16-21 in ’08 with a 4.69 combined ERA.  Joining them are two lefties in John Lannan and veteran Odalis Perez.  Lannan showed promise and could be the opening day starter after posting a 3.91 ERA in spite of 15 losses and Perez struggled going 7-12.  The fifth spot is a wide-open competition between veteran Shawn Hill and three prospects: Jordan Zimmerman, Collin Balester and Shairon Martis.  Zimmerman may have the inside track after going 10-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 134 innings split between A+ and AA last year.  Both Balester and Martis played breifly with the big club in ’08 and Hill battled injuries the whole year.  If Hill can regain the form that saw him post a 3.42 ERA in 16 starts in ’07, he could get another shot.

The bullpen was atrocious last year and only the Braves had less saves.  The best closing option in Jon Rauch was traded near the deadline last year to acquire Emilio Bonifacio who was then traded in the Olsen/Willingham deal.  As many as four pitchers could vie for the job in spring training.  Joel Hanrahan probably has the best shot, but young Steven Shell posted a 2.16 ERA in 50 innings last year and has closer-type stuff and so does Garret Mock.  Veteran setup-man Saul Rivera might end up closing if none of these pitchers can close effectively.  Joining those four in the ‘pen will be any three of a number of pitchers: Lefties Matt Chico, Michael O’Connor, and Mike Hinckley and righties Jason Bergmann, Tyler Clippard, and Marco Estrada.

Rotation (Handedness/Age on June 30, 2009)

  • John Lannan (L/24)
  • Scott Olsen (L/25)
  • Odalis Perez (L/32)
  • Daniel Cabrera (R/28)
  • Jordan Zimmerman (R/23) 

Bullpen

  • Joel Hanrahan (R/27)
  • Saul Rivera (R/31)
  • Steven Shell (R/26)
  • Garret Mock (R/26)
  • Matt Chico (L/26)
  • Jason Bergmann (R/28)
  • Mike Hinckley (L/26)


Lineup
The Nationals hitting, like their pitching, was awful in ’08.  They finished no higher than 11th in any category and were dead last in the NL in slugging percentage and second-last in home runs.  There should be more slugging this year with the addition of two players, Dunn and Willingham, who should take more than their fair share of baseballs over the wall.  In the outfield will be Willingham in Left, attitude problem Lastings Milledge in Center, and once-highly-touted Elijah Dukes in Right.  If Milledge or Dukes can’t keep it together, the Nats also have Wily Mo Pena and Austin Kearns in the mix and Dunn can play the outfield as well.  Dunn, however, will likely play First and anchor an infield that includes future franchise-player Ryan Zimmerman (no relation to Jordan) at Third.  Veterans Christian Guzman and Ronnie Belliard could play up the middle, but Anderson Hernandez is expected to be given every opportunity to start at second over Belliard.  24-year-old Jesus Flores may be ready to take the on the starting catching job, but if he struggles veteran Wil Nieves is around, as is minor-league invitee Javier Valentin.

On the bench will be Kearns, Pena, Belliard and either Nieves or Valentin if they don’t start.  This gives the Nats some depth and also some trade bait for more young players.  Joining them will be Nick Johnson who has spent the last few years battling injuries and may be close to the end of his career because of them.  A minor-league contract was also given to veteran utility-infielder Alex Cintron and Dmitri Young is still kicking around as well but is a long-shot to make the team.

Lineup (Handedness/Age on June 30, 2009)

  • CF  Lastings Milledge (R/24)
  • SS  Christian Guzman (S/31)
  • 3B  Ryan Zimmerman (R/24)
  • 1B  Adam Dunn (L/29)
  • LF  Josh Willingham (R/30)
  • RF  Elijah Dukes (R/25)
  • C    Jesus Flores (R/24)
  • 2B  Anderson Hernandez (S/26)

Bench

  • OF Wily Mo Pena (R/27)
  • OF Austin Kearns (R/29)
  • INF Ronnie Belliard (R/34)
  • 1B  Nick Johnson (L/30)
  • INF Alex Cintron (S/30)
  • C    Javier Valentin (S/33)

Outlook
The Nats have still got a long way to go and I don’t believe that the addition of Dunn and Willingham will be enough to bring this offense out from near the bottom of the NL, nor do I believe Olsen and Cabrera will be enough to have a good rotation.  The Nationals young players are still a year or two away from being true major leaguers and until that happens this team will be terrible.  Final Prediction: 55-107, 5th NL East