Washington Nationals Preview

By Charlie Wright on January 28, 2014
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Don’t let the frigid weather fool you. Baseball season is right around the corner, and the Washington Nationals are preparing to head down to Viera, Fla., for spring training. Seeing as the off-season is coming to a close, now is as good a time as any to assess the team as it is currently constructed.

Strengths

With the addition of Doug Fister in a trade with Detroit over the winter, the Nats boast one of the most formidable rotations in all of baseball. Fister, who could be the number-two starter or even the ace on some other pitching staffs around the league, will slot in at number four. Stephen Strasburg will head the rotation, and hopefully he can become the workhouse the team had envisioned when they drafted him with the first overall pick in 2009. Following him will be Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman, completing a group which GM Mike Rizzo recently called the “Big Four.”

Weaknesses

The Nationals had a myriad of issues offensively last season. Bryce Harper was not healthy for most of the year, and Adam Laroche failed to approach the lofty numbers he had achieved the previous season. Also, the bench production experienced a sharp decline from 2012, as Davey Johnson received next to nothing from the likes of Roger Bernadina, Chad Tracy and Steve Lombardozzi in part-time roles. On the bright side, Rizzo brought in free agent Nate McLouth, and the team will have lefty-killer Scott Hairston for an entire season. With Harper presumably healthy, the hope is that the offense will be firing on all cylinders this year, but that remains to be seen.

Unresolved Situations

The final spot in the bullpen is still open, as is the fifth spot in the rotation. It would appear Ross Detwiler has the inside track as the fifth starter, but a bad spring could open the door for Tanner Roark, Nate Karns or Taylor Jordan. If Detwiler was not in the rotation, he would likely be in the bullpen. But assuming Detwiler is the fifth starter, the final bullpen spot is up for grabs between Ryan Mattheus, Erik Davis and Xavier Cedeno. Mattheus’ 2013 campaign was derailed by injury, while Davis and Cedeno received brief cups of coffee with the big league club late in the season. New manager Matt Williams has expressed interest in having a secong lefty in the bullpen, which opens the door for Cedeno. There is also a dark horse candidate for the role, left-hander Sammy Solis. In his first season back from Tommy John surgery, Solis pitched well as a starter in the minors. He projects to be a future starter in the majors, but for now the team could utilize him out of the pen. Michael Natelli elaborates on Solis and the bullpen here.  

 

It should be a great year, as the Nats look to forget last season and make another playoff run. Spring Training is only a couple weeks away, so the season will be here soon enough.

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