2011 MLB Team Preview – Washington Nationals

Key Additions—Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche

Key Losses—Adam Dunn, Willie Harris

Lineup—The addition of Werth in the middle of the lineup turned a lot of heads this winter, but did it make them better? It depends on the way you look at it. On one hand, after the loss of Dunn, something needed to be done, so grabbing Werth was a good move. I like the set of talents he gives to a team and the leadership he is capable of. I will be interested to see what kind of player he is now that he has the pressure of needing to be one of the main guns. Plus, how will he respond on a team that isn’t one of the best. The loss of Dunn obviously hurts, so who will pick up that slack? Ryan Zimmerman is a perennial all star and will continue to perform as a hitter. Ian Desmond struggled a bit as a rookie, but the Nationals expect him to improve. The addition of Adam LaRoche does provide some left handed pop that was much needed in this lineup. Ivan Rodriguez is aging, and at this point pretty much an average catcher. While the outfield of Werth, Roger Bernadina, and Nyjer Morgan will not hit the ball out of the park, they are great defensively and have the ability to steal a lot of bags. If nothing else, they will put a lot of pressure on opposing pitchers when they get on. If those 2 can set the table for the middle of the order, I think this lineup has a chance to be pretty solid.

Rotation—Obviously, the loss of Stephen Strasburg was a very big blow. Not too often do you have a young ace like that, but they will need to go on with what they have. The return of Jordan Zimmerman will give Nats fans a glimpse into one of the future arms in this rotation. However, the rest of the rotation is not exactly world beaters. Livan Hernandez is consistent, and you know what you are going to get from him. A big question mark is what Jason Marquis you will get, the one that was an all star in 2009 or the one that was terrible in 2010. If he can get back to 2009 form they will win some games for him. However, all in all, unless Zimmerman becomes a beast, this rotation will have a hard time competing in this division.

Bullpen—I am a big fan of Drew Storen, although I am not completely sure what kind of closer he will ultimately become. Even if he turns into a big time closer, this bullpen is still going to have some issues. Their rotation, with aging guys like Hernandez and a guy like Zimmerman who they will likely be careful with in innings, will not go deep into games. This means they are going to need a strong 6-7-8 inning guys to bridge the gap to get to Storen. They just don’t have it. This bullpen will be eaten alive by teams in those innings before they can get to Storen.

Impact Rookie—Danny Espinosa, 2B/SS. Espinosa hit 28 HR and stole 25 bags between the Minors and Majors last season and looks to be the favorite to lock up the second base job in Washington. Espinosa hopes to join the line of recent Long Beach State Dirtbag shortstops to have immediate MLB success that includes Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria.

Outlook—I really like what this team is building. Sure they spent a lot of money on Werth, but he is the type of player to me you give good money too. He is good defensively, and doesn’t completely rely on the home run. He can still hit for average and do the little things that help teams win. And when Strasburg returns, and if Zimmerman can stay healthy, they have the makings of a nice 1-2 punch in that rotation. Bryce Harper could possibly join this team within a year or 2, and if he can be another middle of the lineup bat they could be something special. They are not going to win this year, but you have to be excited to see what the Nats are building.

NL East Preview:

Atlanta Braves

Florida Marlins

New York Mets

Philadelphia Phillies

Washington Nationals

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