Thursday, March 29, 2012

The roster shapes up

The Nationals are getting ready for opening day, and every place seems to have been settled expect for the last bench spot or two. Whether its one or two spots depends on if Mike Morse starts the year on the disabled list or not. The last spots appear to be up for grabs between Chad Tracy, Xavier Nady, and Brett Carroll. Manager Davey Johnson likes all three, but my guess is he'll go with Nady's versatility. But he probably isn't ready for the bigs yet just because of a lack of spring training. So I suspect Chad Tracy will make the club until Nady is warmed up. Johnson likes Tracy's power off the bench, along with his lefty bat. Brett Carroll has looked pretty good this spring but with Harper's demotion, that means Bernadina and Ankiel will more than likely take up the outfield. Adam LaRoche's injury my have an effect as well. With a lack of a suitable replacement, with Mark Derosa also injured, Tracy and Nady look that much more attractive to the skipper. But all speculations will he put to rest soon enough as the season begins in about a week.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Preseason Nationals Awards (DC-IBWA)

As a part of the DC-IBWA's preseason polls for Nationals awards, the members were asked 10 questions about typical awards for the team. Below are the questions and my answers. The poll results can be seen at but I will post the results as the become available.

Question 1. Who will lead the Nationals in home runs in 2012?
Answer: Ryan Zimmerman
Reasoning: if he stays healthy this year, he has complete protection in the line up for the first time in a while.

Q 2. Who will lead the Nats in RBI?
A: Jayson Werth
R: hitting behind Zimm and Mike Morse, he'll have plenty of opportunities. Plus he looks more relaxed than last year.

Q 3. Who will lead the Nats in stolen bases?
A: Ian Desmond
R: He's the lead-off man this year, and I expect skipper Davey Johnson to give him the green light a bit more this season.

Q 4. Who will lead the Nats' staff in wins?
A: Steven Strasburg
R: Whenever Stras is on the mound, the bats seem to come alive for him. Also, if he keeps games to around 3 runs like he has been doing, wins should follow.

Q 5. Who will pitch more innings FOR THE NATS: Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan, or Ross Detwiler?
A: Chien-Ming Wang
R: He's Davey's guy. Once he gets healthy, he will be the starter and John Lannan will most likely be traded or relegated to bullpen duty. Ross Detwiler is the odd man out, and is already in th pen behind Wang and Lannan so I don't see him getting more than 70 innings unless a couple injuries occur.

Q 6. Who will have more at-bats for the Nats this year: Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina, or Bryce Harper?
A: Bryce Harper
R: Harper is THE guy. Ankiel and Bernadina are place holders until he's ready. I don't see half the year going by with Harper in AAA and the other two splitting CF duties.

Q 7. Date of Bryce Harper's debut?
A: May 18th, 2012
R: Just a guess of course, but it's a Friday home game against the Orioles so there my be some intrigue in his debut then.

Q 8. Which minor leaguer are you most interested in keeping tabs on (other than Bryce Harper)?
A: Tyler Moore
R: He's lead the Nats farm system the past two years in homers. He definitely looks like the future at the position once Adam LaRoche moves on.

Q 9. How many All Stars will the Nats have this year? Who?
A: Three; Steven Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, Drew Storen
R: again, just a hunch, but I fully believe Storen will be number two in the NL in saves, Strasburg will be the talk of baseball, and Zimm will have a career year.

Q 10. Total wins and what place in the division?
A: 92; second place in the NL East
R: The Phillies are really beat up and older. The Marlins will probably win the division and the Nats will surprise everyone.

Essay: Single most important development for the Nats this year.
A: The strikeouts, or hopefully lack there of. Last year, there seemed to be be a ton of strikeouts in key points of the game. If the Nats can cut down on that, they can be really dangerous.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

NL East Contenders

This year, the NL East certainly appears to be the most competitive and intriguing division in all of the Majors. Four of the five teams can consider themselves at least marginally improved. Those being the Phillies, Marlins, Nationals, and Braves. Whether the improvements have been made through free agency, like the Phillies and Marlins, or trades, the Nationals, or the maturation process of young players, the Braves.

With the acquisition of Jonathan Paplebon and a much improved bench, the Phils look to be the favorites for the season. Health is absolutely the key, slugger Ryan Howard blew out his Achilles tendon in the playoffs last year and is expected to be until June or July. Chase Utley's knees are failing, and his career may be in question. The rotation is and has been the focal point for the team. The three aces they can trot out could give them an early 3-0 lead in any playoff series. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hammels are as good as it gets at the top of any rotation. The 'pen is an interesting avenue. Paplebon is among the best in the game at the closer position. But after him, there remains question marks. Antonio Bastardo had a very effective year last year along with a few other. The problem lies with the hopes that the career years by many weren't just flashes in the pan. They will make the playoffs and contend for the division.

The Marlins
Perhaps the busiest offseason in the game, with a new manager, Ozzie Guillen, a new closer, Heath Bell, a new shortstop, Jose Reyes, and two new starting pitchers, Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. The key question with this group is the how all these HUGE personalities will mesh together. If the Skipper is one of the most outspoken people in the game, how will he expect his club to shut up and play ball? With the arrival of Reyes, Hanley Ramirez will be bumped to third base. His reaction wasn't exactly one of happiness, but more of bitterness. His attitude will influence his performance. With all-star closer Heath Bell, the back end of bullpen shouldn't be much of a concern, but depth with in the pen is. Ace Josh Johnson is coming off shoulder surgery which is always a huge worry with pitchers. A return to his previous form, all-star and Cy Young quality, isn't unprecedented, just pretty rare. If he has that return, this club may very well challenge for the league pennant.

The Nationals
Also a pretty busy offseason for the Nats. Gio Gonzales was acquired from the A's. Paired with Steven Stasburg and Jordan Zimmerman, they will rival the Phillies' top three at some point in the very near future. Edwin Jackson was added in free agency solidifying the top four. The bullpen is headed by closer Drew Storen, famously drafted 9 picks after Steven Strasburg in '09, set-up man Tyler Clipperard, an all-star last year, and new comer Brad Lidge. With Lidge's guidance the continued growth of Storen should persist. The bullpen is very deep, flame throwing righty Henry Rodriguez, converted starter Tom Gorzelanny, and lefty Sean Burnett will all be called on from time to time to batten down the hatches for a victory. Health was the major issue last year, along with strike outs, both of which skipper Davy Johnson looks to rectify. A bounce back year from the Bearded Warrior, Jayson Werth, and full seasons from Strasburg, 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman, and 1st baseman Adam LaRoche would definitely lead the Nats to the promised land of the playoffs. The only problem is centerfield/leadoff. Bryce Harper will settle into the CF position and hopefully shortstop Ian Desmond will hold down the leadoff spot thus rendering the problem solved. If everyone preforms to their abilities, the Nationals will contend for the division or one of the now two wild card spots.

The Braves
Not many moves of note for them this past year. They have been pretty adamant about using homegrown talent over the past few years. LF Jason Heyward in 2010, 1B Freddie Freeman last year, and either Tyler Pastornicky or Andrelton Simmons will take on the shortstop position this year. The suits want Pastornicky to start, but with the spring Simmons has had, the coaches believe he has won the job. A possible, however unlikely, conflict may ensue. Chipper Jones is coming off a knee injury last year and is 38. His bat hasn't seemed to slow down too much although his defensive range has diminished. The future hall of famer has said this will be his last year. The pitching for this club will never be an issue. They are so deep in starting pitching, it makes every club in the majors sick with envy. Anchored in the 'pen by closer Craig Kimball and lefty set-up man Jonny Venters, the starters don't even have to go a full seven innings to solidify a victory. Defense is pretty good, with some small weak points. The determent will fall on the bats. With the J Hey kid's sophomore struggles last year, its imperative that he bounces back. Chipper, perhaps the greatest switch hitter of a generation, will need to remain healthy, along with catcher Brain McCann for the offense to be anything more than anemic. They are contenders for a wild card spot, it just seems doubtful the Braves will contend for the division crown.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Inevitable

Yesterday, phenom Bryce Harper was optioned down to the triple A affiliate Syracuse Sky Chiefs. During a game, Harper went 1-5, with a double and four straight strikeouts. Manager Davey Johnson was quoted by those in attendance as saying the move wasn't because of Harper's performance in the game prior. The skipper wants the 19 year old to get some at bats in AAA and to get some reps in centerfield. Johnson also said the move was to prevent the inevitable storm of "naysayers" that would come with any sort of struggles Harper were to have. Johnson believes the Phenom can be the club's answer to the big question in center. It may be able to work. Harper is very young and very athletic, he's already changed positions once in his very young career (from catcher to outfield). He certainly wouldn't be the answer for a leadoff man but he could look like a Centerfielder of the nineties. In the mold of Andruw Jones with the Braves, a big athletic guy who can steal bases and hit bombs. If Ian Desmond can learn the leadoff role, Harper in center could certainly be a good allocation of his talents.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Nationals Rotation

Yesterday during a pretty important outing against his former club, the Yankees, Chien Ming Wang was looking pretty good. His sinker looked strong, the slider and curve had some bit. However, in this pivotal start, Wang fielded a ball off the mound and, like he's been doing all spring in PFP, ran to first. But this time, he stumbled twice and fell very awkwardly, as well as colliding somewhat violently with Yankee catcher Russell Martin. During this tumble, Wang seemed to hyper extend his left leg, which has left him with a pull/strained hamstring. He is going to be out for around a month, effectively removing him from the fifth rotation spot battle. So, essentially by default, John Lannan will more than likely take over unless Riss Detweiler has a super turn around. If Lannan struggles during Wang's absence, I'd surely expect manager Davey Johnson to have a second battle mid-season.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Help wanted: Centerfielder needed

With Bryce Harper breaking camp with the team looking evermore bleak, an option at Centerfield for the Nationals may be required as a placeholder until Harper gets the call to the show. Once that occurs, the Bearded Warrior, Jayson Werth, will take over the 8 position for skipper Davey Johnson for at least the remainder of the year. The problem lies with the decision to go after a place holder, or the long term option the team desperately craves?Once the season ends and Adam LaRoche leaves in free agency, the possibility of Michael Morse resigning and taking over first looks good, thus reopening the need for a Centerfielder. As far as a trade package is concerned, with John Lannan on the outside looking in, Ross Detweiler out of options, and some depth between Shortstop Ian Desmond and infielder Steven Lombardozzi, there would certainly be some interest. The Baltimore Orioles Centerfielder Adam Jones is rumored to be available but the price for a franchise type of player would be nothing less than the entire farm. Michael Bourn of the Atlanta Braves is on an one year deal and the Braves may look to give him up for infield depth. Coco Crisp signed with the Oakland Athletics on a two year deal, signing as a free agent for the second consecutive year. He would be a cheap, short team bandaid on the wound that has become centerfield. The leadoff potential he posses makes a very intriguing target. Once he leaves, the Nats start from square one, but with the benefit of free agency to focus on a solution for the future. B.j. Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays has long been rumored to be the major target of GM Mike Rizzo. He will be a free agent after the season, theoretically making it easier to obtain him. The problem
is the Rays don't really have a reason to ship him outta town. Gerardo Perra of the Arizona Diamondbacks has been relegated to the bench with the signing of outfielder Jason Kuble. Perra is quick and a gold glove winning left fielder. He could probably make the switch to center without many issues. But these guys wouldn't be picked up until the Nats decide what to do with Harper.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Take back the Park

A bit late, yes I know, but regardless it is something that should be discussed. This latest initiative being carried out by Los Nationals is a a plan to take back the home field from the hoards for Phillies fans that invade along with their team every time the comes to town for a series. The Nats are planning to so by giving fans in the DC are first dibs at tickets. This has caused a major uproar in the Philly community because one park isn't enough for some reason. I have no problem with this. If the tables were turned, those fans would be the first ones screaming for Nats fans to leave. This isn't about them specifically, it's about giving the team an actual home field advantage for the first time since Strasburg's debut. And one that will hopefully remain throughout the next couple of decades. With expectations of the playoffs for the first time in years, home field advantage will become that much more important. In a division as tight the East promises to be, this promotion is just fine in an attempt to steal a few more games that could ultimately decide the division.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Spring training games weekend 1

It's so hard to take away anything too much from these early games. It's the first starts for both the pitchers and position players. Typically the pitchers are further ahead of the batters with extra two weeks of work. Strasburg looked pretty good with his command and probably should've only had 1 ER on the homerun but Gorzelanny was just shelled. Harper however has impressed me with his plate discipline and sheer size. He is a mass of a man, and the scary thing is he's still growing. With the very limited sample I've had, things look pretty bright in the nation's Capitol.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The fans take notice.

In a recent poll on the question was posed as to which team will have the biggest turn around in the up coming season. So far, the
nationals are in first place with the marlins close behind. This seems a bit unimportant but I think the contrary should be believed in this case. This poll shows that fans from around the country are starting to take notice and possibly even worry about the Nats. Good news for a team long considered the basement dwellers.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


With some pretty good and exciting new faces in the Nationals' rotation, the sky is certainly the limit. Steven Strasburg is back healthy after Tommy John surgery last year. However, he will be on an innings limit of around 160 as said by GM Mike Rizzo. Jordan Zimmerman, who also had Tommy John surgery but in 2009, looked very good last year with his growth as a pitcher. His innings won't be limited as much this year, look for around 200 to be a point of debate between Rizzo and Manager Davey Johnson. Gio Gonzales is fresh in from the Oakland Athletics. Although the price was a huge haul of top 15 prospects, the transaction was very necessary as most of the prospects were blocked in the bigs anyways. Edwin Jackson has been a target of Rizzo for a number of years, and he finally got his man in free agency for one year and 10 million dollars. Jackson is an innings eater, something sorely lacking in the Nats rotation for a few years. The last spot is up for battle between John Lannan, Chien Ming Wang, and the southpaw Ross Detwiler. Despite the uncertainty at the end of the rotation, the five guys who make it would definitely give the Nats a rotation to be feared this year. Add in the new expanded playoffs, the Nationals will absolutely be competing for one of the new five spots with a rotation like this.