Feb 23, 2012, 6:40 PM EST
The Nationals may have disappointed some by failing to make a big run at the top three free agents, but a vastly improved rotation could make them surprise contenders in the NL East.
The additions of Gonzalez and Jackson give the Nationals arguably the game’s deepest rotation. Now they just have to figure out how to make it work. That Detwiler is out of options complicates things; the Nationals aren’t going to try sending him down. A Lannan trade remains a real possibility. The Nationals also have the option of sending Lannan down to Triple-A, though that wouldn’t go over very well. As for me, I’m stashing Wang on the disabled list to help with the logjam. He’s already experiencing some shoulder soreness this spring anyway.
The bullpen should be very strong at the end of games and still pretty good before that. I don’t think the Lidge addition was necessary, but the price was right. A Gorzelanny trade to open up a spot for Perry wouldn’t come as a surprise.
Disabled list: 1B Chris Marrero (R)
Next in line: C Carlos Maldonado (R), 1B-3B Chad Tracy (L), INF Andres Blanco (S), INF Jarrett Hoffpauir (R), INF Carlos Rivero (R), 3B-OF Mark Teahen (L), OF Bryce Harper (L), OF Jason Michaels (R), OF Xavier Paul (L)
While the pitching looks very strong, the lineup is still something of a mess. Werth and Zimmerman should be better this year, but there aren’t any traditional No. 1 or No. 2 hitters to put ahead of them. The team badly needs Desmond to step up.
I decided not to include Harper, even though I had him in my original projected lineup last month. It makes so much more financial sense to send him down for at least a month to start the season, and as good as Harper is likely to be someday, he’s hardly guaranteed to be an upgrade on Ankiel and Bernadina right away this year.
So, I’m sticking Ankiel in center field for now. The Nationals just lost their best stopgap option when Mike Cameron retired. I favor Ankiel over Bernadina, but Davey Johnson will probably just play the hot hand of the two. By July 1 at the latest, I think we’ll see Werth in center field and Harper in right.
My guess is that while the pitching will be strong, the Nationals won’t score enough runs to win 90 games this year. This is a better team, one that’s going to be more enjoyable to watch than anything else the Nationals have put on the field in their brief history. But it’s probably a year away.
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