The Road to Respectability Begins For the Nationals [2010 Washington Nationals Preview]
Key Additions: Stephen Strasburg, Jason Marquis, Ivan Rodriguez, Adam Kennedy, Matt Capps, Chien-Ming Wang
Key Subtractions: Elijah Dukes
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Willie Harris
C Ivan Rodriguez
SS Cristian Guzman
LHP John Lannan
RHP Jason Marquis
LHP Scott Olsen
RHP Livan Hernandez
RHP J.D. Martin
(Stephen Strasburg and Chien-Ming Wang are expected to factor in at some point)
Closer: RHP Matt Capps
Stephen Strasburg. Last June’s #1 overall pick will start the season in AA, but he’s already the face of this moribund franchise desperate for a pickup. I was at a Baseball Prospectus event a few weeks ago, and their scouting guy, Kevin Goldstein said that the scary thing about Strasburg is that the hype is all true. While there are many many variables with pitching prospects, the progress of Strasburg, particularly once he hits the majors, is the story of the Nationals’ season.
The Nats were fairly aggressive in the free agent market, making a bunch of signings. While it may seem like rearranging desk chairs on the Titanic, the team needed to make some moves to show the fanbase that the owners are not just willing to pocket profits. The most beneficial move should be Jason Marquis. He’s a league average pitcher at best, but league average pitchers were in short supply in DC last year.
Ryan Zimmerman had a breakout year in 2009, hitting .292/.364/.525 with 33 home runs. He and Adam Dunn will give Washington a very good heart of the order. Whether they get a lot of RBI opportunities will depend on if Nyjer Morgan can keep up his first year in DC, a year completely different than the rest of his career, and if Adam Kennedy can keep hitting in the .280s with an OBP around .350.
The Nats’ Pythagorean record, based on the amount of runs a team scores and gives up, was 70-92 last year. This means the Nationals were bad, but the 100+ losses were partially a function of luck. They could not improve at all this season, but still win more games.
This is still a very similar team that lost 205 games in the last two years. The Pythagorean record points to a turnaround in wins, but the team itself might not be much more talented save for Strasburg.
Jason Marquis and John Lannan are heading the rotation, even though they are #3 or #4 starters at best. Scott Olsen had a terrible year with injuries and ineffectiveness, and there’s no guarantee he’ll bounce back. The back end of the rotation will be filled with long washed up vets (Hernandez), who dats (Martin), and reclamation projects (Wang). Strasburg will help, but he’s just one piece.
The bullpen was about as effective as adding napalm to a fire in 2009, and there isn’t much to recommend a possible improvement. The new closer will be Matt Capps, last seen with an ERA almost 6 as the Pirates’ closer. This should end well, although in the end Capps is keeping the seat warm for last year’s 10th overall pick, Drew Storen.
The Nationals finally have some pieces in place in Zimmerman, Dunn, Strasburg, Storen, and this year’s #1 overall pick. For this year, they should be at least a little more viable, because they can’t possibly be worse. I think. Despite that, it’s another last place finish for the Nats with a 68-94 record.
What are your thought on the 2010 Washington Nationals.