2010 MLB Preview Countdown - 29 - Washington Nationals

29 -Washington Nationals

2009 record: 59-103
Last five year win totals: 81, 71, 73, 59, 59
Last playoff appearance: 1981, lost NLCS

Additions: RHP Brian Bruney, RHP Matt Capps, 2B Adam Kennedy, C Carlos Maldanado, RHP Jason Marquis, C Ivan Rodriguez, LHP Doug Slaten, OF Willy Taveras, RHP Chien-Ming Wang

Losses: OF Austin Kearns, RHP Mike MacDougal, RHP Zack Segovia, RHP Julian Tavarez, 1B Dmitri Young

Projected lineup

CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Elijah Dukes
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Adam Kennedy

Projected bench

2B/SS Ian Desmond
C Jesus Flores
OF Willie Harris
IF Mike Morse

Projected rotation

RHP Jason Marquis
LHP John Lannan
RHP Craig Stammen
LHP Scott Olsen
RHP Chien-Ming Wang

Projected bullpen

RHP Matt Capps
RHP Brian Bruney
RHP Tyler Clippard
LHP Sean Burnett
LHP Eddie Guardado
RHP Garrett Mock

The Nationals have been a mess since they have arrived in DC. They are coming off back to back 59 win seasons. But for the first time they have some optimism. I will start with the obvious: Stephen Strasburg. I didn't think the Nats were going to have the guts to draft him and then sign him to a record contract, but they did both. It was very good to see them step up and do what it takes to try to produce a winner. Strasburg is compared to Mark Prior, let's hope he has a better career. As a Cubs fan, it still pains me to type that guys name. It was just announced today that Strasburg will begin the season in the minor leagues, but if he does what everyone expects him to do, it won't be long before he joins the rotation.

As for the rotation, it is still bad, but very slowly improving. Jason Marquis comes over from the Rockies. Now, he is not an ace. But what he has always been is an innings eater who does nothing much except keep a team in games. He won't strike out anybody, he will walk too many people and he will frustrate the hell out of you (again, Cubs fan). But he's also a guy you can count on to go out there every 5 days and give you 5 innings or more. John Lannan had a good season also, with an ERA under 4.00 for the second year in a row. The Nats would have been in great shape, as youngster Jordan Zimmerman was chugging along, with 92 strikeouts against only 29 walks. But he had to undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss the whole year. But in 2011, they could have quite a 1-2 with Strasburg and Zimmerman.

Matt Capps, Eddie Guardado and Chien-Ming Wang add veteran influence to a young pitching staff and bullpen. The key will still be pitching for Washington, as they were 28th in the majors in both ERA and opponents batting average.

As for the lineup, they have slowly added guys here and there, and now offer a very veteran laded offense. True, most of these guys ended up on the Nats because no one else wanted them, but they are one of the few teams that have a long time major leaguer at pretty much every position.

We will start with the heart of the lineup. Adam Dunn turned out to be an excellent signing. He provided his usual close to 40 home runs and 100 RBI's. He also had his highest batting average of his career, and an OPS over .900 once again. I can't believe any teams didn't go after the guy. I can't believe the Cubs went with Milton Bradley instead. Damn it! I digress. Setting up Dunn is Ryan Zimmerman, who continues to get better and better. He stayed healthy and gave them a .300/30/100 year, and he's only 25 years old.

Josh Willingham, Elijah Dukes and Nyjer Morgan all recently came over in trades, and all three are expected to be starters this year. Recent signings Ivan Rodriguez and Adam Kennedy are expected to start as well. These guys have been through the grind.

Overall, I think the Nationals are still a bad team, but finally, they have direction. They are slowly building their farm system up. Ian Desmond has arrived and could start if Guzman or Kennedy can't get it done. Strasburg will be up soon. They also have an elite catching prospect in Derek Norris. Other then Strasburg, they are light on pitching prospects. Drew Storen could make some noise. It will be a while before they can grow some of their own talent, but they at least showed if they get another top 5 pick they won't be afraid to take an expensive player.

I think the Nationals could creep up on teams and win 75, even 80 games. They play in a tough division though, where the other four teams could win 81 or more games. It will be another last place finish in the nation's capitol, but for once, they have some reason to go to the games.

Projected All Stars:  3B Ryan Zimmerman. There are just too many first basemen in the National League for Adam Dunn to be considered. So I went with Zimmerman. A 2009 All Star, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner. Zimmerman is a superstar. The general public may not know who he is but it's obvious that baseball people do. He is a great defender, and managed to stay healthy and produced the first of what would be many .290/30/100 seasons. His only competition for the best third baseman in the National League is David Wright.

Top prospect: RHP Stephen Strasburg. We already talked about Strasburg. He is the most exciting thing to happen to this franchise since they left Montreal. He has the weight of the whole organization on his shoulders after signing a record contract. Other then injury, there is no reason to think he won't become an ace. He looks like a sure thing. A tall righty out of San Diego State. He has a fastball that was clocked at over 100 miles per hour, a power slurve and a plus changeup.

Jonathan Carrano

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