This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in the National League. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the Nationals, a team full of fast-improving young stars and a burgeoning fan base. As the faithful clad in red, white and blue can attest, the Nats really are America’s team.
Projected Lineup: CF Denard Span, 3B Ryan Zimmerman, LF Bryce Harper, RF Jayson Werth, 1B Adam LaRoche, SS Ian Desmond, C Wilson Ramos, 2B Anthony Rendon
The trendy pick has lost considerable traction since a year ago, when everyone was trying to be the first to get onto the Nats’ bandwagon and proclaim them World Champions.
Now they’re yesterday’s news. Fans are over it, and have gone off in search of the next underground team that no one’s heard of. Baseball fans are such hipsters.
But there’s still a lot about the Nationals to be excited about. Star hitter Bryce Harper is still just 21 years old. And he’s healthy now, for the first time in almost a year. Injuries appeared to put a damper on much of Harper’s production last year, as a steep decline in his numbers, specifically his slugging, seemed to occur right around the same time his knee became acquainted with the outfield wall at Turner Field on April 30th:
Healthy: .352/.438/.736, 10.1 AB per HR
After Turner Field wall: .252/.350/.417, 30.3 AB per HR
Maybe it’s not fair to assume he would’ve continued the pace of the torrid April he had. But he easily should have hit a few more homers, and it’s reasonable to expect that a healthy Harper in 2014 is capable of 30-35 dingers.
The rest of the lineup is pretty stacked, with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th place hitters all coming off 20-homer seasons (Wilson Ramos likely would have also hit 20, if he had played a full season).
Second base is a concern, and if Anthony Rendon can’t retain the job, the Nats might be forced to seek outside help at the trade deadline. As for second basemen around the league, Rickie Weeks is a free agent after the season and has been displaced from his job in Milwaukee by a kid named Scooter. Don’t tell me that wouldn’t frustrate you. I’m betting there’s some pent up aggression there that Weeks can unleash in the form of homers in a Nats uniform.
The pitching has the potential to be outstanding.
They’ve added Doug Fister to what was already one of the best young rotations in baseball. Fister adds a new dynamic to the staff, being a finesse pitcher in the midst of a bunch of power guys. Imagine trying to get your timing down as a hitter when you have to face Strasburg’s 96 one day, and Fister’s 89 the next.
The Nats have the youth, they have the talent, and the sky’s the limit for how far they can go in the postseason.
Projected Finish: 96-66, First place in NL East