The Washington Nationals are on the cusp of making their first playoff appearance since arriving in D.C. The best part of the Nationals story is that it appears that they are just beginning in their assault of the National League for many years to come.
The pieces began to fall in place last season and they continued to fit perfectly together this year. A few key acquisitions, the addition of Bryce Harper and the dominance of Stephen Strasburg sets up the Nationals to be a dominant force in the MLB for years to come.
The Nationals are going to be in the thick of playoff runs for years to come and going forward, these guys will be pivotal to the success of the Nationals.
Danny Espinosa is in the midst of his second full year as the Nationals second baseman. He provides the Nats with versatility should they decide to play him at second base or shortstop. This season he has played 90 games at second and 34 at shortstop.
He provides significant pop for a player in the middle of the infield. Last season Espinosa hit 29 doubles, 21 home runs and five triples. In 2012 he has already surpassed his double total by two and has 15 home runs and two triples to this point. He is on his way to becoming a solid power hitting middle infielder for years to come for the Nats.
Tyler Moore his another young power hitter than the Nationals will be able to use down the road at various positions. In the minors, Moore hit nine home runs in 29 games this season before getting the call up, and hit 31 in each of the previous two seasons.
His eight home runs and eight doubles in 136 at bats this season in the big leagues is showing his potential.
Moore has experience playing in left field, right field and first base.
Jordan Zimmermann might not have the wins to show for his last two seasons but his dominance speaks for itself.
Zimmermann's 3.18 ERA last season and 3.01 ERA this season gives the Nationals another ace in the upcoming years. His consistency will be the perfect three headed monster in playoff stretches to come when he teams up with Strasburg and Gio.
Ian Desmond is having the best season of his career in 2012, already with 21 home runs and 64 RBI in 105 games. Desmond looks like an extremely gifted player and the Nats will continue to look for big things from their 26 year old shortstop in the next couple of seasons.
The Nationals might have found their new leadoff hitter in Jayson Werth. Werth is one of the most important players in the Nationals lineup because of the big contract that he signed through 2017. This season he is producing in the way that they Nationals thought he would when they signed him to the deal.
Despite battling a broken wrist, Werth has been able to produce in a big way this season. Through 56 games he is hitting .324 with a .478 slugging percentage. He has been producing greatly in a surprising spot in the lineup as well.
He has hit .390 through 14 games in the leadoff spot with a ridiculous .576 slugging percentage. He is not the prototypical leadoff hitter but if he continues to get on base as he is for the guys behind him, then he will make the Nats a contender in the upcoming years.
Three months ago Ryan Zimmerman would have fallen under the category of "biggest concerns for Nationals in upcoming years."
Oh what a difference a few months can make.
After looking like he had perhaps been on a decline for the first half of the season, Zimmerman used the time on the DL to improve his health and prove that he was still the same player the Nats had signed through 2019.
In the first half, Zimmerman hit .243 with a .386 slugging percentage. His second half numbers are currently at .337 with a .559 slugging percentage. Perhaps we should not expect these second half numbers for an entire season but Zimmerman should be looked at as a valuable commodity going into the future for the Nats.
As long as he can stay healthy, Zimmerman will be a huge asset for the Nationals at third base for many playoff races to come.
The Nationals need to lock Michael Morse up for years to come, as they have Werth and Zimmerman.
Morse is currently signed through next season and will likely hit the free agent market with many inquiries. The Nationals need him in the future.
His versatility is essential to the Nationals, especially considering the uncertainty with Adam LaRoche after this season. Morse can play the outfield or first base, giving the Nationals more options.
His offense speaks for itself. In his four years in Washington, his first two coming as a part-time player, Morse has hit 66 doubles and 61 home runs in just 357 games.
Gio Gonzalez will be along side Strasburg for the next few playoff pushes that Nationals will be a part of going forward. The Nats locked him up until the end of the 2016 season and have put themselves in line for what could be the most dominating 1-2 punch for years to come.
Gio will be pitching behind Strasburg and will have to pick him up if he stumbles, or do his best to dominate if Strasburg throws stellar ball as he usually does.
The Nationals have one huge factor going into future playoff races: Strasburg will not be on an innings limit.
We are seeing the Nationals allow Zimmermann to pitch after limiting his innings last season. If Strasburg is allowed to pitch unrestricted amounts of innings after this season, then he will be the key piece to the Nationals for many years to come.
His dominance every fifth game can strike fear into any opponent and his ability to be able to strikeout any batter at any moment is pivotal in important situations. This season he has struck out an impressive 195 batters in 156.1 innings.
Bryce Harper has been one of the most electric players in all of baseball since his call up earlier this season. He has had his ups and downs as any rookie should but he has once again found himself down the stretch. The Nationals couldn't have wanted anything more than Harper clicking in the clutch.
Now the Nationals have a valuable player for years to come who looks to be dominant when the season is on the line. Harper has hit eight home runs in August and September combined, and including five in his last eight games.
That type of production in upcoming years will bring the Nationals into the playoffs in more years than just this one. As other players are getting older around him, he will be looked to in order to carry this team to the playoffs in the latter years of his teammates contracts.
The Nationals are not afraid of spending money and it is more than likely that they will find a way to keep Harper for a while. As long as they have Harper, they have a chance of being in contention at the end of the year.