Spring training is entering it's third week, so now's as good a time as any to give a full update on the surprises, busts and injuries of the Washington Nationals.
The Nationals are focused on making it to the World Series in 2013—"World Series or bust" seems to be their mantra—and that goal starts in spring training.
With not many holes on a very solid roster, it's simply a matter of getting back in the swing of things (funny, I know). Some young players have been given good looks, however, and they may be lucky enough to have an impact on the team when rosters expand in September.
Spring training statistics really don't have much bearing on the regular season, but it's often interesting to see who is performing and who is struggling. As the season gets closer and closer, these struggles can become worrisome for managers and fans alike.
Washington has plenty to be happy about thus far, but there are a few concerns that will be closely monitored until Opening Day.
Two young hitters have stolen the show in Nationals camp. Shortstop prospect Zach Walters and third base prospect (and top prospects) Anthony Rendon have been offensive forces early this spring.
Walters has always had offensive talent, though that was generally considered the aspect of his game that lagged a bit behind the rest. He may be beginning to figure it all out, though.
He's hitting .320 through 25 at-bats (eight hits) with two home runs and four RBI. His six strikeouts may seem like a lot, but a few of those are likely because he's facing much better pitching than he ever has before.
Walters is still a few seasons away from the bigs, and he has Ian Desmond blocking his path. His emergence gives the team some valuable flexibility, however.
Rendon's early success (.296 average, three home runs, eight RBI) isn't nearly as surprising as manager Davey Johnson's outright statement regarding his chances of making the final roster at the end of the spring.
Johnson's remarks are logical and likely well thought through, but there's no denying the fact that Rendon would bring a valuable bench bat to the team.
His numbers this spring have been fantastic, but some consistency is likely important to Johnson before he considers a full-time promotion.
Another surprise has come on the pitching front, but before I continue, I would just like to reiterate the fact that spring training performance generally has absolutely no bearing on the regular season.
Stephen Strasburg has just been flat out awful through 14 innings. He's lost twice in four starts and has produced an ERA of 5.79. His 18 strikeouts are what we've come to expect from the hard thrower, but his WHIP of 1.43 is far from the dominance we're used to.
He's likely still just working out the kinks, but the fact that he's out to prove himself after being shut down early worries me a bit. Pure speculation on my part, but he may be trying just a little too hard.
The chances of that being the case seem slim to none, but hey, it's worth considering.
Two minor free-agent signings have performed quite poorly. The fact that they were minor signings bodes well for the Nationals, but their shortcomings are worth noting all the same.
Catcher Chris Snyder was signed for his offensive potential. With no clear offensive force between the two catching options—Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos—Snyder's bat could have proved useful if he produced early on.
He has yet to capitalize, posting a .214 average with one home run and just three total hits. Snyder isn't exactly known for his defense, so he may find himself in Triple-A to open the season if he doesn't pick up his production at the plate.
Micah Owings, a pitcher turned first baseman that the Nationals were hoping could put it all together as a batter, hasn't succeeded in his first full role as a position player.
With just one home run and a .231 average, it seems as if Owings has struggled to adjust so far. It may take a few more at-bats for him to find consistency at the dish, but he'll likely find himself at Triple-A to start the season.
He could become a useful option off the bench by midseason, but he needs to hone his new craft a bit more first.
Relief pitcher Ryan Perry may have had an outside shot at grabbing one of the final spots in the bullpen, but his early struggles may have ruined whatever possibility he had.
Through 6.2 innings, Perry has a 6.75 ERA and a WHIP of 1.65. Opponents are batting a comfortable .321 against him, and he's already allowed a home run.
Perry has the stuff to be successful in the bigs, but he's yet to put it all together. Maybe if he pitches well early on in the minor league season, he'll find his shot with the Nationals.
Washington has been lucky in terms of injuries so far, as nobody vastly important has been bitten by the bug.
Jordan Zimmermann is experiencing normal "dead-arm," reports James Wagner of the Washington Post.
Zimmermann's velocity was fine in his previous start, though he often fired high and had little command of his fastball. Johnson is not worried, though, so neither should Nationals fans.
Zimmermann will be the team's No. 3 starter this season and has the potential to be labeled a co-co-ace if he continues to improve. Last season was a breakout campaign for the right-hander, as he posted career-highs in wins (12), ERA (2.94) and innings pitched (195.2).
Reliever Christian Garcia, someone who was considered a favorite for the Nationals bullpen, may begin the season on the disabled list.
Amanda Comak of the Washington Times tweets that Garcia is scheduled to play catch on March 17, though there's no actual timetable on when he'll be back on the mound. He's been shutdown for the past two weeks with a partial tendon tear in his right forearm, so taking it easy is clearly the best option here.
Tentative plan is for Christian Garcia to play catch on 3/17, but not set in stone & hand specialist in Baltimore will give final go-ahead— Amanda Comak (@acomak) March 9, 2013
Garcia should have no problems making it into the bullpen once he's healthy and rehabbed.