Tyler Moore should be a lock for the Opening Day roster.
General manager Mike Rizzo has constructed one of the most complete teams in the majors as a result of a few offseason acquisitions, but there are a couple spots on the bench and in the bullpen that are still up for grabs. The bullpen may present more of a battle for the final spot, however.
In order to build off an impressive 97-win season from 2012—and win a championship in Davey Johnson's last season as manager—the Nationals will have to field their best team on any given day.
The 25-man roster will change throughout the season based on health, demotions/promotions and trades. Keeping the best players active will be key for any team's hopes of reaching the postseason.
On April 1, this is the team you can expect the Nationals to put on the field.
The Nationals rotation is strong top to bottom. The National League boasts some of the best rotations in baseball, but Washington's may very well be the best. With two-and-a-half aces (I'll explain as I move forward), a former ace and a more than capable No. 5 starter, I'll take the Nationals' top-five starters over any other team's.
Davey Johnson has named Strasburg the Opening Day starter, and that should be the first step in his limit-free 2013 season. After tossing just under 160 innings in 2012 before getting shut down, Strasburg will be asked to be a workhorse.
Strasburg is the best pitcher on the Nationals—period. His stuff is electric, and his demeanor on the mound far exceeds someone of his experience. All he needs to do is pitch like an ace for an entire season.
The third-place finisher in the NL Cy Young voting last season, Gonzalez won a career-high 21 games while striking out a career-high 207 batters.
The fact that he failed to pitch 200 innings (199.1) kept him from being the true "ace" that Washington needed. If he can eclipse that plateau in 2013—granted, he wasn't all that far off—then the Nationals will have that bona fide second ace that so many other teams seek.
Now, on to that "half-ace" I was referring to earlier. I'm a huge believer in Zimmermann. When considering his previous season-to-season improvements, it's not out of the realm of possibility to see him establish himself as one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball.
With another season of close to 200 innings and a sub-3.00 ERA, I think that will happen.
The team's newest starter and former ace, Haren has been announced as the team's No. 4 starter. Davey Johnson is putting his trust in Haren after an injury-plagued 2012.
With the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Haren posted a 4.33 ERA and tossed less than 200 innings for the first time since 2004. If he can get his ERA under 4.00 and get close to 200 innings, the Nationals will go far.
Chien-Ming Wang was unable to get the job done as the No. 5 starter early on in 2012. When Detwiler stepped in, the back end of the rotation was consistent from the start.
The sky's the limit for Detwiler. He doesn't need to do much to live up to the expectations of a No. 5 starter, but he'd be significantly more than that on several other teams. His potential suggests that he could reach 175 innings and a sub-3.50 ERA consistently for the next several seasons.
The Nationals offense struggled at times during the first half of 2012, but really turned it on late in the season. Expect that type of offense in 2013—maybe even better.
A full season of Bryce Harper and the addition of Denard Span at the top of the lineup should really give the Nationals an edge when comparing them to other National League lineups.
Expect this lineup on Opening Day against the Marlins:
- Denard Span, CF
- Jayson Werth, RF
- Bryce Harper, LF
- Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
- Adam LaRoche, 1B
- Ian Desmond, SS
- Danny Espinosa, 2B
- Wilson Ramos/Kurt Suzuki, C
Davey Johnson has stated that Ramos and Suzuki will split time at catcher in 2013. Suzuki offers more with the glove, but Ramos' bat has kept him in the conversation.
Keep this in mind when looking at the "Bench" slide. Since I included both catchers here, neither will appear on said slide.
Roger Bernadina, the "Shark," will be spelling all three outfielders in 2013.
With Ramos and Suzuki splitting time behind the dish, there should be four other players on the bench for the 2013 season. Johnson likes going to his bench for more than just pinch-hitting opportunities, so these guys will have major impacts on the outcome of this team.
These are the four who will man the bench in 2013. No surprises here:
- No. 4 Outfielder: Roger Bernadina
- Reserve Middle Infielder: Steve Lombardozzi
- Corner Infielder: Chad Tracy
- Reserve First Base/Corner Outfielder: Tyler Moore
A key player to watch here is Moore. As a rookie last season, Moore crushed 10 home runs and showed great potential at the plate. Look for even more in 2013.
He'll be the primary pinch hitter off the bench and will see plenty of opportunities to get at-bats. He could reasonably eclipse 15 home runs if he starts the season off on a good note.
The bullpen dynamic should be interesting this season. Sean Burnett's departure to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim represents a huge loss, but the signing of Rafael Soriano a huge addition—albeit in a different role.
Burnett's replacement could change as the season progresses, but it seems as if a clear winner has emerged based on this spring's performances. The lefty specialist's role is really the only hole on this roster.
This bullpen should be as close to dominant as possible:
- Closer: Rafael Soriano
- Setup: Drew Storen
- Setup: Tyler Clippard
- Middle Relief: Ryan Mattheus
- Middle Relief: Craig Stammen
- Long Relief/Mop-up Role: Henry Rodriguez
- Lefty Specialist: Zach Duke
Young hurler Christian Garcia, currently on the 15-day disabled list, will likely replace Rodriguez once he is back to full health. He'll start out in long relief but has the potential to move up the ranks of the bullpen rather quickly.