Projecting Nationals' Final 25-Man Roster at the Start of Spring Training
With spring training well underway throughout Major League Baseball, the evaluative process is already in the works for the Washington Nationals as they look to put the best 25-man product on the field that they can.
Baseball's first month can set the tone for the entire season. As such, manager Matt Williams must be sure he produces an optimal roster to compete in the competitive National League East.
The slides to follow will break down what figures to be the 25 men the Nats will start the season with.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
1) Stephen Strasburg
2) Gio Gonzalez
3) Jordan Zimmermann
4) Doug Fister
5) Ross Detwiler
Strasburg will return as Washington's ace, with Gonzalez, who won 21 games in 2012, and Zimmermann, an All-Star in 2013, not far behind him.
Fister, in his first season with the Nationals, will likely assume the No. 4 spot. The former Detroit Tiger posted a 3.67 ERA in 2013 and recorded a career-high 14 wins in 23 decisions in 2013.
Though very competitive and likely to swing any which way, the No. 5 spot will likely go to Detwiler over Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan, at least at first. Despite a rough 2013 campaign, winning only two games and posting a 4.04 ERA, Detwiler still holds the advantage on the youngsters by way of experience.
Roark and Jordan have started a combined 14 major league games. Detwiler has started 69, all for Washington.
1) Craig Stammen
2) Tanner Roark
3) Tyler Clippard
4) Drew Storen
5) Rafael Soriano
6) Jerry Blevins
7) Ryan Mattheus
Roark, after failing to earn a starting spot in the rotation, will be relegated to the role of long-inning, right-handed reliever. He likely will continue to be evaluated through his performance in this role and will be the top candidate to receive spot starts or become a permanent starter, contingent on performance and injury.
Clippard will continue to assume his role as the eighth-inning setup man, with Soriano again handling the closing duties. Mattheus and Stammen will continue to be reliable arms in their fourth and sixth seasons, respectively, with Washington.
Blevins figures to be the token southpaw in the bullpen, but he could be overtaken by Xavier Cedeno. The Nats, however, like what they see from the left-handed pitcher thus far, via James Wagner of the Washington Post. Blevins recorded a scoreless ninth inning to improve Washington's spring training record to 3-0 with a 10-3 win over the Miami Marlins.
Catchers and Infield
1) Wilson Ramos
2) Jose Lobaton
1B: Adam LaRoche, Tyler Moore
2B: Anthony Rendon, Zach Walters
2B/SS: Danny Espinosa
SS: Ian Desmond
3B: Ryan Zimmerman
Returning on the corners will be the ever-reliable Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. Zimmerman, in his 10th year with Washington, is coming off of a solid 2013 campaign, hitting 26 home runs and driving in 79 runs.
Ian Desmond will man shortstop, and second base is a bit of a toss-up. Williams has indicated that the spot is an open competition, via Dan Kolko of Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. The spot will be filled by either the Rendon, the incumbent, or Espinosa.
Walters will be a solid addition for depth, if nothing else. The 24-year-old second baseman reached base safely in his first five spring training appearances, including two extra-base hits.
Says Williams of the youngster, via James Wagner of the Washington Post: "He’s doing everything that he’s asked to do and swinging it from both sides of the plate and playing great defense. Couldn’t ask for anything more."
Left Field: Bryce Harper, Nate McLouth
Center Field: Denard Span
Right Field: Jayson Werth, Tyler Moore
Though listed as a left fielder, McLouth can play anywhere in the outfield. Moore has the ability to play in right or left. Because of this flexibility, Washington will likely be able to keep an extra relief pitcher, rather than an extra reserve outfielder.
With Span, Harper and Werth all returning as starters, the Nationals figure to have one of the best outfields in baseball. The trio combined to drive in 187 runs in 2013 and collectively made just eight errors.