This continues my 2010 MLB preview. I intend to touch every team in the major leagues in installments by division. The lineups I provide will be what I predict will be the most productive for each team for the MAJORITY of the season (e.g., Jason Heyward will be listed as the Braves RF even though he may not begin the season as the starter).
I will also provide the stereotypical letter grade to each team's lineup, rotation, bullpen, and depth/bench. Though it is trite, I think all baseball fans can identify with the letter grade system.
Teams will be addressed respective to their predicted finish in their division.
Nyjer Morgan - CF
Adam Kennedy - 2B
Ryan Zimmerman - 3B
Adam Dunn - 1B
Josh Willingham - LF
Ivan Rodriguez - C
Elijah Dukes - RF
Christian Guzman - SS
OUTFIELD: Josh Willingham is always a strong player and a good clubhouse guy. He does everything else adequately, but his power is certainly above average. He could be a 30 homer guy with 600 plate appearances. I'm very high on Nyjer Morgan after last year. He hustles like crazy and seemed energized by the trade to Washington, hitting .351 in 191 ABs. Though that seems like a curious time to become energized, one must understand the pride that centerfielders take in their position (when Morgan was a Pirate, he played LF with McLouth in CF). This has to be Elijah Dukes last chance. This season he will essentially be given the RF job to lose. Perhaps that will motivate him.
INFIELD: Christian Guzman proved nay-sayers wrong last season by proving he could still play ball very well. At age 31, he was a leader AND a spark plug for the lowly Nats. I like the Adam Kennedy signing a lot. He played very well last year and he and Guzman can swip-swap between the nos. 2 and 8 holes in the order, depending on the opposing pitcher matchup. Kennedy will keep the 2B spot warm until youngster Ian Desmond is ready to take over.
Adam Dunn is a hulk who can hit balls to Jupiter. Ryan Zimmerman is an all-around stud and may be the best defensive 3B in the NL. He should remain the face of the franchise, not Stephen Strasburg.
CATCHING: Good move getting Pudge. Everybody knows that when you need to nurse young pitchers, attract veteran pitchers, and need extra punch from the catcher position, you sign Ivan Rodriguez. He's one of the best catchers of all time and is still good for double-digit homeruns. Jesus Flores will back up. Will Nieves is a capable backup too.
Jason Marquis - R
John Lannan - L
Scott Olsen - L
Stephen Strasburg - R
J.D. Martin - R
This rotation is full of potential and disappointment. Stephen Strasburg takes pressure off John Lannan, while Jason Marquis takes pressure off Strasburg. Marquis helps this rotation in every way. The Nationals needed a steady veteran arm and lucked out with Marquis. He should handle the pressures of being the ace which allows Lannan and Strasburg to just pitch and learn. Scott Olsen needs a decent season. J.D. Martin should hold off Shairon Martis and Garrett Mock for the other rotation spot.
Strasburg needs to be in the starting rotation sooner rather than later for the sake of the franchise. He needs some minor league seasoning for his own sake. That is quite unlikely, however, because he puts butts in the seats which puts money into the front office. Hopefully that front office will spend more wisely this time around, because the first few years of the Nationals existence was marked by very poor player/personnel decisions (see 2009 Nats OF: 5,832 RFs with equal talent).
I really do like this bullpen. The Brian Bruney and Matt Capps signings were very nice. Kudos to GM Mike Rizzo for not neglecting the bullpen this offseason, when he already had so much to address. Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Jason Bergmann are all solid contributors. If Doug Slaten can make the club and pitch well, he will serve as a nice second lefty option to Burnett.
Not much to talk about here. Desmond provides middle infield depth, but with little big league experience. There are no clear backups for the Zimmerman, though Mike Morse, another youngster, can back up first.Willie Harris backs up the outfield positions and can play 2B. Justin Maxwell is a decent 5th outfielder.
In totality, the Nats need plenty of bench help. Look for them to scour the free agent market for veteran guys who slipped through the cracks this offseason if injuries occur.
THOUGHTS: The poor Washington Nationals aren't quite as pathetic this year. Credit Mike Rizzo for beginning to turn the ship in the right direction. He will make Washington fans grateful that Jim Bowden is gone-- it's a 180-degree turn.
The best-case scenario is that Strasburg and the youngsters learn much from Marquis and Rodriguez. Also, Marquis needs to be at least around is 2009 numbers with Colorado. The Nats have to be crossing their fingers that, given the RF job from the start, Dukes will finally fulfill some of his massive potential. Amid all this, the Nationals absolutely cannot afford injuries. The only place where they may have adequate depth is 2B.