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The Washington Nationals had the worst record in baseball last season, going 59-103. And yet, when I watched the Nationals play last year, they didn’t look like a team that would lose 100 games.
When you look at the core group of players they have, you’d think they’d be able to put together a decent team. Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Cristian Guzman, Josh Willingham, Nyjer Morgan, John Lannan, Scott Olsen, and the young starter Jordan Zimmerman. The main problem for the Nationals is pitching, both in their rotation and in their bullpen. They also seemed to be missing some veteran leadership on the team.
Going into the offseason, it would be very hard to turn them into contenders, but the front office did a good job putting together a decent team.
They added Adam Kennedy and Ivan Rodriguez to their lineup. Both are good bats and they bring heart and leadership to this club. They also added some pitching, which they desperately needed. They signed Jason Marquis, who will be a front lineup starter in their rotation; Brian Bruney, who could be the set-up man; and Matt Capps, who will be the team’s closer. A veteran presence like Marquis is very important in that rotation with all those young starters.
They also signed former Yankee Chien-Ming Wang, but he will be out at least a month to start the season.
Other notable players they signed are:
- Ron Villone
- Willy Taveras
- Chris Ducan
- Tyler Walker
- Miguel Batista
- Livan Hernandez
- Doug Slaten
- Kevin Mench
- Jerry Owens
- Eric Bruntlett
- Eddie Guardado
They lost a few players too this offseason:
- Mike MacDougal
- Saul Rivera
- Josh Bard
- Austin Kearns
- Dmitri Young
- Jorge Sosa
Their biggest move was drafting Stephan Strasburg and signing him to a contract. This impressive young pitcher will most likely start the season in the minors, but the Nationals haven’t ruled out having Strasburg start the season in the majors.
The Nationals lineup might look like this:
- Morgan – CF
- Guzman – SS
- Zimmerman – 3B
- Dunn – 1B
- Dukes – RF
- Willingham – LF
- Kennedy – 2B
- Rodriguez – C
Their rotation really only has three pitchers who will be there for sure: Marquis, Lannan, and Olsen. There will be a fight during Spring Training of who gets the last two spots, but Wang will eventually become a part of that rotation.
I think the same problems that haunted the Nationals in 2009 will haunt them in 2010. Their starting rotation is still weak and their bullpen, barring their closer, doesn’t have anyone special. Although their lineup is good and can score runs, they will also sacrifice a lot of runs.
I do think they are improved from last year significantly. I see them finishing in fourth place, going 74-88.
They look like they are starting to move in the right direction; and with their young players, they could have a competitive team in only a few season.