For the Washington Nationals, the 2011 has been a rousing success. The team came in to the season with four major goals: Get Stephen Strasburg healthy; guide Bryce Harper through the minors while allowing him to enjoy success; find out if Jim Riggleman is the right man for the managerial job; and get to .500.
Thus far, the Nationals seemed to have accomplished every one of those goals. Strasburg is right on schedule and recently tweeted, "Felt strong today and curve ball was working much better today for the 2nd time throwing some."
On the Fourth of July, the Nationals promoted Harper to Double-A Harrisburg after tearing up the the Sally with a .318/.423/.554 slash line and 14 home runs. Riggleman showed that he was not the Nats' man when he quit on the team on the heels of winning 11 of 12. And after the aforementioned winning streak the Nationals have hovered around the .500 mark. By my count, the Nats are batting 1.000 in 2011.
But all has not been sunshine and rainbows. Jayson Werth continues to struggle. Same with Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond. As a result the offense has failed to take advantage of a surprisingly good pitching staff.
If you are a glass half-full kind of person, you could say that the Nationals have managed to stay at .500 without the bats clicking, imagine what they'll do when the stars start playing like stars (attention: Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth).
Before the season, the organization and fans alike knew this would be a transition year, and that has come to fruition. Sometime during the Nats' recent surge, the team transitioned from laughing stock to respectable. Along the way they managed to find a their catcher, closer, and second baseman for the future, as well as Strasburg's number two man in Jordan Zimmermann.
But they are still missing a couple key pieces that they'll need to find either in the farm system or in free agency. Let's look at the 25-man roster and decided their future, as well as possible replacements
1. Livan Hernandez
Livan's last season and half with the Nationals has defied convention and advance metrics. Pitchers with a mid-80s fastball are not supposed to be able to get major league hitters out, but somehow Livo does it.
Verdict: Keep Hernandez on for 2012 but move him down in the rotation and find a suitable replacement by the end of the season.
Replacement: Stephen Strasburg, DL
Even people who live under rocks know who the Nationals number-one starter of the future is.
2. Jordan Zimmermann
Z'mann has been fantastic coming of his first full season after Tommy John surgery. Now if only the Nationals can get him some run support.
Verdict: Keep him where he is for the next decade.
3. Jason Marquis
Marquis has rebounded a disastrous 2010 season with a return to form in 2011. His contract expires at the end of the season, so look for the Nationals to unload him for some prospects at the deadline.
Verdict: Trade him. Someone will panic and overpay for sinker-baller.
Replacement: CJ Wilson, Texas Rangers
Wilson has yet to sign a contract extension and will likely test the free-agent waters. After failing to land an ace in the off-season, Mike Rizzo has to get his hands maybe the best pitcher in the 2011 free agent class.
4. John Lannan
In 2010, Lannan was sent down to the minors. In 2011, he has become the pitcher the Nationals always hoped he would become: a reliable, middle-of-the-rotation guy.
Verdict: Keep him where he is.
5. Tom Gorzelanny
Gorzelanny has been decent when not injured, but he is not a part of the Nationals plans for the future.
Verdict: Keep him as a long-guy in the bull-pen.
Brad Peacock, Double-A Harrisburg
Peacock, 23, has been impressive in Harrisburg, posting a 2.13 ERA. He'll likely start next season in the minors but a mid-season call-up is not out of the question.
Set-Up Man: Tyler Clippard
The well-deserved All-Star selection speaks for itself.
Verdict: Keep Clippard and that change-up in Washington.
Closer: Drew Storen
Despite a couple hiccups here and there, the Stanford graduate has been very good in his go-around as the full-time closer.
Verdict: Keep him where he is.
C Wilson Ramos
Ramos is everything you want in a franchise catcher: He can call a game, handle a staff, and control the running game—not to mention, he's no slouch with the bat.
Verdict: Keep him behind the plate for the next decade.
1B Mike Morse
It's no coincidence that the Nationals took off when Morse did. His future is not at first base, but he has done a more than adequate job of replacing Adam LaRoche.
Verdict: Move Morse back to left and keep him in the line-up everyday.
Scott Boras clients have a way of finding their way to Washington, and the Nationals are in the market for a power-bat at first. It's a match made in baseball heaven.
Will Price Fielder land in Washington in 2012?
2B Danny Espinosa
The leader in the NL Rookie of the Year race looks like a future All-Star, but will it be at second base?
Verdict: Move him to short and take advantage of that bazooka attached to his shoulder.
Replacement: Anthony Rendon, Rice University
Rendon was tabbed by many as the best hitter in the draft, but injuries caused the Rice product to fall to the Nats.
SS Ian Desmond
Desmond has improved on defense but seems to have taken a step back offensively. He strikes out far too often for someone with limited power.
Verdict: Put him on the bench as a utility player.
Replacement: Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
He's the face of the franchise, but the Nationals may have to break out the check books if they want to keep it that way.
Verdict: He'll sign and stay with the team for the rest of his career. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
LF Laynce Nix
Nix has been playing his tail off, but I don't see how he can keep this up.
Verdict: After playing so well, he may able to get a starting job elsewhere. If not, the Nats sure could use his power off the bench.
CF Roger Bernadina
Bernadina does not hit for average, does not get on base, is bad in the field, but for some reason the people think he has a future in the majors. Hopefully, it's not with the Nationals.
Verdict: Either move him or keep him on the bench.
Replacement: Jayson Werth
Werth has the athletic ability to play in center, and the Nationals have a guy named Harper who is pretty good in right.
RF Jayson Werth
Werth has not lived up to the big contract the Nationals gave him in the off-season, but as the team adds talent, Werth will start to relax and produce. He is not this bad.
Replacement: Bryce Harper, Double-A Harrisburg
This won't happen until June 2012, but that won't stop me from salivating over Harper's hitting ability in the mean time.