October 24, 2020

Washington Nationals laundry list short for spring training

As the Washington Nationals expect pitchers and catchers to report next week, this season — as opposed to years in the past — the Nats have relatively little to figure out with regards to the big league roster.

The team is celebrating its 10th anniversary in D.C. (in its 11th season), and there have been multiple years in the past where they’ve held open tryouts for the starting rotation and batting order, let alone bullpen and bench help.

Shoot, they signed 2008 opening day starter Odalis Perez on Feb. 23 that season, after pitchers reported in Viera.

Things have come a long way.

We have Mike Rizzo to thank for that, of course. Well, Rizzo and the previous administration, which bungled so badly to earn the top pick in the amateur draft two years in a row in drafts with “once in a generation” players at the top.

The Nats enter the 2015 season as the almost undisputed preseason favorite atop everyone’s power rankings. When you add one of the top five starters in the game to one of the top three rotations already, folks are going to notice.

What might get unnoticed is that the Nats offense finished third in the N.L. last season in runs scored, fourth in on-base percentage and fifth in slugging — and should be better.

Bryce Harper is healthy and entering his fourth season already at age 22. Ryan Zimmerman moves to first base with the hopes of playing 150 games. Anthony Rendon is a preseason MVP candidate. Denard Span is coming off a career year and in the last year of his contract. Ditto, Ian Desmond. They plugged the hole at second with Yunel Escobar, who should be competent anyway.

In fact, the biggest question right now on offense is when Jayson Werth will be healthy, and how much power will he have in his surgically repaired right shoulder? It’s possible he’s not “Jayson Werth” until the all-star break, but Michael Taylor, the organization’s No. 2 prospect, stays by the ready in case Werth starts the season on the D.L.

The rotation’s set. Drew Storen moves his elite skills to closer. Casey Janssen takes over for the departed Tyler Clippard in the eighth. Tanner Roark (who’s due regression) and Blake Treinen join holdover stalwarts Craig Stammen, Aaron Barrett, Gentleman Jerry Blevins and Matt Thornton in the pen. It’s solid, deep and veteran.

Complain about the bench all you want. but it’s fairly interchangeable with any bench in the league. If that’s what’s going to keep you up at nights to satisfy your preternatural instincts to worry about the Nats, who am I to judge?

This season will commemorate 10 seasons of baseball back in the District, celebrating some pretty bad teams. If this team lives up to early projections, baseball fans in the District could have something real and tangible to celebrate at the conclusion of the season.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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