2010 Preview: Washington Nationals

  • Friday, April 2, 2010 8:49 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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2009: 59-103, 5th in NL East. Pythagorean record of 66-96.
Key Additions: 2B Adam Kennedy, C Ivan Rodriguez, SPs Jason Marquis and Chien-Ming Wang, RP Matt Capps, OF Willy Taveras
Key Losses: OF Elijah Dukes, C Josh Bard, RPs Mike MacDougal and Ron Villone
2010 Projections: PECOTA – 74-88, 5th in NL East. CHONE – 74-88, 5th. CAIRO – 73.1-88.9, 5th.

Pitching: 2009 – 4.82 FIP (25th in MLB), 4.79 for starters, 4.88 for relievers
2010 – The best news for this staff is that Next Big Thing Stephen Strasburg is coming at some point this season, probably sooner rather than later. Marquis and John Lannan are capable big league starters, but when they're you're top two pitchers, that's a problem. The Nats brought in Capps to try to hold down the closer job
Hitting: 2009 – .326 wOBA (17th in MLB)
2010 – A lineup core of Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Nyjer Morgan isn't too shabby, but the rest of the lineup is uninspiring at best. 24-year-old rookie Ian Desmond will be the team's starting shortstop, and while he has good potential, he doesn't figure to make a Strasburg-esque impact this year.
Fielding: 2009 – UZR of -26.7 (24th in MLB)
2010 – Morgan and Zimmerman are two of the best defensive players in the majors at any position. Dunn is absolutely brutal in left field and not that much better at first base -- how he's not already in the American League DHing, I have no idea.

Reasons to Watch
1. Stephen Strasburg: This is obvious. Coming out of San Diego State, Strasburg was one of the most highly touted college pitchers ever. The Nationals took him No. 1 overall in the 2009 draft and were able to sign him. Most people view Strasburg as major league-ready right now, and his work in the Arizona Fall League and Spring Training (when he gave up two runs and struck out 12 in nine innings), did nothing to hurt that notion. Nonetheless, he will start the season at Double-A Harrisburg. Strasburg likely will be up in the majors by June, however, and all eyes are going to be on him. There will be tremendous expectations, but it doesn't appear like he's the type of guy who will be bothered by that.
2. Ian Desmond: Washington's young shortstop impressed late last season, when he hit .280/.318/.561 in 89 plate appearances. That performance capped a great year for Desmond, who also put up career-best numbers at the plate in the minors before his call-up. He has a sterling defensive reputation as well, but it wouldn't be a shock to see Desmond struggle some at the plate in 2010. CHONE, for example, sees him posting a .324 wOBA. And if Desmond hits a rough spot, Christian Guzman is still around to steal at-bats. Nationals fans will be hoping Desmond gets off to a good start and gets the chance to adjust to the big leagues over a full season of at-bats.
3. Moving pieces: The Nats have finally started to turn the organization around in the past year or so, drafting promising guys like Strasburg and fellow 2009 first-rounder Drew Storen, while also bringing in some undervalued players like Morgan and Willingham via trade. But the Nats are still a long ways away from building a contending team and need all of the pieces they can get. The question is if GM Mike Rizzo will be willing and able to deal Willingham, Dunn and others this season in an effort to stockpile as many good young players as possible. Sure, the Nats might win fewer games in 2010, but they're going to need the extra wins in 2013 a lot more than they will now.

Paint By Numbers: Dunn is one consistent guy. Last season, Big Donkey hit 38 home runs, breaking a streak of four consecutive seasons in which he hit exactly 40. Still, Dunn has done the following six seasons in a row: come to the plate between 630 and 690 times, hit between 38 and 46 home runs, driven in between 92 and 106 runs, walked between 15.9 and 18.6% of the time, struck out between 30.9 and 34.3% of the time and posted an OBP between .365 and .398. Meanwhile, his total UZR the past two seasons combined is a mind-boggling -64.3. ... Lannan has pulled the trick of vastly out-performing his FIP two straight seasons. In both 2008 and 2009, Lannan managed an ERA in the high 3s, even as his FIP stood between 4.70 and 4.80. Last season, his K/BB ratio was second-worst among qualified pitchers, but he also had the 10th -highest ground ball to fly ball ratio.

Blog Jog: Capitol Punishment's Chris Needham reacts to the news of Desmond winning the starting SS job and looks at his minor league track record. ... Mark Zuckerman has Storen answer some questions posed by his readers. ... The Nats Blog's Sam Farber analyzes Christian Guzman joining Washington's right field platoon, while William Yoder brings the latest installment of the Bryce Harper Watch.

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