NL East Preview: Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals have had an offseason to forget (finding out one of their top prospect was fake), but their biggest improvement happened off-the-field with the resignation of GM Jim Bowden.

The Nationals were in negotiations with Mark Teixiera before falling short. They did, however, sign perennial 40 HR outfielder Adam Dunn to a 2-year, $20 million contract. They traded for power hitting outfielder Josh Willingham and starter Scott Olsen. They lost Tim Redding to the Mets, but essentially replaced him with Daniel Cabrera formerly of the Orioles.

The Nationals have a logjam in the outfield, with 5 OF’s after 3 spots. Adam Dunn will start every day, the only question is where. Dunn would typically play LF, but he could also play 1B if current 1B Nick Johnson gets injured. If they move Dunn to 1B full-time, then they can get Willingham’s bat into the lineup. Expect Dunn to play 1B against lefthanders so that they can get the right-handed Willingham in. Lastings Milledge is the starting CF, and that probably will not change. Elijah Dukes and Austin Kearns are after the RF spot, but it is likely to be Kearns to start the season.

Ryan Zimmerman will start at 3B, and he is the cornerstone of the Nationals organization. However, they hope that his shoulder tear is behind him after it cost him 56 games last season. Zimmerman will likely bat 3rd in front of Dunn. Johnson/Dunn will cover the other corner. Anderson Hernandez was in-line to start at 2B, but injury forces either Willie Harris or Ronnie Belliard to hold that position down at the beginning of the season. Christian Guzman, Washington’s lone all-star last season, seeks to improve upon his surprising season last season, batting .316. Jesus Flores is the catcher.

The rotation will consist of lefties John Lannan and Scott Olsen, and righties Daniel Cabrera, Shairon Martis, and top prospect Jordan Zimmerman. Zimmerman shows a ton of potential, but the Nationals would rather have him in AAA to start the season. The problem is that there is no one else proved capable of being a major league starter, and Zimmerman had a great spring. Keep an eye on him in the next few years, he could be good. Joel Hanahan will be the closer.

Notes: The Nationals, as a result of failing to sign last year’s 9th pick Aaron Crow, will have the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft, in addition to the number 1 overall…The Nationals are in-line to select super-prospect Steven Strasburg, the Lerner family can afford his signing bonus, but not $50 million… The Nationals attendance was middle-of-the-pack last year in the stadium’s first full year, although at times, the attendance was higher than their radio audience… The highest attendance at Nationals Park last year was not for a game, but for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit… The Nationals have 4 HR and 10 RBI to show for a 2-year $10 million deal that they gave to Dimitri young last year, Young starts the year on the DL.

The Nationals are a team in progress, but the highlight of their season will be the June draft.


The answer to yesterday’s Movie Star to Met 6 Degrees of Separation:

Brad Pitt was in Troy with Orlando Bloom, who was in Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp, who will co-star in Public Enemies with Christian Bale, who was in Batman: The Dark Knight with Michael Caine, who was in Miss Congeniality with Sandra Bullock, who was in 2 Weeks Notice with Mike Piazza.

The next Movie Star to Met 6 Degrees of Separation will appear in the Atlanta Braves preview.

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