MADISON, March 25, 2014 — Over the next few weeks this column will unveil MLB Power Rankings starting with the weakest team and working towards the strongest. Today the process continues by looking at number five, the Washington Nationals.
2013 Record: 86-76 with a +30 run differential.
Key Additions: RHP Ross Ohlendorf, OF Nate McLouth, C Jose Lobaton, RHP Doug Fister
Key Losses: RHP Nathan Carns,
Projected 2014 Lineup:
OF Denard Span
3B Ryan Zimmerman
OF Bryce Harper
OF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
Projected 2014 Rotation:
Tanner Roark/Taylor Jordan
Best Case: Bryce Harper makes the Harper versus Mike Trout debate an actual debate again with a .300/.400/.550 slash line while launching 40 HR’s at the age of 21. Ryan Zimmerman solves his defensive issues and continues to thrive at the plate. While Jayson Werth does not post the same rate stats as 2013 he does stay healthy all year and posts a .300/.385/.440 line. Ian Desmond continues to be the best shortstop not named Troy or Hanley and posts his third straight 20 HR 20 SB season. Anthony Rendon reminds people why he was once considered for the top overall pick in 2011 and posts a .315/.415/.450 line.
Stephen Strasburg assumes his place in the conversation of the best pitcher in baseball logging over 200 innings with a 2.25 ERA and leading the NL is K’s, but Jordan Zimmermann leads some to question whether or not he is even the best pitcher on his own team. The Nationals run away from an injury riddled Atlanta Braves team and win the NL East by double digits.
Worst Case: Offseason acquisition RHP Doug Fister’s elbow inflammation derails his season before it could get going as he is on and off the DL all year. Adam LaRoche continues to decline as he struggles to keep his batting average above .200 forcing the Nats to improvise and move Ryan Zimmerman to first base and Anthony Rendon to third base, but their replacement at second base, Danny Espinosa, also fails to produce.
Closer Rafael Soriano continues to struggle and is demoted by manager Matt Williams but Drew Storen also struggles in the role leading to uncertainty at the back of the bullpen. Bryce Harper continues to battle injuries and fans start to question whether he can live up to the hype. The Nationals finish a distant second to the Braves wasting another year of having both Harper and Strasburg under team control.
Prospect Watch: The Nationals major league club improved by graduating the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper which meaning the club has not had the top picks that yielded those players. The club did grab a player with tremendous upside, however, in RHP Lucas Giolito. Giolito made just three starts last year after returning from Tommy John surgery, but has great size, a plus fastball and could be a top of the rotation starter. RHP AJ Cole is closer to the majors having split last year between high A and AA while throwing 142.2 innings with a 3.60 ERA and 151K’s but lacks Giolito’s peak. Of the everyday players CF Brian Goodwin tops the list. Goodwin spent last season at AA posting a .252/.355/.407 slash line. Goodwin will likely spend this year in AA or AAA, but could be positioned to help in September or 2015.