Saturday, March 19, 2011

MLB 30 in 30: Washington Nationals

If you think that the Pirates are the longest suffering franchise in terms of playoff appearances, think again. The Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals franchise hasn't made the playoffs in 29 seasons, and it could be going on 30, unless something changes. But will that change come in a very tough NL East?

What they Have: Of course, the major offseason move was acquiring RF Jayson Werth from Philadelphia. He'll add some power that was lost when Adam Dunn went to the White Sox. Due to the nature of the contract he signed, he'll have to live up to some extreme expectations, and it doesn't help that the Nats don't have half of the lineup that the Phillies did. There are other good offensive pieces on this team, lead by underrated 3B Ryan Zimmerman, and SS Ian Desmond, who could be a breakout player this year. The Nats still have C Ivan Rodriguez, who is still very dependable behind the plate.  Other offensive pieces of note are CF Nyjer Morgan, more known for his antics than his hitting or defense, 2B Danny Espinose, and LF Roger Bernadina. Pitching will suffer without Steven Strasburg, but there still are some good arms in the rotation. Livan Hernandez is the frontman, and behind him, the Nats have John Lannan, Jason Marquis, and promising young pitcher Jordan Zimmerman. The bullpen also has some budding talent in closer Drew Storen, and behind him, the Nats do have Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett, Craig Stammen, and others.

What they Don't Have: Around some of the promise and good talent, there isn't much.  Ivan Rodriguez is almost 40,  and Nyjer Morgan did go off his rocker at the end of last season. 1B Michael Morse is a converted outfielder to 1B, and no one knows how he'll do. The pitching rotation has journeymen veterans, and they aren't the best pieces to build a rotation around. There are other guys that can be solid role players, but they don't have enough to lead the Nats to the playoffs.

Any Help Coming? RF Bryce Harper needs no introduction. As the most acclaimed prospect in quite some time, he'll be watched closely by many around baseball, but he's a ways away from the majors. C Wilson Ramos was acquired in the Matt Capps trade to Minnesota. He has great defensive catching tools, and some good offensive prowess too. He'll likely be starting later this year. LHP Sammy Solis  has 3 plus pitches, and deceptive delivery, and is another interesting prospect for Washington.

Outlook: Besides Werth and Zimmerman, this team is not very good. They have talent coming, but not much at the major league level. There are many holes on this team, and in the NL East, that's not going to help them compete for the playoffs. 30 years without making the playoffs is very likely, it seems.

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