Happy Opening day!
Every season David Nichols (editor in chief of DC Pro Sports Blog) organizes the unofficial DC Chapter of Nats bloggers to do some surveying about will happen, and then a post-mortem about what happened.
For 2014; here’s how the DCIBWA members voted in total.
And here’s how I voted:
1. Who will lead the Nats in home runs in 2014? Hard not to go with the kid Bryce Harper. I’ll predict he manages to stay healthy, stop running into walls, and hits 32 bombs out of mostly the middle of the order. Last year’s leader was Ryan Zimmerman, who I like for 20-25 homers again but not as many as Harper.
2. Who will lead the Nats in RBI? I’m going with Ryan Zimmerman here, mostly because I feel like he’s going to be the beneficiary of many guys getting on base ahead of him and will have plenty of RBI opportunities. Last year’s leader was Jayson Werth by a hair; something tells me he’s more of a table-setter this year (a #2 hitter) rather than a middle of the order bat. I could be wrong though. (Insert obligatory argument about lineup construction and dazzle us with your proof of why your best hitter should be batting 2nd while the 3rd place hitter should be one of your lesser batters…)
3. Who will lead the Nats in stolen bases? I’ll go with 2013 leader Ian Desmond again; Denard Span is the obvious choice here but he seems to have lost a step. All in all, speed on this team seems to be lacking on this team; will Matt Williams be a more- or less-aggressive manager on the basepaths?
4. Who will lead the staff in wins? Stephen Strasburg, who I feel is destined for a break-out season with no leashes and no afterthoughts of his injury. He’s two years removed from TJ recovery; when 2013 staff wins leader Jordan Zimmermann was in his 3rd year back he went 19-9 and got Cy Young votes. I predict a 20 win season for Mr. Strasburg, some serious consideration for a Cy Young, and a significant arbitration fight next off-season.
5. How many games will Ryan Zimmerman play first base? I’ll go with 10-12, maybe fewer. Perhaps once a week he’ll go over to the other corner. Something tells me that Adam LaRoche in a contract season will step it up and make it really tough to take his bat out of the lineup. And something else tells me that Zimmerman may return to his plus-defense now that his shoulder issues are seemingly behind him, and we’ll be talking about how we can stick with him at 3rd for the long haul when the season is over. (I may be eating my words on Zimmerman here; he’s already shown some air-mailing tendencies during Spring; such a shame that his arm is affecting his overall defense so badly). For what its worth, Zimmerman has played a grand total of 2 innings at first this spring.
6. Who starts more games: Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark, Ross Ohlendorf? Tanner Roark. The winner of the 5th starter spot will pitch to a relatively non-descript league average for months, while the loser (Taylor Jordan) toils in obscurity in Syracuse, waiting for Roark to fail or someone to get hurt. Ross Ohlendorf‘s trip to the 60-day D/L means he’s likely a non-factor for the first half, and Ross Detwiler‘s trip to the bullpen looks permanent. (When I wrote the first draft of this in Mid Feb, it was Detwiler). Even given what has transpired at the end of spring (Fister’s D/L trip meaning both guys are in the rotation), I feel like Roark is going to stick when Fister comes back.
7. Who will get more at bats for the Nats this season: Danny Espinosa or Jamey Carroll? Danny Espinosa obviously, since Carroll has already been released. But even in my first draft of this post in Feb, I was predicting that Espinosa would win the backup middle infielder battle with Jamey Carroll. I just didn’t think the team was ready to punt on a former 20-home run guy with superior defense.
8. Which minor leaguer are you most interested in keeping tabs on this season? Instead of copping out and saying an obvious name from our consensus top 3 prospects (Giolito, Cole and Goodwin), I’m going to throw out a couple other names that really intrigue me. Matt Skole lost all of 2013 by virtue of a freak injury but impressed last year; i’d like to see him bash his way into consideration for a call-up. I’d like to see what 2013 draftee Austin Voth can do in a full season; I like this guy as a sleeper, a potential Tim Hudson-esque mid-rotation starter who doesn’t get a ton of credit because of his size but suddenly is posting double-digit wins for your team. I’d like to see what Matthew Purke does this year; the shine is off this guy; I’d really like to see him put himself back into relevance with this organization. Like everyone else Stephen Souza has really elevated his status; what can he bring to the table if he gets an opportunity? And lastly we now know that fireballer Blake Treinen is in the AAA rotation; is he a behind-the-scenes important piece of rotation depth for this farm system now?
9. Who will reach majors first: Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole, Lucas Giolito or Matt Purke? Well, this one is easy to me; Sammy Solis is on the 40-man, is 25, and is already being talked about as being a potential loogy in 2014. After that I’d predict Purke (also by virtue of his 40-man placement); if Purke shows the team something or anything this year, he could earn a Sept 1 call-up to help in the pennant race. After that say Cole since he will be put on the 40-man this coming off-season (if not before) and then Giolito last; he’s not rule-5 eligible til 2016 and would have to pitch his way into relevance before then (much like Taylor Jordan did in 2013).
10. How many all-stars will the Nats have? Who? I’ll predict three: Strasburg, Desmond and Harper.
11. Total wins and what place in the division? 94 wins, 1st place in division. This could trend higher with every new Atlanta injury.
Essay: What should be the single most important development for the Nats this season?
Hitting in the clutch. The 2013 team to score 80 fewer runs than the magical 2012 team despite a lineup that seemed better on paper. A lot of this regression was due to the drop-off in bench production, but an awful lot of it was due to coming up weak in the clutch. In high-leverage batting situations (as defined by fangraphs), the Nats were dead last in 2013. This team needs to do better all the way up and down the lineup. We need Harper healthy. We need Span producing like he did in September. I’d like to see something better out of LaRoche in 2014. Give us that and all these great pitchers will look that much better.