Team preview: Washington Nationals

BY John Halpin • February 3, 2011

Projected lineup

1. CF: Nyjer Morgan/Roger Bernadina
2. SS: Ian Desmond
3. 3B: Ryan Zimmerman
4. RF: Jayson Werth
5. 1B: Adam LaRoche
6. LF: Mike Morse
7. 2B: Danny Espinosa
8. C: Wilson Ramos

Projected rotation

1. SP: Livan Hernandez
2. SP: Jason Marquis
3. SP: Jordan Zimmermann
4. SP: Tom Gorzelanny
5. SP: John Lannan
CL: Drew Storen

Five tips

• There are plenty of guys who can provide Morgan's 40 steals and not much else. I wouldn’t draft him in a standard league, and he’s now being pushed for playing time by Bernadina and Rick Ankiel.

• Zimmerman is a stud, plain and simple. He’s ranked third at the hot corner, and 18th overall. He’s probably not going to jump to 40 homers this season. But a .300-30-100-100 line – or thereabouts – is nothing to complain about.

• The Nats have three catchers in the mix: Ramos, Ivan Rodriguez and Jesus Flores. They don’t want to send Ramos back to the minors. The team’s official site suggests that Pudge could be traded before Opening Day to make room for the other two backstops. Stay tuned.

• Espinosa is an interesting prospect who hit 28 homers and stole 25 bases between the minors and majors last season. His strikeout rate is very high, which makes his batting average a worry. Still, his power/speed skills aren’t very common, and I’ve got him ranked 20th among fantasy second basemen. He’s draftable in the late rounds for standard leaguers, and can start for those in NL-only leagues. Just remember that Espinosa has just 198 at bats above Double A, so early-season struggles could result in a trip to the minors.

• The most intriguing starter in NatsTown is Zimmermann. He has an impressive power arsenal. He returned midway through 2010 after Tommy John surgery, and should be ready for a full campaign this year. I’ve got him ranked in the 70s among starters, but he has plenty of upside. You should be able to grab him late on draft day. There aren’t many sleepers anymore,. But Zimmermann qualifies.

Plus:

Odd man out: One of the catchers, and possibly Bernadina if if Morse locks down everyday left field job. Also, let’s use this space to remind everyone that starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg is unlikely to pitch this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer. In keeper leagues, Strasburg is probably already owned, and should be drafted in a high slot if he isn’t. Those in single-season leagues shouldn’t waste a draft pick with the hopes of a late-season appearance.

Top prospects: Other than Ramos and Espinosa, there aren’t any players ready to make an impact in 2011, so let’s talk about 2010 top overall draft pick Bryce Harper. Harper was drafted as catcher, but is now an outfielder. The sky is the limit for his hitting ability, and dynasty league types should get him as early as possible. He’s at least a couple of years away from the big leagues; he turned 18 in October.

Backup closer: Sean Burnett had a few saves as a fill-in last season, so he’ll probably get the ball if Storen flops or gets hurt.


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