If you are looking for pitching the Nationals are not the place to look. With the exception of closer Chad Cordero the Nationals have no one who you can count on from the mound. Still if you aren’t risk averse you could take a look at some of the pitchers listed in the question mark section of this piece.
Chad Cordero (CL): He’s an elite closer, maybe the best in the NL, playing for a dreadful team. He’ll get plenty of chance and could notch 40 plus saves, odds are he’ll be getting plenty of them somewhere else by seasons end.
Ryan Zimmerman (3B): A stellar rookie season (.287-20-110-84-11) put Zimmerman in contention for Rookie of the Year honors last year and made him perhaps the most valuable of all the Nationals hitters this season. He’s just 23 has a real talent and the potential to improve on last season’s numbers. No doubt he’ll struggle at times but he’s a player who the Nationals will build around.
Filipe Lopez (2B): Happily few fantasy leagues count errors so Lopez still has a lot of value to fantasy teams. However if you are going to get power or speed is a question – in 2005 he hit 23 home runs and stole just 15 bases, but in 2006 he hit just 11 home runs and stole 44. Odds are the basestealing Lopez is the one who we see this year – and that’s probably for the best. He’s a solid second tier second baseman.
Austin Kearns (OF): Big power, middling average, surprisingly low RBI totals for a guy who hit 24 home runs last year. Maybe hitting 17 of those shots with no one on base was a mental thing, but maybe it was because the Nationals don’t get on base much. He’s a low second tier, high third tier kind of player, but there are plenty of much better rounded talents to pick above him.
Brian Schneider (C): Once a better than average catcher, Schneider’s value plummeted along with his power numbers (going from 10 to 4 between 2005 and 2006) and falling average. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and is more of a roster filler than a genuine boost to a fantasy team at this point.
Dmitri Young (1B/DH): After being released by the Tigers last season for attitude problems, Young desperately needs to show that he still has plenty to offer for teams that will consider him. The Nationals are gambling that he still has the ability to hit .270 with 25 home runs and will be tradable come July. They probably are right and the skills are probably there if Dmitri can stay healthy and keep his mouth shut – neither of which rank high in his skill set.
Nick Johnson (1B): The always fragile Johnson will miss at least the first two months of the season with another broken leg. After that will he be the same player? Probably not. If you are lucky you might get three good months out of him but mark him way down in your draft list.
Christian Guzman (SS): Guzman was always a solid contact hitter with some speed and in 2007 he’ll be trying to show that he still has something left. He lost last season to a torn labrum in the shoulder and just how that will effect him is still up in the air. Based on the spring he looks like he’s rebounded quite nicely – maybe even back the form which made him a .300 hitter at one point in his career. Still shoulder injuries are tricky things, especially for infielders who need to dive a lot.
Ryan Church (OF): If Ryan Church could do for a full season what he did over 196 at bats last year he has the potential to be a .290-25-100 kind of player. However up until now he hasn’t been consistent enough to keep himself in the Majors. If he’s matured enough to do that he could be a nice little surprise late in your draft.
John Patterson (SP): If you could throw out the fact that he missed almost all of 2006 with a nerve problem in his throwing arm and if you believe that 2005 wasn’t a freak year then you may believe that Patterson is really good enough to be a number one starter. That may be the case but arm problems of any type in a pitcher who’s been inconsistent from year to year and pitches for a bad team kind of worries me. He looked good enough this spring, but an incident where he “kind of passed out” possibly due to dehydration on the 24th of March, would leave me looking at other options first.
Shawn Hill (SP): He’s pitched 9 games in the last three years and had a elbow rebuilt in that same time span. Does that worry anyone? Maybe it shouldn’t, he’s been brilliant this spring with a sub 1.00 ERA, but durability is a concern. And just how good he can be is a huge question mark too.
Levale Speigner (SP/RP): He’s way out of his league here at this point in his career and it probably says how desperate the Nationals were to find pitching at any price. Levale has pitched a grand total of 11 games at AAA level and posted a 5plus ERA in those games. On the plus side he does have college pitching experience and was a solid but not overpowering pitcher for Auburn between 2000-2003. Odds are he’ll end up in the bullpen but he may end up the fifth starter at least for a while. Personally I’d stay far from him this year.
Jerome Williams (SP): He looked great in his one full season for the Giants but he’s pitched just 136 major league innings in the last two years and he’s looked rather mediocre – even in the minors during that time. Don’t expect much.Matt Chico (SP): Matt has shown solid development down at the AA level and due to Washington’s total lack of pitching, he’ll find himself thrown into the fire in 2007. Odds are that it will be rough for him since he just started to put it together last year in the minors. That being said he’s been a solid strikeout pitcher at lower levels and that kind of pitcher often adapts well to the bigs. Still he’s more of a wait and see kind of player at this point.
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