|2007 Team Previews: The Washington Nationals|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on April 03, 2007
2006 Record: 71-91
The Nationals have new ownership but it didn’t come in time to add much in the way of credibility to the 2007 club. Once again this team is condemned to another season of bottom dwelling and awaiting the rewards that rebuilding will bring. Unfortunately for the Nationals rebuilding is going to take time – the farm system simply has nothing to offer and there isn’t much in the way of veteran talent which this team has to offer in trade. They hope to pull some rabbits out of their hats by taking second chance veterans on, crossing their fingers and rooting for some decent seasons, which might make these players tradable come July in return for almost Major League ready talent.
Strengths: They have one of the top closers in the game but the odds that he’ll remain with the team the entire season are almost nil. He’s the most tradable asset the club owns and someone will end up giving something worthwhile in return.
Weaknesses: The offense while a bit questionable has a lot of potential. Youngsters Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Church will provide the team with a core to build around and they still have some power coming from the bat of Austin Kearns. That’s when things become a little dodgy. Retread Dmitri Young probably still has the skill set but at age 33 he’s getting near his expiration date. Christian Guzman is recovering from surgery and several bad years, Nook Logan still is unproven as a hitter, and Brian Schneider isn’t in the lineup for his bat.
Pitching here is an absolute shambles. They’ll be relying on a combination of inexperience and recovering pitchers to make up their starting rotation. How bad is it? Number one starter John Patterson missed all but 8 starts last year. Number two starter Shawn Hill, missed the entire second half with a bad elbow. Number three starter Matt Chico has no experience pitching above AA ball. Starter number 4, Jerome Williams managed just 2 big league starts last year and posted a 7.31 ERA in those games. While probably number 5 starter Jason Simontacchi is out with a groin injury and may force th team to call upon rookie Levale Speigner (has started exactly 1 game above AA level) in the interim. Since Speigner was acquired as a Rule V draft pick the team can’t demote him at any time this year without the Twins being able to reclaim him.
Potential Opening Day Lineup
Keys to success: For the Nationals to contend this year they’d essentially need an act of god, or a disease which wiped out quality pitching anywhere in the league (since they’d be safe from that). All they can realistically hope for is for young talent to improve enough that quality free agent pitching would consider the team next winter.
Prediction: This is a last place team, possibly a last place team in the National League overall, or even in the Majors overall. New ownership will make tremendous changes in the team for 2008 and will spend money to turn the team around quickly. That may well mean taking on some players from teams who are more eager to unload contracts than keep top talent. Don’t expect much more than that – that and some active trading if the Nationals can find any chips to trade towards the future.