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Written by Nicholas Kramer (Contact & Archive) on March 28, 2008
Going to Washington
Kicked out of Washington
Skinny: The Washington Nationals finished fourth in the strong NL East. The Nats went through everything else that other teams go through, but did it with what seemed to be a more relaxed attitude. With Dmitri Young getting more playing time thanks to an injury to Nick Johnson, the Nats appeared to be having more fun and even at times looked like a good team. But that was 2007 and no one should be fooled that Washington doesn’t have a long way to go to become a contender in the NL East.
Strengths: The Nationals have some decent hitting and now more depth then they have had in years. Lastings Milledge, Nick Johnson, Elijah Dukes, Ryan Zimmerman, Austin Kearns and Paul Lo Duca all will be names that will be heard on SportsCenter this year and probably all in a positive note. Every position player the Nats have seems to be younger than last year and an improvement.
The real question will be how to split playing between the injury prone Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young at first base. Johnson suffered a broken leg that kept him out most of the season in 2007, while Young is fighting diabetes. Both players are huge assets to the Nats and even though they just play first base, their offensive abilities are very important to any success that Washington is to have.
Weakness: The pitching in ’07 progress slightly from that of the 2006 season. There will need to be improvement from every pitcher in the rotation and bullpen for this staff to be even respectable. Given the signing of Odalis Perez and his likely being the team’s opening day starter, the Nats really need the young guys to develop quickly.
Starting Line Up
Keys to Success: The key will be pitching and defense. The Nats are going to score runs; there is no doubt that they have a pretty good offense. The defense has questions, particularly in the OF and first base. All should become very clear in the first month of the season. The pitching will have to try and keep the ball on the ground and hope that the Nats defense can grab them and do what is needed to keep runners from getting on base.
Prediction: I would love to see the Nats make some moves and bring in talented pitcher, but the NL East is too strong. Unless there is some sort of divine intervention, the Nationals will finish in fourth again.