A rival scout sizes up the Nationals
Stephen Strasburg threw very well when I saw him this spring. He got up to 95 mph and generally pitched 92 to 94, but there wasn't a lot of effort to it. The velocity will go up as the season goes on.... The guy who's not far behind is Jordan Zimmermann. He has a swing-and-miss curve, above-average slider and fastball, and he shows feel for the change.... With Gio Gonzalez, that's three starters with a world of talent.... The bullpen could be very solid. Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard look the same as last year. Henry Rodriguez throws, like, 150 mph. If he harnesses his stuff and throws more strikes, he could be dominant.... Hopefully Jayson Werth won't put as much pressure on himself. His swing got longer last year, and he wasn't quite as disciplined.... I don't think Ian Desmond is a strategic hitter. He's reactive, with a quick bat. He shouldn't lead off.... Ryan Zimmerman is a plus defender. He hits to the big part of the field, and he's strong enough to hit it out there, too. If you have a choice of a third baseman of the future, he's right up there with Evan Longoria.... Michael Morse reminds me of Werth: similar career path, blossoming late. Both are big, tall and athletic for their size, with long arms and power. Morse has matured as a hitter.... Bryce Harper is going to impact that club in a positive way. He runs hard and works hard, which is impressive for the accolades he's had. He has raw power as good as you're ever going to see—probably more than Jim Thome had as a kid. He can hit, but it may come slowly against good, consistent pitching.
With 2011 Statistics
MANAGER DAVEY JOHNSON
2nd season with Nationals
NEW ACQUISITION (R) ROOKIE *COMBINED MINOR LEAGUE STATS
Strikeouts per nine innings by Nationals starters last season, second lowest in the majors. That should improve this year with a rotation that includes a healthy Stephen Strasburg (12.18 K/9 in 2010) and newcomers Gio Gonzalez (8.78 last year, 11th best among qualifying starters) and Edwin Jackson (6.67).
The Nationals spent the winter adding to their pitching staff, trading for Gio Gonzalez and signing Edwin Jackson to fill out a rotation that features homegrown studs Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. There's a lot of talent there, but it's not exactly a stable of horses. Gonzalez pitched into the seventh inning in just 19 of 32 starts last year; Jackson did so in 16 of 31. Strasburg and Zimmermann are easing back in after elbow injuries and aren't likely to work deep into games. The Nats have a crowded bullpen, though, so manager Davey Johnson should make a virtue out of necessity and keep all five of his starters (John Lannan is the last) on a short leash. With Drew Storen as closer, Tyler Clippard a multi-inning setup man, Tom Gorzelanny a converted lefty starter who might be the next Sean Marshall and hard-throwing righty Henry Rodriguez, the Nationals have a bullpen deep enough to back up a six-innings-and-out rotation. Until the team is completely comfortable with Strasburg and Zimmermann taking on a 220-inning load, they can get value from them at 160--180 innings while winning games with what has been a strength over the last two years.
JOHN MCDONNELL/THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES (WERTH)
MITCHELL LAYTON/GETTY IMAGES (STOREN)
Photograph by ED WOLFSTEIN
HARPER'S BAZAAR He will start the season in the minors, but there's no doubt that 19-year-old Bryce Harper will be playing in D.C. sometime this season—and anchor the Nationals' lineup for years to come.
Photograph by ROB CARR/GETTY IMAGES
BASELINE COMPARISON Atlanta's Dan Uggla and Washington's Jayson Werth have much in common: Each slugger is the highest-paid player on a team that will be chasing the Phillies and the Marlins in the East.