A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE NATIONALS
Top to bottom, this is a really good team—they're better than they were last year.... Stephen Strasburg's fastball is obviously a plus-plus pitch, but his secondary stuff has become really good. His curveball is excellent and his changeup has developed into one of the best. It's 88--89 mph, which is what the average fastball is.... Gio Gonzalez has a swing-and-miss curveball and a plus fastball, and his command has really improved.... Jordan Zimmermann could be a No. 2 starter for a championship team. On this club he's No. 3. He has four plus pitches and attacks hitters.... At 4 and 5 in the rotation Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler are as good as a lot of teams have at 2 and 3.... Detwiler had always thrown across his body, but last year they got him in line. Now he's throwing 93--94 with his two-seamer away to righthanded hitters.... Bryce Harper showed me a lot last year when he finished strong. Usually when a young kid starts to free-fall he can't stop. He does get himself out sometimes by not cutting his swing down.... Denard Span finally gives them a true leadoff hitter. And he'll take the pressure off Harper, who won't have to try to play centerfield.... Ian Desmond has matured into a very good hitter—he used to be a prospect who made a ton of errors and gave away at bats. They did a really good job staying patient with him.... Rafael Soriano gets people out as a closer. His fastball stays out of the middle of the plate, and he pitches to both sides. Everything he throws has late action.
2013 Projected Statistics
MANAGER DAVEY JOHNSON
Third season with the Nationals
LINEUPS AND STAT PROJECTIONS BY ROTOWIRE.COM
The K Meter
Percentage of 2012 plate appearances that ended with a strikeout, and major league rank
BY HITTERS | 21.3% | 25TH
BY PITCHERS | 21.6% | 6TH
See page 58. It's all there: the majors' best staff, young, proven everyday stars and the first D.C. Series title since '24.
Strasburg isn't up to pitching a full season and Gonzalez regresses, forcing the Nats to fight for a wild-card spot.
Ted Keith has more on the Nationals at SI.com/mlb
With the signing of Rafael Soriano, the Nationals have exceptional righthanded bullpen depth: five relievers who last year had ERAs no higher than Tyler Clippard's 3.72. But that arsenal is not matched from the left side. With Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny leaving through free agency, the team had Zach Duke battling a host of nonroster invitees in camp for bullpen roles. Rather than force an unqualified pitcher like Fernando Abad or Bill Bray onto the roster, manager Davey Johnson should run a bullpen without a lefty specialist. His top returning relievers, Clippard (against whom batters had a slash line of .200/.286/.357) and Drew Storen (.218/.284/.316) have been excellent against lefties. Duke, a starter for most of his eight-year career, can be reserved for long relief, and Johnson can get away from hyperspecialization. It's a very 1980s idea: Put your best pitchers on the mound and let them do their jobs. Johnson should know. Before matchup baseball became the norm, his Mets won the 1986 World Series with just such a bullpen.
TOM DIPACE (SORIANO)
MITCHELL LAYTON/GETTY IMAGES (GONZALEZ)
Gio-centric Orbit Strasburg will start Opening Day, but the Nats also revolve around Gonzalez: He led the NL in wins (21) and K rate (9.4 per innings).
ED WOLFSTEIN PHOTO (SPAN)