2009 MLB Preview: #29 Washington Nationals

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Offseason Movement: Perhaps the Nats’ biggest addition was 1B/OF Adam Dunn, who will add some pop to the lineup, as well as a fair amount of strikeouts. Washington also acquired OF Josh Willingham and LHP Scott Olsen in a trade with the Marlins and signed free agents Daniel Cabrera, Alex Cintron and Javier Valentin. In the deal to land Willingham and Olsen, the Nationals agreed to send 2B Emilio Bonifaci, INF Jake Smolinski and RHP P.J. Dean to Florida.

Top Prospect: Jordan Zimmerman, RHP
Zimmermann is a serious Rookie of the Year candidate and is turning in a fantastic spring. As of this writing, he has allowed only six hits, two walks and has struck out 16 batters over 12 1/3 scoreless innings. He seems to be over shadowed on a national level, but that’s mostly because the Nationals have yet to officially hand him a spot in the starting rotation. But that should change soon and as long as he doesn’t let the bright lights of the Big Leagues eat him alive, the 22-year old could be a future star.

The Big Question: How bad will the bullpen be?
Take a gander at these names: Joel Hanrahan, Saul Rivera, Steven Shell, Garrett Mock, Jason Bergmann, Julian Taverez and Mike Hinckley. None really strike the fear of God into any hitter do they? Hanrahan, Rivera and Shell are average at best and Taverez is better at delivering quotes than he is on the hill these days. If the Nats get anything out of former starters Mock and Bergmann, maybe this unit can survive the season. But that’s a huge “if”.

Outlook: This club is actually filled with potential, but that’s about it at this point. Shortstop Cristian Guzman raked last year, hitting .316 with nine home runs and six stolen bases at the leadoff position. Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes have a ton of talent, but they can’t seem to keep their heads on straight. Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman should complement each other well hitting 3-4 in the lineup, but there are some major question marks at the bottom of the order. Can Nick Johnson stay healthy? The starting pitching isn’t terrible, with John Lannan, Scott Olson and Daniel Cabrera leading the way at the top of the rotation. And if Jordan Zimmermann develops like everyone expects, Washington could have an above average starting five. But the pullben is a major weakness and there just seems to be too many question marks surrounding this club. It’s safe to expect some improvement out of the Nats, but it probably won’t be anything earth shattering.

Projection: 5th NL East

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