- FanGraphs+ | FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/plus -

2010 Washington Nationals Preview

Rotation
John Lannan, LHP
Jason Marquis, RHP
Scott Olsen, LHP
Ross Detwiler, LHP
Matt Chico, LHP

Closers and Setup
Matt Capps, RHP
Brian Bruney, RHP

Starting Lineup
Nyjer Morgan, CF
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Adam Dunn, 1B
Josh Willingham, LF
Elijah Dukes, RF
Ivan Rodriguez, C
Ian Desmond, SS
Pitcher

Player in Decline
Adam Dunn has old people skills, and players with those skills decline faster than others. That said, he’s only 30 years old, and a player like Jason Marquis offers a more obvious probability of regression to a career mean. (He’s just not that good!)

Player on the Rise
Stephen Strasburg is the obvious mention, but he may not make it to the Majors in his first year in the pros. If he doesn’t, surely it will be middle infielder Ian Desmond breaking out or maybe outfielder Elijah Dukes will finally make good on all of his promise.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Ryan Zimmerman: Elite
Adam Dunn: Average
Nyjer Morgan: Average
Matt Capps: Average
Josh Willingham: Deep League

Top 10 Prospects
1. Stephen Strasburg, RHP
2. Derek Norris, C
3. Ian Desmond, SS
4. Drew Storen, RHP
5. Danny Espinosa, SS
6. Chris Marrero, 1B
7. Michael Burgess, OF
8. Bradley Meyers, RHP
9. Aaron Thompson, LHP
10. Destin Hood, OF

Overall team outlook: Mantra: bad teams are where fantasy fortunes are made. There’s plenty of opportunity on this squad, with youngsters competing for three or four spots in the lineup and the Mother of All Pitching Prospects on the way. Watch the Nationals closely in 2010 because no one knows what will happen in the nation’s capital.

The Starting Rotation: You really have to be desperate to roster a Nationals’ starting pitcher in a standard mixed league next year. Even Jason Marquis was barely rosterable last year and, with his inevitable regression next year, it will get even uglier in Washington in 2010. Stephen Strasburg is only one man, and he’s not even guaranteed to show up in the capital in 2010. Instead, fantasy managers will have to sift through the wreckage that is ground-ball-inducer John Lannan, oft-injured Scott Olsen, the underwhelming-but-young Ross Detwiler, and TJ surgery survivor Matt Chico. It’s possible that someone surprises and steals a starting job from this mediocre group, because they certainly won’t have much competition – not one of the four pitchers even boasts an average strikeout rate. It’s just that, beyond Strasburg, there’s not really a prospect coming up the pipeline this year. In general, the Nats rotation is an “avoid.”

The Bullpen: After quite the makeover, the Nationals’ bully looks much improved. Gone is walk-the-lineup Mike MacDougal and in his place is the anti-MacDougal, Matt Capps. Capps might not have the velocity or the strikeout rate of an established closer, but he won’t walk an amazing six per nine either, making him a great late-round option at closer. He should be good for nice ratios and 30 saves given his BABIP and walk rate returning to normal. Brian Bruney is the gas-throwing wild man behind him, and while Sean Burnett may look like the better pitcher, some numbers just say he was luckier. Drew Storen, another ’09 first-round pick, is not far from making the Majors once he cleans up his control.

The Starting Lineup: This middling offense (ninth in the National League) boasts some underrated fantasy players. Nyjer Morgan won’t be as good as he was after the All-Star break last year, but he’s good for a decent batting average and a bunch of steals. Adam Dunn may do some damage to your batting average, but he’s almost a lock for 40 home runs and good RBI totals.

Josh Willingham and Elijah Dukes are decent fliers in deeper leagues, particularly those leagues that use OBP instead of batting average. But the real gem in this lineup is third baseman super-stud Ryan Zimmerman, who finally put together all the parts of his game last year. Some may not believe that he’s as good as he was last year, but even with a few steps back in his game, he’s a top option at a tough position. His growth has seemed organic, for what it’s worth.

Rookie Ian Desmond is expected to push veteran Cristian Guzman from shortstop to second base. In a perfect world, Guzman would never have been signed to his current contract, but that’s the Nats for you. Desmond should provide replacement-level offense at worst, while displaying average to above-average defense.

The Bench: The signing of Ivan Rodriguez is unfortunate because it pushes a young Jose Flores to the bench, but perhaps his upside will persevere. He can’t get on base, but his power is interesting. Willie Harris should be eligible at multiple positions and offers some speed to deep league benches. Justin Maxwell used to be well thought of as a speed-and-defense outfielder, but he’s getting a little long in the tooth to be considered a prospect. Mike Morse looks like the infield backup and 1B Josh Whitesell has shown that he can get on base, but we’re still waiting on the rest of his game.