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Washington Nationals Predictions / 2010 Season Preview

2010 MLB Predictions/Previews: Washington Nationals

Hard to believe, as many of us watch the snow fall outside, that the Boys of Summer are almost back. But it’s true; pitchers and catchers have reported to 2010 Major League Baseball training camps and it’s time to start our team-by-team baseball gambling previews for the year.

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MLB Team Preview – Washington Nationals

Maybe, just maybe, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for one of baseball’s sorriest franchises.

In Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals arguably drafted the most hyped prospect of the last decade. Armed with a blazing arsenal of pitches that would make Nolan Ryan proud, he’s expected to take the majors by storm as soon as he gets the callup.

But there’s still a problem or two for Washington to sort out. First off, Strasburg is just 21 years old. The Nats don’t have to rush him. Second, even if he makes the team out of spring training, even if he flourishes immediately, he only pitches every five days and he won’t score runs on his own. In other words, Washington still has to rely on the rest of its roster – and it isn’t very good.

Washington’s ERA was a National League-worst 5.00 in 2009 and, even with Strasburg possibly in tow, that problem won’t be remedied overnight. New arrival Jason Marquis is, if nothing else, a rabbit’s foot; amazingly, he’s pitched in the playoffs for 10 straight seasons. But, as his 4.48 career ERA suggests, his “success” was more the product of playing on juggernauts than anything else. Expect his streak to end this season. The rest of Washington’s rotation is more of the same – innings eaters like John Lannan who won’t blow too many games for the team but won’t overpower opponents either.

Washington’s pen is high on experience but seems like a motley crew of formerly effective arms that have fallen on hard times. Eddie Guardado, Matt Capps, Brian Bruney, and so on – all have handled closing duties in the past but their best days are behind them.

Washington’s offense is full of holes but at least has a few legitimately reliable contributors. “Will he or won’t he?” Scouts asked that question about Ryan Zimmerman’s potential to break out over the last few years, and he more than answered with a big “yes” last year. He exploded for 33 homers, 106 RBI and 110 runs last year and has proven he can be the offensive centerpiece of a major-league club. Also there to chip in his underrated offense is Adam Dunn, who ended a streak of five straight 40-homer seasons with 38 dingers last year. Pretty impressive considering the company he had to keep in Washington last season.

Unless you count late bloomer Nyjer Morgan atop the order, the Nats don’t have many more reliable run-producers. Ian Desmond probably isn’t ready yet and Elijah Dukes, while he has outstanding natural ability, can’t conquer the space between his ears. Vets like Cristian Guzman, Josh Willingham and Adam Kennedy will at least ensure Washington’s lineup doesn’t embarrass itself on a nightly basis.

Chins up, Nationals fans – if you’re out there. Washington is in fact turning over a new leaf; if and when Strasburg takes the mound, we’ll all have reason to watch. However, even if the kid becomes Doc Gooden in his rookie season, no one – bettors included – should confuse the 2010 Washington Nationals with a competitive baseball team. These guys ended 2009 with seven straight wins – and still lost 103 games.

Nationals Prediction: Fifth, National League East

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