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From 36 to 25

Mar 23, 2010, 2:12 PM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ryan Zimmerman is obviously making the team, but what about Ian Desmond?

VIERA, Fla. — We've just about hit the stretch run of spring training. Opening Day is a mere 13 days away. And the Nationals' roster, which once stood at 60, has been whittled down to the final 36 legitimate contenders for jobs.

So as we wait for tonight's 6:05 p.m. game against the Tigers in Lakeland — with Scott Olsen facing a critical moment in his attempt to crack the rotation — this seems like a good time to make some projections.

And since this is March and all eyes remain on a certain basketball tournament, we'll organize this like all those "bracketology" experts do when trying to predict who's in and who's out…


CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Willie Harris
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
2B Adam Kennedy
SS Ian Desmond
C Ivan Rodriguez

C Wil Nieves
SS Cristian Guzman
INF Eric BruntlettRead more »

  1. peric - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    Can you finish "the bracket"? Rosters, rotations, bullpens for Syracuse and Harrisburg? Have to assume those will have an ongoing effect on the major league roster all season long? There seem to be a lot of spare pitchers there now.

  2. Chris - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    "But they can't trade Guzman and they won't eat his salary."I know the answer to the first part, but why the latter? That's what frustrates me about this team, though that same mindset is true of 85% of MLB clubs.

  3. hleeo3 - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    First off, I think you are doing a great job Zuckerman! I was thinking something similar with you. I agree that Jesse English will start in the minors but I feel that Walker and Batista will start the season and after a few bad starts will be released and then the Nats could call up English and Storen. I just can't help but feel that both of them will have both 'ok' appereances and then have a really bad outing that gives up 5 or 6 runs.

  4. SpotsyNats - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    Alberto Gonzalez is a goner pretty quick. He doesn't even make the "last four out". See ya AG. Please take the not-even-warning track fly ball stuff with you.

  5. Anonymous - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    Man..I hate to say it, but that rotation looks really weak.

  6. Anonymous - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    Any interest on the Nats' part in Chad Gaudin?

  7. Positively Half St. - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    I was thinking of Gaudin, as well, since he was just released by the Yankees. Since the Nats had the worst record last year, I assume they get the first shot at him now.

  8. Doc - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    Great review MarkMeister. I think that Foli should room with Desmond. Get to the park every day and play pepper, and do infield drills. Something that wasn't done the last 6 years in Desmond's career. We can't do much about RF, but we can take care of biz at SS.

  9. Pedro G. - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    Any chance of Bergmann in the rotation if somebody like Mock doesn't work out? Can the Nats get Mitre from the Yankees?Not too worried about right field. Maybe Maxwell will find his stroke in Syracuse.

  10. Knoxville Nat - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    Mark,I wasn't aware that a player (Guzman in this case) had to "agree" to go on the DL. Isn't this strictly a club decision?

  11. Anonymous - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    I have major quetsions about Desmonds errors. The number and the ease of the plays he should make are not offset by his offense unlike Dunn at 1B. Many posters here and other boards always pointed this out about him but have been quiet recently.I think he needs to go to "cuse and work with an infield coach or until Guzman falters.I think going out on the limb would be Desmond playing RF unless Guzmans shoulder is not 100%.If ID is sent down look for AG as a back up.

  12. TBC - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:55 PM

    You can change the singer, but the song remains the same. Cristian Guzman will be this year's Austin Kearns, and Ian Desmond will be this year's Willingham/Dukes. Expect a flurry of outraged comments with JayB leading the charge every time Guzman either gets a start at SS or pinch hits. If it happens enough, expect them to start calling for Riggleman's head just like they called for Acta's last year.

  13. Doc - Mar 23, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    Dark horse for closer–Tyler Clippard. Storen will be back up soon.

  14. Anonymous - Mar 23, 2010 at 3:06 PM

    I would make Storen the closer. So what if he doesn't have a lot of experience. He has filthy stuff. 97 mph with a wicked curve….and he throws strikes

  15. JayB - Mar 23, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    Outrageous or Accurate….seems to me we were very right about Kearns last year and Lo Duca and Estrada the year before. I think when you are correct you should get the credit. In his case if Guzman makes the team as a backup I am fine with that. He can pinch hit and play once a week at ss and 2B….that works.

  16. Anonymous - Mar 23, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    I think there is a reason why nobody wanted Marquis and Capps. They were pretty much gasoline on the fire at the end of the year last year. The old arm only has so many pitches in it and I think they are done. I hope I am wrong

  17. Avar - Mar 23, 2010 at 3:10 PM

    Like Desmond starting and Guzie on bench. Hope you're right on that one!Am I reading this right that you think Stammen would come out of the rotation before Hernandez if Olsen is put in there? If so, is that what YOU think is best, what you think the team would do or both? My vote would be Stammen over Hernandez so I'm interested in that thinking. Especially if you think Hernandez is the better bet, would love to hear your thoughts on that.

  18. Sam - Mar 23, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    Willy Taveras has proven time and time again that he does not deserve to be in the Major Leagues. Wouldn't it make more sense to give Maxwell a shot? He hit well in September (small sample, I know). You also don't know what you're going to get. With Taveras, you know you're going to get absolutely zero offense (in fact, he will cost the team with his bat) and average to above average defense. I want to see Maxwell!

  19. Jim Webster - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    After watching Tyler Walker give up 6 runs on 8 hits in 1 2/3 innings against Detroit March 9, I am compelled to wonder what I did not see that makes him a favored candidate for the opening day roster.

  20. Joe - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    Sam: I like JMax just as much as the next guy, but he has been simply abhorrent this spring. I know that's a small sample size, too, but it's hard to argue that a guy who's hitting far, far below .200 should make the squad when a few other guys are hitting and fielding better. Harris is a proven guy who deserves the chance, and Morse is more versatile than Maxwell is across the field (he can literally play 7 positions). That makes him a much more valuable bench guy, in my opinion.

  21. Mark Zuckerman - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    To answer Avar's question: This isn't necessarily the roster I WOULD assemble. It's the roster I believe WILL be assembled based on what I've seen and what I've heard all spring. (Of course, since some spots are still very much up for grabs, that also requires me to make some educated guesses.)Oh, and for Sam, who wants to see Maxwell: We've seen him all spring. He's batting .103.

  22. Steven J. Berke - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    @Jim Webster: The Tyler Walker appearance that you cite was his second disastrous one of the spring–in his first two appearances, he pitched 2 2/3 innings, gave up 13 runs on 14 hits. Since then, however, he has appeared in four games for a total of 3 1/3 innings, and given up one run on three hits (all of those in one one-inning appearance). That does, as Mark says, give a veteran like Walker the edge over a minor leaguer like English.

  23. peric - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    Everyone might want to keep in mind that Kearns might again become available to this team … at a much reduced price. With his thumb surgery and everything else up-to-snuff he might actually be a very inexpensive upgrade in right field. Not sure he or Nats management would go for it … but … he was well liked in the clubhouse and apparently that is more important than performance on this team.

  24. peric - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    At some point in the game, given that the Nats aren't really going anywhere this year, Rizzo will start moving prospects onto the big club and not just Strasburg and Storen … if their managers and coaches deem them ready. Riggleman will have to give up favoring veterans who aren't really an improvement and represent the need to hold things together until the prospects arrive.

  25. Sunderland - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    Kearns hit 2 HR's yesterday. Looking like he might make the Indians roster.Chad Gaudin was waived, so the Nats will only get a shot at him if no AL team claims him.

  26. peric - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    It 'seems' interesting to consider projected Harrisburg rotations:Strasburg, Thompson, Detwiler (when he is fit), Zimmermann (when he is fit), and Wang (when he is fit), plus Milone or Brad Meyers. Syracuse may be very crowed with the "just not past or close to past prospects" plus the veteran depth. Perhaps if you are a prospect it will be better to be in Harrisburg?

  27. hleeo3 - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:49 PM

    Kearns did well in ST last year too. I wish him the best. Mark, is there anything wrong with Maxwell that you saw/heard? Lack of preparation during the offseason, something wrong with his swing that he won't fix, or not enough batting practice? To me he seems to be wasting his best chance to make it in the majors and I can't see how his offense is so horrid right now. -Peric The Nationals lack the prospects right now to put forth a AAA team loaded with prospects. Teams like the Red Sox, with a loaded Major League club, tend to keep the prospects from AAA down because they don't need to rush them and/or blocked by guys like Beckett, Lackey, etc. For teams like the Nationals, good prospects can make the jump from AA (or brief appearance in AAA) to the Majors because quite frankly the prospects are better than what is in the major league level of the club. We also have to remember that the Nationals still are developing the minor league system from the Expos era. Right now, the Nats got some good prospects in AA. Maybe by 2012 or 2013 the Nats can be loaded from AAA down. In the end for a prospect, AAA is closer to the majors.

  28. Sunderland - Mar 23, 2010 at 4:57 PM

    I doubt Zimmermann is going to contribute in any significant way in Syracuse, if at all. He'll rehab into August, make a few rehab appearances where ever it is convenient, and then join the Nats when rosters expand. He'll pitch out of the bullpen, maybe get one or two four inning starts, but that's it.This year is only to get ready for next year, when he'll be penciled into an opening day rotation spot.He and CMW will be the big questions for next year. If both are healthy, it could be a fun season.

  29. peric - Mar 23, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    hleeo3,Agreed. It just 'appears' from perspective to be different. Nats management promised Syracuse they would field a competitive team. Mike Rizzo appears to like to keep his promises. I believe he has promised some of the veterans we are seeing (the Duncans, Mench's, Battista's etc.) that if they do well in Syracuse he would find a way to bring them up to the big club as he did last year with guys like Martin, Morse, and Padilla. Martin and Padilla had never been in the majors before. I believe he believes that the two "agreements" are compatible and seem to go a long way toward providing adequate veteran depth.Meanwhile, in AA, he brings along the top prospects, giving them a chance to play as starters. Giving them a chance to prove they are major league ready. They will have lots of upside (hopefully), room to grow and plenty of options.The model you describe is the traditional one … just seems like Rizzo is taking a road a little less followed.

  30. Anonymous - Mar 23, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    Hey Mark, you never did answer the question about the low A ball guys that are not on the radar screen but could come out of nowhere and surprise (next year/few years from now). Heard any conversations from scouts/coaches/etc. on this topic?

  31. Steve M. - Mar 23, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    Mark – Bold predictions. This is the first time I have heard a sniff of Willy Taveras making the outfield bench, and someone [you] being bold enough to state the obvious that Maxwell doesn't deserve a spot. I still think Bernadina is the guy although Taveras has made a case for himself. Taveras being a rightie and Morse being a rightie and Willingham being a rightie makes the lefties Willie Harris and Bernadina 2 good outfield replacements. So I take Bernadina because he is a leftie.I like the starting 8. Watching Olsen today will tell us a lot more about this rotation. I think this team would benefit from 2 Lefties in the rotation and don't see much benefit of Livan Hernandez who doesn't have much upside.With Strasburg taking one spot in June and possibly Wang taking another, this will still be a rotation that will have to fight for their jobs for the first 2 months of the regular season to stay in the rotation.ROTATIONLHP John LannanRHP Jason MarquisLHP Scott OlsenRHP Garrett MockRHP Craig Stammen

  32. Anonymous - Mar 23, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    Wily Tavares is a great OF (except for the ball he dropped the other day) he has rpven time and time again that his speed helps him get to balls that others cannot he is a great defensive replacement for Willingham late in games and even though he is not a threat at the plate he is better than J-Max and probably even better than Willei Harris, I think it would be good option to have him as a defensive replacement and pinch runner early in the season.

  33. Anonymous - Mar 23, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    Maxwell has been given every chance to make his case this spring. I've watched Justin since he played AAU ball and thru high school, Univ. of MD and the Cape cod league. He's a very bright young man, blessed with a near perfect baseball physique, but with a major problem with keeping weak bones from breaking. If you look up his career from his freshman college year on you'd see that at 26 he has really had very few at bats. A lot of locals from the DC area have been pulling hard for him but a .103 BA is pretty tough to look past. We wish him the best for whatever his future brings.

  34. peric - Mar 23, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    The Rotation that I think Rizzo would undoubtedly like to see … all things and possibilities considered by July or August?Strasburg,Lannan,Zimmermann,Thompson,Detwiler,Mock,Stammen.

  35. greg - Mar 23, 2010 at 6:19 PM

    the fact that tavares may take the last spot says a lot about the state of the outfield. anon, in no real baseball world is tavares a better threat at the plate than willie harris, and that's not necessarily a compliment to willie harris. it's just not all that close. harris has had a 750ish OPS the last three seasons. tavares has barely sniffed 600 the last two seasons. 150 points of OPS is HUGE. i really hope you're right that desmond gets the shot at starting, even if it's a role-sharing system with desmond getting an occasional start somewhere else for his ABs.

  36. Anonymous - Mar 23, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    peric, I don't think Rizzo is envisioning has a 7 man rotation. And it's pretty bold to proclaim that you know what Rizzo wants to see by the summer.

  37. jcville - Mar 23, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Anon. @ 1:55 PM makes a good point about JMax — he hasn't really had many at bats, and was rushed to the bigs. His first September callup was straight from high-A ball in 2007 (after nearly putting up a 30-30 season in about 450 ABs). 2008 was lost to injury. This guy deserves a chance, be it this year or next, and is far from old or washed up. And 2 weeks worth of spring training ABs is not enough to close the door on a prospect with his athleticism. I'd like to see Maxwell full time in RF.

  38. greg - Mar 23, 2010 at 6:41 PM

    considering what's available in RF right now, if maxwell goes down to AA/AAA and gets his stroke back, he'll probably get a chance. but he's not going to make the team while he's struggling.

  39. peric - Mar 23, 2010 at 6:51 PM

    "peric, I don't think Rizzo is envisioning has a 7 man rotation. And it's pretty bold to proclaim that you know what Rizzo wants to see by the summer."Its a rotation with, count 'em 3 first round draft picks, a 2nd round draft pick, way under 30 veteran leadership in Lannan, and Mock and Lannan have been working very hard this spring to prove they belong. All under 30. All under club control. Only one recovering/recovered from TJ (Zimmermann). Three lefties, three + 1 righties. Seems pretty logical to me.

  40. Sunderland - Mar 23, 2010 at 7:08 PM

    Except Zimmermann will not be starting games in July or August.It might be interesting if the shutting down of Strasburg in September (targeting about 160 innings) could coincide with an opportunity to insert Zimmermann in the rotation.But I don't think we see Zimmermann in DC until September, and then mostly in the bullpen.

  41. Steve M. - Mar 23, 2010 at 7:09 PM

    peric, are you saying he has 7 young pitchers to choose from come July/August?

  42. Anonymous - Mar 23, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    Taveras is a career .276 hitter with almost 200 stolen bases in less than 5 full seasons when you factor in injuries. Injuries the past two seasons have helped lower his BA. He is one of the 2 or 3 fastest players in mlb, and an outstanding outfielder. His negatives are a sub-par obp and a lack of power, some of which has been coached out of him since he is always encouraged to put the ball on the ground and use his speed.

  43. Unbelievable - Mar 23, 2010 at 8:24 PM

    Steve, peric believes Rizzo will employ a 7 man rotation. Even though no one has a 7 man rotation. And even though Rizzo has NEVER brought up nor hinted at a 7 man rotation. And peric also believes that Zimmermann will pitch in July, irregardless of the fact that he underwent TJ last August and recovery time is 12-18 months and also irregardless that there is a possibility that Zimmermann will not be able to throw as hard or harder than before (ignoring Liriano's recovery for instance). And also ignoring the possibility that Zimmermann might need to re-learn how to pitch (like Chico) after he has recovered. No we'll ignore all that stuff and say that RIZZO wants to see a 7 man rotation with JZimm in July.Well I can make stuff up too. I think that Rizzo wants to trade for Puljos by offering Trevor Holder and Adam Dunn. Think of it, the Cards get a 1st baseman and a flamethrower who throws 97! The Cards would be crazy not to accept!

  44. greg - Mar 23, 2010 at 8:59 PM

    anon, 276 hitter means nothing if your OBP is sub-par (321 for his career, 308 and 275 the last two years). and even with all of that speed, he's never hit 20 doubles in a season (even with more than 500 ABs) (and not even in the minors!). almost 2400 ABs, 71 2Bs and never slugged more than 382. that's just pathetic for a major league player. let's face it, if your game is all about speed, then your game is all about getting on base. goes back to the whole "you can't steal first base" mantra. people get enamored with speed, but it doesn't really do much for you offensively if you can only use it to run back to the dugout after you make an out.

  45. Anonymous - Mar 23, 2010 at 9:00 PM


  46. Jim Webster - Mar 23, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    Steven J. Berke: Thanks for your comments on Tyler Walker. And for using your real name.

  47. Anonymous - Mar 23, 2010 at 10:04 PM

    Zuck – love the work so far – a must read for me. I'd like to see a piece focused on Maxwell, too – ok, he's hitting .103 and OPSing .455 in a whopping total of 39ABs this spring, but he OPS'ed .924 in 73 ABs in September. So, did he just forget how to play baseball over the winter, or is he presing too hard, or does he have an enormous hole in his swing, or what? This is basically a "put up or shut up" year for Maxwell. Why not see if he can hit MLB pitching? What benefit to the Nats of having him punch up yet another .750-.760 OPS in Harrisburg. Either he has an MLB future, or he doesn't. Why not look at him and say "You're going north as our everyday RF." and see what he does?

  48. Sam - Mar 24, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    Mark, you know as well as I do that Spring Training stats mean absolutely nothing.I compared Maxwell's and Mike Cameron's Minor League stats, and they are remarkably similar (excluding the fact that Cameron has 2554 PA to Maxwell's 1506).Cameron: 10.9 BB%, 21.8 K%, .319 BABIP, .350 OBP, .424 SLG, .338 wOBA (given 0 RBOE)JMax: 11.3 BB%, 24.6 K%, .317 BABIP, .351 OBP, .442 SLG, .346 wOBA (again, given no RBOE).Maybe Maxwell is just a late bloomer, but I think he deserves a shot.





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