Jan 28, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2014: 28
How acquired: Trade from Athletics with RHP Robert Gilliam for LHP Tom Milone, RHP Brad Peacock, RHP A.J. Cole and C Derek Norris, Dec. 2011
2014 salary: $8.5 million
2013 stats: 32 GS, 195.2 IP, 169 H, 79 R, 73 ER, 17 HR, 76 BB, 192 K, 1.252 WHIP, 11-8, 3.36 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 3.1 WAR
2014 storyline: Gonzalez has been highly effective in two seasons with the Nationals, and if you go back to his final two season in Oakland, he has been remarkably consistent. In those four total seasons, he has made either 32 or 33 starts, pitched anywhere from 195 2/3 to 202 innings and struck out between 171 and 207 batters.
So there’s no reason to believe Gonzalez will veer too far off what has become his standard performance in 2014, in either direction. As always, he’ll have to try to limit his occasional ragged outing (they tend to come once every five or six starts) and he’ll have to avoid serious injury, but the Nationals should be able to rest easy knowing they’ve got one of the best (and most consistent) left-handers in the game.
Best-case scenario: There’s not a whole lot of variance likely here, but at his best, Gonzalez is able to minimize walks while also keeping the ball inside the park. (He did both exceptionally well for the Nats in 2012.) If he can consistently do that again this year, he could post similar (if not better) numbers as he did in his first season in D.C.: 20-plus wins, a sub-3.00 ERA and 200-plus strikeouts, putting him firmly in the NL Cy Young Award discussion.
Worst-case scenario: A significant injury would throw a major wrench into Gonzalez’s consistent pattern, but short of that, even the worst-case scenario should remain more than adequate. He would probably struggle with command and wind up surrendering an excess of walks, perhaps topping the 100 mark for the season. His ERA would suffer, though it probably wouldn’t rise much beyond 3.70. And he’d be a victim of poor run support, leading to a disappointing 10-14 record.
Most-likely scenario: Exactly what Gonzalez has done each of the last four seasons. He’ll make 32 starts, total between 195 and 200 innings pitched, post an ERA between 3.10 and 3.20 and win 15 to 18 games.
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