Mar 6, 2014, 7:45 AM EDT
It’s been exactly three weeks since Nationals pitchers and catchers reported for spring training. And exactly three weeks from today, the Nats will break camp in Viera and head north in anticipation of the 10th Opening Day in club history.
Obviously, there’s still plenty of work to be done between now and March 27, and there’s still much that can change. But we’ve learned quite a bit about this team (and its new manager) over the last three weeks, enough to make some calculated guesses about its eventual roster.
Here, then, is a projected 25-man roster as things stand to date…
Outlook: Nothing really to explain here. One of the Nationals’ biggest question marks entering camp was the identity of their No. 2 catcher, and GM Mike Rizzo took care of that on the very first day, trading right-hander Nate Karns to the Rays for Lobaton and two prospects. Ramos, meanwhile, appears to be in great physical shape and has been crushing the ball so far this spring.
Outlook: For all that talk of an “open competition” at second base, this thing has looked shut from Day One. Rendon has been getting the bulk of the time at second base, while Espinosa has spent more time at shortstop. The Nats want him to be their utility infielder. Defensively, he’s outstanding at both spots up the middle. Offensively, he’s 0-for-10 this spring but is taking the ball the other way much more and has struck out just once. Zimmerman has looked fine at third base thus far and is just beginning to get some work at first base (though not yet in a game). If Zim actually proves ready for spot duty at first, Moore is going to have a tough time finding his way into the lineup. But he’s still the Nats’ best offensive option for the final spot on the bench, beating out Jamey Carroll, Zach Walters and Jeff Kobernus.
Outlook: Harper’s surgically repaired knee, a major question entering camp, doesn’t appear to be an issue at all. He’s running well and killing the ball at the plate. Werth’s Grapefruit League debut was delayed due to biceps soreness, but he finally played yesterday and put up a typical Werth spring debut line: 2 plate appearances, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 0 swings. McLouth and Hairston are locked in as the backups, with McLouth serving as Williams’ first option at all three outfield spots when one of the starters needs a day off.
Outlook: Strasburg appears healthy after minor elbow surgery. Gonzalez and Zimmermann are their usual, reliable selves. Fister has been one of the stars of camp, impressing everyone with his pitching acumen as well as his fundamental skills in the field and at the plate. The fifth spot is legitimately up for grabs, but the edge here goes to Detwiler over Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan because his selection rocks the fewest boats and still puts the other guys in position to be called upon should something go wrong along the way.
Outlook: This remains the most unsettled situation in camp, with the last two spots very much up in the air with three weeks to go. Soriano has yet to appear in a game, but that’s by design. Clippard and Storen each debuted the last two days. Blevins has been solid in his first two outings and is going to have major responsibilities as potentially the only left-hander in the pen. The durable Stammen will remain a valuable piece to the puzzle. Roark makes the club here because of his ability to go multiple innings and even make a last-minute start in case of emergency. The last spot could go to any of seven guys (Ayala, Ryan Mattheus, Manny Delcarmen, Christian Garcia, Clay Hensley, Xavier Cedeno or the newly signed Michael Gonzalez) so this one is hardly written in stone. But Williams does seem to like Ayala, a veteran who induces a ton of groundballs and who could prove valuable as a guy summoned from the pen to escape a tight jam.
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