I think the story of the Nationals’ 2011 season could very well be one person:
Michael Morse. Now he might not be that much of a household name, but as a person that went to Nationals Park pretty frequently last season I can say the dude is a monster. Just look at his spray chart,
For that reason he was a bittersweet person to have in the cage during bp. You knew he was going to hit the ball a ways, but deciding whether to play him as a lefty or a righty was a whole other frustrating deal.
Gio Gonzalez, Mike Cameron, Mark DeRosa, Chad Durbin, Edwin Jackson, Brad Lidge, and Ryan Perry.
Laynce Nix, Collin Balester, Todd Coffey, Alex Cora, Jonny Gomes, Livan Hernandez, Tom Milone, and Brad Peacock.
Why?: With this past offseason, it may seem like the Nationals did really well. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been around the Nationals so much, but it seems to me that they lost a bunch of players that, yes, were not starters, but they are just below that cusp. Mind you, a B is still improving the team a bit, but I think most everyone christened their ship to a much improved season because of the additions. For me, they will improve if those that were already in the organization improve, because I am a little bit skeptical about whether Gio Gonzalez can stay healthy after building up such an innings count for the first time.
All that said, it still can be a great season in that the talent on the team surpasses the record they had last year if they can just *solidify* their rotation. I’m not talking about making it a strength of the team, but if they can just not lose games because of their starters, their lineup could win them 85 games. I kid you not, the only offensively deficient spot in that lineup is the Short Stop position with Ian Desmond. The next closest position to being offensively below-average is the Catcher position with Wilson Ramos (aka the guy every Twins fan wishes had never been traded in order to get Matt Capps).
Predicted Record Range: 85-90 wins. I say this tentatively, though. For whatever reason, I have this strange feeling in my gut that SOMEthing will go wrong with the Nationals this year. My first thought was that Gio Gonzalez will be injured, but now I’m starting to think that it might be Strasburg again. Whatever, enough of my crazy feelings, that’s it for this entry except that you need to vote on the poll below.
Next Up: Atlanta Braves, then the NL West
First team in NL West:
This was the season of three of the four players in the next picture. There was Jose the perfect, Justin the MVP, and Miguel the MVP candidate:
Prince Fielder, Collin Balester, Ocatvio Dotel, and Gerald Laird.
Carlos Guillen, Wilson Betemit, Ryan Perry, and Joel Zumaya.
Why?: The temptation would be to say their good offseason grade came from Prince Fielder. While this is partially true, it was not only him, but all of the players in the “Notable Additions” category that brought this grade to a B+. True, there are only four of them, but that is why it is a B+ and not a grade in the “A”s. Let’s just compare the two sides very briefly. They gained: One of the best 1st Basemen in the game, two bullpen hands, and an above-average replacement for their injured catcher who was an All-Star (I believe) the last time he was on the team. They lost: a declining utility player, a young underperforming utility player, an Outfield prospect, because they had a surplus, and an oft-injured reliever. These are some solid additions they have made.
However, there is a hidden part to this story. There are two free-agents still on the market that were Tigers last year: Magglio Ordoñez and Brad Penny. Both would certainly be more “Notable” than any player on this list if they were to sign with another team. If they both were to do so, I might downgrade the Tigers.
Also, if this grade were for the impact this offseason had on the next few years, it might be higher. I mean the Tigers have a chance to win the World Series, but the move will be more for the years when Victor Martinez, because the lineup will be a mine field to navigate for pitchers.
Predicted Record Range: 94-99 wins