Will Carroll
Tuesday March 1st, 2011

The Nationals have been at the bottom of the rankings for a long time, but part of that is something I feel has to be taken into consideration: their unique situation. Leaving Montreal, the team lost longtime Head Trainer Ron McClain and then took on a series of new Trainers, all the while dealing with substandard facilities and ownership that didn't take a long term view while looking for a short-term sale. All that's behind them now. Lee Kuntz started a couple years ago and showed that this trend could be reversed. The Nats are in a new stadium, have a new GM, and stable ownership, so all the excuses are gone. Maybe the Five Year Rank holds a little of the old regimes in it, but there's other teams with that same issue. The team that Kuntz takes into 2011 is a bit lower risk than previous seasons. It's unclear whether that's by luck or design, but health does tend to be a leading indicator. The injury to Stephen Strasburg will be costly to their injury stats, but more costly to their rotation and ticket sales. It's that kind of injury that is tough to "blame" on a medical staff, but until someone figures out how to handle it better, it is what it is. My guess is we'll see fewer of that kind of issue in Washington over the next few seasons. If so, they may escape the basement yet.

(HEAD TRAINER: Lee Kuntz; FIVE YEAR RANK: 30; 2010 RANK: 29)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
GREEN LIGHT
CF Nyjer Morgan
Nyj-Mo. Tony Plush. Call him by any of his nicknames, but remember that Morgan was acquired on the cheap and fills roles beyond CF. He's a good clubhouse citizen, a media darling, a quote machine, and that's what the Nats have needed while not winning much. He's never going to be a CF that helps a team win, but his other qualities have value that many don't recognize.

CL Drew Storen
Storen has been significantly better than expected and quicker to the role that the Nats saw him in. The downside here is that he's a bit wasted as a closer. He's got the strength and smarts to be a multi-inning pitcher, but no one's going to make him into Mike Marshall, so take the saves.

Also Green:
C Ivan Rodriguez
1B Adam LaRoche
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Jayson Werth
SP Livan Hernandez
RP Tyler Clippard
YELLOW LIGHT
2B Danny Espinosa
Espinosa is the second baseman by default. He's kind of a three true outcomes middle infielder, which is odd to say the least. He had off-season hand surgery, which is what gets him the yellow. Look for signs of the power being there in spring training before picking him up. Regardless, don't do it too early.

SS Ian Desmond
Desmond's first full season was a mixed bag of results. The biggest worry here in what is a very low yellow is the hamstring strain at the end of the season. It indicates fatigue. We'll see if he adjusts or whether this starts a downward slide. Any loss of speed would be crushing to his value.

S5 John Lannan
There was a point where some thought Lannan was going to be the team ace, sliding back as the team's draft picks filled in the rotation alongside him. The plan's still in place, but Lannan's no ace. Worse, he bounced off the 200 inning mark in '09 and struggled last year. That's seldom a good sign.
RED LIGHT
LF Rick Ankiel
Ankiel is almost the mirror image of Jayson Werth's signing, but that's a pretty solid move. His injury risk and results made him cheap and available, which balance out the big bucks that Werth is going to get. Ankiel is still pretty much a miracle given the backstory and risk or not, he can still be useful if used properly. Platooning him with Roger Bernardina in some fashion could help both.

SP Jason Marquis
Marquis was brought in last year to absorb innings and protect their young pitchers. That didn't work. He'll try again this year, but there's no signs that it will go better this time around. That means that the Nats could fill the gap by going young, with Yuneksy Maya at some point, or hope that Chien-Ming Wang or some Quad-A guy can be available.

SP Jordan Zimmermann
Zimmermann came in as Strasburg was going out. It was a nice contrast, reminding people that Strasburg will be back, likely without significant consequences to his pitching. Strasburg could be back as soon as July, but September is more likely, if then. Zimmermann's expected Day One and will face a huge innings increase. Anything above 150 should set off klaxons in the front office and could show how much influence the medical staff has on operations.

SP Luis Atilano
Atilano is one of those situations I just don't understand. He didn't do much last year and ended the season having bone chips removed from his elbow. Now he's slotted in for a rotation slot. He'll fight with Tom Gorzelanny and John Lannan for the 4 and 5 slots, but the Nats have him pencilled in nonetheless. Absent doing something he's never done, he's a placeholder.

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