Enemy Lines

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE NATIONALS

Top to bottom, this is a really good team—they're better than they were last year.... Stephen Strasburg's fastball is obviously a plus-plus pitch, but his secondary stuff has become really good. His curveball is excellent and his changeup has developed into one of the best. It's 88--89 mph, which is what the average fastball is.... Gio Gonzalez has a swing-and-miss curveball and a plus fastball, and his command has really improved.... Jordan Zimmermann could be a No. 2 starter for a championship team. On this club he's No. 3. He has four plus pitches and attacks hitters.... At 4 and 5 in the rotation Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler are as good as a lot of teams have at 2 and 3.... Detwiler had always thrown across his body, but last year they got him in line. Now he's throwing 93--94 with his two-seamer away to righthanded hitters.... Bryce Harper showed me a lot last year when he finished strong. Usually when a young kid starts to free-fall he can't stop. He does get himself out sometimes by not cutting his swing down.... Denard Span finally gives them a true leadoff hitter. And he'll take the pressure off Harper, who won't have to try to play centerfield.... Ian Desmond has matured into a very good hitter—he used to be a prospect who made a ton of errors and gave away at bats. They did a really good job staying patient with him.... Rafael Soriano gets people out as a closer. His fastball stays out of the middle of the plate, and he pitches to both sides. Everything he throws has late action.

The Lineup

2013 Projected Statistics

MANAGER DAVEY JOHNSON

Third season with the Nationals

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ROTATION W ERA WHIP K/9
RH STEPHEN STRASBURG 17 2.92 1.09 11.1
LH GIO GONZALEZ 17 3.04 1.22 8.9
RH JORDAN ZIMMERMANN 13 3.02 1.15 7.6
RH DAN HAREN 13 3.65 1.16 8.0
LH ROSS DETWILER 10 3.49 1.28 5.8
BULLPEN SV ERA WHIP K/9
RH RAFAEL SORIANO 34 2.64 1.14 8.7
RH DREW STOREN 8 2.75 1.07 8.4

NEW ACQUISITION

LINEUPS AND STAT PROJECTIONS BY ROTOWIRE.COM

The K Meter

Percentage of 2012 plate appearances that ended with a strikeout, and major league rank

BY HITTERS | 21.3% | 25TH

BY PITCHERS | 21.6% | 6TH

Best Case

See page 58. It's all there: the majors' best staff, young, proven everyday stars and the first D.C. Series title since '24.

Worst Case

Strasburg isn't up to pitching a full season and Gonzalez regresses, forcing the Nats to fight for a wild-card spot.

Ted Keith has more on the Nationals at SI.com/mlb

Modest Proposal

With the signing of Rafael Soriano, the Nationals have exceptional righthanded bullpen depth: five relievers who last year had ERAs no higher than Tyler Clippard's 3.72. But that arsenal is not matched from the left side. With Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny leaving through free agency, the team had Zach Duke battling a host of nonroster invitees in camp for bullpen roles. Rather than force an unqualified pitcher like Fernando Abad or Bill Bray onto the roster, manager Davey Johnson should run a bullpen without a lefty specialist. His top returning relievers, Clippard (against whom batters had a slash line of .200/.286/.357) and Drew Storen (.218/.284/.316) have been excellent against lefties. Duke, a starter for most of his eight-year career, can be reserved for long relief, and Johnson can get away from hyperspecialization. It's a very 1980s idea: Put your best pitchers on the mound and let them do their jobs. Johnson should know. Before matchup baseball became the norm, his Mets won the 1986 World Series with just such a bullpen.

PHOTOTOM DIPACE (SORIANO) PHOTOMITCHELL LAYTON/GETTY IMAGES (GONZALEZ)Gio-centric Orbit Strasburg will start Opening Day, but the Nats also revolve around Gonzalez: He led the NL in wins (21) and K rate (9.4 per innings). PHOTOED WOLFSTEIN PHOTO (SPAN)Denard Span

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)