2013 MLB preview: Washington Nationals should dominate

Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg throwing a pitch in spring training.
Stephen Strasburg is ready to lead the Washington Nationals back to the postseason. (Chuck Myers/MCT)

All eyes will be on Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg to see how he bounces back from being shut down at the end of 2012. He wasn’t too pleased with the situation and made his feelings known. He now has all of 2013 to take his frustrations out on the rest of the National League, making a strong case for the NL Cy Young along the way.

Not content  with their MLB-best record of 98-64, the Washington Nationals made a handful of moves to improve during the offseason. They acquired center fielder Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins for RHP Alex Meyer; they signed former Angels and Diamondbacks pitcher Dan Haren to a one-year contract, with expectations he will return to form and be a major contributor; and in January, they signed former Yankees closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million contract. Soriano is one of three possible closer’s for the Nationals, but will be slated as the opening-day closer.

In January, the Nationals traded away slugging first basemen/outfielder Michael Morse, to the Seattle Mariners in a three-team trade. In return, they re-acquired former prospect A.J. Cole, who was the centerpiece in the deal that landed Gio Gonzalez last season.

Washington Nationals depth chart

Washington Nationals pitching staff

Washington Nationals projected lineup

  1. Denard Span CF
  2. Bryce Harper LF
  3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
  4. Adam LaRoche 1B
  5. Jayson Werth RF
  6. Ian Desmond SS
  7. Danny Espinosa 2B
  8. Wilson Ramos C
  9. Gio Gonzalez SP

Washington Nationals prospect watch

The number-one prospect in the Nationals farm system is third basemen Anthony Rendon. He has a fantastic glove and all the tools to be an elite major leaguer. One thing that might hold him back is his injury history. Just last season, he hurt his ankle and missed several months. When Rendon is ready,  the Washington Nationals have a big decision to make: With Zimmerman entrenched at third, where will Rendon play?

Another player who has drawn interest is outfielder Brian Goodwin. He is regarded as a five-tool player, but he needs to produce more consistently. He has the potential to make the Nationals roster in 2014, and having Span only helps pace Goodwin’s development in the minor’s.

According to Keith Law of ESPN, the Nationals have the 21st-ranked farm system in the majors.

Prediction for the Washington Nationals

Expect the Washington Nationals to pick up where they left off in 2012, including a run to the NLCS and World Series. With Harper and Strasburg playing an entire season, and a reliable closer in Soriano, the Nationals could be even better this year. I look for an improvement to 103-59. The hunger from a deflating loss to the Cardinals in the NLDS should be a motivator. The Nationals are my pick to win the National League and make their first trip to the World Series.

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