While the Washington Nationals had a down year in 2013, they have to enter 2014 as one of the favorites in the National League.
From a fantasy angle, they have a lot of big names. But what can owners expect from the Nats this season.
Projected 2014 Nationals Offense
|1. Denard Span||CF||30||L||556||70||4||43||18||.277|
|2. Ryan Zimmerman||3B||29||R||560||81||22||79||5||.280|
|3. Bryce Harper||LF||21||L||563||98||26||73||17||.276|
|4. Jayson Werth||RF||35||R||478||70||21||62||9||.282|
|5. Adam LaRoche||1B||34||L||478||59||21||62||2||.248|
|6. Ian Desmond||SS||28||R||600||77||19||74||22||.267|
|7. Wilson Ramos||C||26||R||415||49||17||62||0||.273|
|8. Anthony Rendon||2B||24||R||481||59||12||53||1||.264|
- Crackerjack Fantasy Options: Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, Wilson Ramos.
I guess it should be noted that all of these guys possess value. Denard Span can get you some steals, but not enough to make up for what he lacks in other categories. Similarly, Adam LaRoche can hit the long ball, but doesn’t provide much value outside of that. Anthony Rendon has nice potential, but looks to have long-term value. I’m not sure he’s polished enough to bring great value in 2014. As for the other guys.
– Zimmerman: While not the potentially dominant player that he once was, Ryan Zimmerman is easily a Top-5 third baseman. I’d definitely take Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre over him. I’d also give David Wright the edge over Zimmerman but that’s about it. Zimmerman will bring good to above-average production in runs, homers, RBI, and batting average.
– Harper: A little more on Bryce Harper in a little bit. For now, just remember that he’s only 21 this year and has all of the tools to be a star in every single category.
– Werth: Consider anything more than 120 games out of Jayson Werth a positive, but he’s still a reliable hitter for both power and average, should score plenty of runs in a deep lineup, and won’t kill you in steals. He’s getting up there in age, but brings good fantasy value, as long as you don’t reach above his ADP.
– Desmond: Let’s let the numbers do the talking.
Ian Desmond: 2012-2013
I’ll let you go ahead and decide whether to round up or round down, but I’d like to see the fantasy team that could turn those down. Remember that Ian Desmond is only 28. Even if he regresses a bit (as projected above), he’s still one of the top shortstops in the game.
– Ramos: Given his of his history of missing time, I certainly wouldn’t reach for Wilson Ramos in your draft. Having said that, I wouldn’t reach for someone like Wilin Rosario either, as Ramos will be a nice guy to have in the later rounds.
Projected 2014 Nationals Pitching
- Crackerjack Fantasy Options: All of the above
– Strasburg: He definitely has potential to be as dominant as any pitcher in the game. Stephen Strasburg prevents hits, doesn’t walk guys, and strikes guys out. The problem is that he still hasn’t hit 200 innings in a season yet, so I do worry about how he’ll handle getting extended.
The potential is there and Strasburg is certainly a top fantasy arm, but if you draft him to be your top arm, be sure your offense can carry you if need be. I’d like a fantasy rotation a lot more with Strasburg as the No. 2 arm, or at least another like him.
– Gonzalez: While Gio Gonzalez can get a little walk heavy, his history has shown that 2013 is about as bad as you can expect. I wouldn’t expect him to be an ace like 2012 again, but the worst-case scenario still had Gio just miss being a Top-40 pitcher in 2013. Don’t reach for him, but don’t let Gio fall below his ADP, either.
— Zimmermann: Kind of the opposite as Gonzalez above. Jordan Zimmermann is coming off of a career year so you can expect some regression, but his walk-rate gives you a virtually guaranteed good WHIP. Not a great strikeout guy, but you could do a lot worse and if you pair him and a guy like Gio together, you’re well on your way to a top rotation.
– Fister: The National League, specifically the National League East, will be great for Doug Fister. He can be hit, but Fister has phenomenal control and like Zimmermann, the K rate isn’t great, but not bad either. I’d call Fister one of the more underrated guys in baseball. He was surrounded by stars in the rotation with the Tigers, and that certainly won’t change here. But while he is around bigger names, Fister can easily be a Top-3 arm on a fantasy champion. Maybe even Top-2 in a deep enough league.
– Soriano: More on him later. Just remember that Rafael Soriano has saved 42 or more games in three out of the last four seasons, and the only exception came in a year where he was setting up for Mariano Rivera. You will get saves with Soriano, but how much else?
- Fantasy Star: Bryce Harper
This was a contest between Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman and as good as Zimmerman is, Harper just has too much overall potential. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him go 20/20 and on this team, he’ll score and drive in plenty of runs from either the two or three spot in the order. I’d like the average to be better, but again, he’s only 21 and really still learning how to be a major leaguer.
As good as this team is, Harper’s the only guy I see with Top-10 overall potential.
- Fantasy Bust: Rafael Soriano
Yes, Rafael Soriano is good for about 40 saves, as long as he stays the closer. Why the caveat? Because Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen both have closing experience, and it doesn’t stop there. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Grant Balfour may be coming to town, although he also says that Storen may be on the way out.
But wait, there’s more. Per the same Rosenthal article:
The Nats almost certainly do not want Soriano to pitch enough games to vest his $14 million option for 2015.
So, what would that mean? According to Baseball Reference, the Nats would owe Soriano $14 million in 2015 if he finishes 120 games between 2013 and 2014 — his 2013 total was 58, so you’d have to think that they’ll be conservative with him.
Lastly, while the save totals have been exceptional, Soriano has an ERA of 3.01, a WHIP of 1.221, and a K rate of under one an inning over the last three years. Not bad, but a little more ordinary than other closers.
There are just too many risks/outside factors for Soriano. If he closes all year, he’s good for 40 saves. But, I don’t think he’ll close all year, and he won’t dominate the other categories anywhere near enough.
- Prospect Watch: Anthony Rendon
Maybe a bit cheap, as Anthony Rendon played just under 100 games for the big club last year, but this team is too good and most of the other top prospects aren’t looking to make the show for another year or two.
Rendon has talent but as I said above, I’m just not sure he’ll bring a ton of 2014 value. That said, go for him in keeper leagues and put him on the active roster if he heats up towards the end of the year.
- Fantasy Sleeper: Tyler Clippard
In direct contrast to Rafael Soriano above, Tyler Clippard probably won’t get many save opportunities, but his ERA, WHIP, and K rates will make him a good MRI option for you. Keep him in mind towards the end of your drafts, or even in free agency afterwards.
- Final Thoughts
This team is loaded. They definitely disappointed last year, but they’ll be back as one of the NL’s best this year. From a fantasy angle, this team has value up and down the roster, both on offense and defense. You’ll have to look hard to find a team with more guys who have value in any format, especially in the National League.
- Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Profiles: Ian Desmond
- Fantasy Baseball Outfield Player Profiles: Jayson Werth
- Doug Fister Nationals: Move to DC Makes Pitcher More Fantasy Relevant
- Bryce Harper: Evaluating OF’s 2014 Fantasy Value