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One man's Nationals roster guess and links

One full week into their Grapefruit League schedule, the Nationals are still looking for their first win. That's not the worst news this spring, and General Manager Mike Rizzo doesn't worry at all about the spring training record. In the standings, the Nationals are the only team without a victory. With John Lannan going three innings today against the Astros, that could change soon.

But the record isn't what matters, at least not yet. The Nationals want to shape their roster and ensure their regulars head north ready for the season. With that in mind, after one week of games, here's one educated crack at the 25-man roster:

John Lannan: The only question is if he starts on Opening Day ...

Jason Marquis: ... or if he does. It's likely going to be Lannan.

Scott Olsen: He says his surgically repaired shoulder will be ready. He got hit hard in his first outing, but he said he still feels good.

Livan Hernandez: Livo will soak up innings and school the kids on the links until Stephen Strasburg and the arbitration clock are good and ready.

Matt Chico: Could just as easily be Garrett Mock or J.D. Martin, but Chico has started 30-plus games in a season before.

Tyler Clippard: A lefty specialist in disguise, he held lefties to a .122 average last year.

Brian Bruney: He'll bring some intensity to the eighth inning.

Matt Capps: The likely closer has been shaky so far in three outings, but neither he nor Jim Riggleman has expressed concern.

Sean Burnett: Right-handers actually had more trouble against him than lefties; they hit .176 against him, compared to .186 for lefties.

Jason Bergmann: The Nationals' career strikeout leader, with 297. (Livo is second with 263.)

Miguel Batista: He was better than you may have thought last year for Seattle; he had a 106 ERA+ in 56 appearances. Plus he can start in a pinch.

Craig Stammen: Tough spot to call. Could be Tyler Walker or Ron Villone, who Riggleman loves having around. Stammen, like Batista, can start in a pinch. Given the uncertainty of Olsen's health, the Nationals may want two long relievers to avoid an early-season innings crunch against vicious schedule.

UPDATE, 11:08: I should have explained leaving Drew Storen off. I actually had him on and then changed my mind at the last minute. I still think they're going to want to start him in the minors, the thinking the same as with Stephen Strasburg despite Storen's minors experience last year. I'll say this; If the decision comes down to who the seven best relievers are and nothing else, Storen makes it without question.

Ivan Rodriguez: They're going to miss Jesus Flores on offense.

Adam Dunn: Will the full-time shift to first base affect his remarkable offensive consistency?

Adam Kennedy: So quiet and steady you sometimes forget he's there.

Ryan Zimmerman: Somewhat overlooked since Strasburg's arrival, he's going to be one of the game's best players.

Cristian Guzman: All things being equal, Ian Desmond might be the better choice by the end of spring. Guzman's $8 million salary means all things aren't equal.

Josh Willingham: The Nationals know exactly what they're getting every day.

Nyjer Morgan: One of baseball's best sparkplugs as long as he remembers to slide feet first.

Elijah Dukes: He knows it's a make-or-break season for him.

Wil Nieves: With Jesus Flores out for the foreseeable future, Nieves is the man behind Pudge.

Willie Harris: Any team would be happy to have a lefthanded bat who plays everywhere as their super-utility man.

Mike Morse: At 27, through 392 plate appearances, Morse has a 106 OPS+. At 25, through 430 plate appearances, Jayson Werth had a 105 OPS+. Mike Rizzo knew that when he traded for Morse.

Ian Desmond: He's probably been the Nationals best player during the first week of games. He could challenge for the starting shortstop role, but either way the Nationals will find him enough at-bats.

Roger Bernadina: Unable to swing with his broken ankle, Bernadina became a better bunter this offseason.

Elsewhere, Jim Riggleman answered some questions. The Nationals get the Deadspin preview treatment. Here's more on that rough start.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 11, 2010; 8:59 AM ET
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Next: Eddie Guardado among first Nationals cuts


Guadardo is not an option as he was cut this morning. Zuckerman posted the story saying, "Veteran reliever Eddie Guardado was one of several players cut from big-league camp this morning " at 8:54 this morning- before this was posted (saying that Guadardo is an option in the bullpen).

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | March 11, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Just can't put Desmond on the bench: got to get him into the starting lineup so that he gets the everyday experience. With that experience this year, he'd be more than ready to support next year's young rotation of Lannan, Strasburg, Zimmermann, Detwiler.

Posted by: joemktg1 | March 11, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

"Josh Willingham: The Nationals know exactly what they're getting every day."

Exactly. And that's another big problem for the bottom-feeding Nats.

Posted by: JohnRDC | March 11, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

It does seem like the only competition / decisions for the 25 man roster is one SP spot (unless Olsen stops progressing), two bench spots (Nieves, Harris and Morse are locks), and the last bullpen spot.

Rotation is below average.
Bullpen is below average.
Bench is below average.

We deserve better.
SP help may be on the way in June.
Storen may be here in June.

But these 25 guys can not win 75 games.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 11, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I know it's not a stellar lineup on paper, but these Nats are going to be the best version we've seen yet. Guzman needs to go. Aside from that, the infield is solid. Here's hoping that Desmond continues pushing for time or the outright start at short. Plus, I'd much prefer Kennedy in the two spot in the lineup to the free swinging Guzman. And so long as Morgan stays healthy, he may score 100 runs for us this season with Zim and Dunn at 3 and 4. If Dukes finally becomes the player he should be (not holding my breath on this one), we could have one of the better offenses in the league. We'll at least hit 70+ wins this season and I won't be surprised at 80.

Posted by: dlwjunior | March 11, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I think Storen will take that last spot in the bullpen. There's no need for what amounts to three long relievers (Bergmann, Batista and Stammen). The spot was Walker's spot to lose, and he's already lost it. Storen has been through the minors, doesn't need to worry about innings counts and probably has the best stuff of anyone on the list. He'll get plenty of opportunities to learn in the big leagues.

Posted by: jcj5y | March 11, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Storen might earn the spot, but I doubt he'll get it. Business reasons dictate that he spend a couple months in the minors to defer his free agency another year. It's just the way MLB ready prospects are brought along nowadays, by the Nats and everyone else.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 11, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

I'd also put a small bet on Storen being in the pen for opening day.

Posted by: Kev29 | March 11, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I think Storen, Stras and Desmond start the year in the minors and I'm OK with that for the long term direction of the franchise. Makes business sense. Still think this lineup is better then last years.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 11, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

If they're having the sense to start Strasburg in the minors, let's hope that extends to Desmond, too. If we're really lucky, Guz goes on a tear, we can ship him out and bring up Desmond later in the season to play every day. Or Guz goes down (not to wish ill, but...) and we can bring up Desmond to play every day. Or Guz gets attacked by a bear and we can bring up Desmond to play every day...

Posted by: neato_torpedo | March 11, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I agree with jcj5y. Batista should serve as backup at Syracuse with Storen in the bullpen. Unlike Strasberg, Storen's had his 3 months in the minors to get adjusted to professional baseball life. He has a terrific mindset and is ready.

Olsen will need some time in Syracuse to get his timing back. People under-estimate the toll arm surgery takes on a pitcher. I see Martin in the rotation to start the season.

So, in terms of SP, the Nats are in an interesting place overall, a very weak SP staff to start, but by July 1, this may be a staff to be reckoned with. Lannon, Marquis, Strasberg, Detweiler, Olsen, Wang if things progress, and possibly Chico gives them a very competitive staff. The real surprise will be Detweiler - he has great stuff, took the big NL-ready step last fall, and his injury is not arm-related.

Two predictions: (1) Desmond is the starting SS; (2) Morse and Bernadina take over in a platoon from Dukes in RF by mid-May.

Last thing: The Nats, without Rodriguez and Marquiz, AGonzalez as their nearly full-time 2B (ouch), Guzman at SS, Morgan injured for the last 2 months, and a decent manager at the helm, approached a 425 winning percentage (36-49) after July 1. With the new additions, Morgan for an entire season, Desmond at SS, and a bunch of possibilities for the SP staff in June, crazy at it seems, the Nats will end up over .500 and may even battle for a wild-card late in the season.

Posted by: hersheyman | March 11, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I'd put money on Guzman against the bear...

Posted by: BinM | March 11, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Forgot to add that the Nats will have a solid 2B (Kennedy) as well.

Posted by: hersheyman | March 11, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I won't begin to guess on the starting rotation except for Lannan and Marquis.

I am with you 100% with the starting and bench position players.

I liked this in your analysis as I wasn't aware of Bernadina has worked on his bunting skills----glad to hear it!
Roger Bernadina: Unable to swing with his broken ankle, Bernadina became a better bunter this offseason.

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 11, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Is there something wrong with Garrett Mock?

Mock has shown some ability to be a big league pitcher. 7.1 k/9 is not elite but it's respectable. He walks a few too many. The 114 hits in 91.1 IP would be worrysome until you see his .360 BABIP. Given a normal BABIP of .300 he would have given up only 92 hits facing 422 batters with equal k/BB numbers. Now that's something we can build on.

He's better than anyone not named Lannan or Marquis who are in the running for a rotation spot. So why the Scott Olsen love? He was pretty good at 22 and has been vacillating between mediocre and suck since. Livan! and Chico? If they pitch as well as can be expected, they will be replacement level. More likely they will just be huge ERA-inflaters.

Mock won't be an all-star but he seems to be the best bet of the current crop to post an ERA+ over 100.

Posted by: traderkirk | March 11, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Flores' continued problems are very troubling. This year's team isn't going anywhere, but I wonder if the Nats are comfortable with having Pudge as the starter and Nieves (or some other cast-off) backing him up next year. If Flores is shut down again -- and I fear that's where this is headed (sounds like Nicky J all over again) -- will the Nats try to fast track Norris through the minors, getting him ready to play next year? Seems unlikely, which means the Nats will be shopping next year.

Posted by: fischy | March 11, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I'll hedge by bets & make a 25-man roster call on St. Patrick's day - That way, I have the benefit of another full pass through the starters, and if I'm wrong, I'll just claim I was celebrating too much. Brilliant!

Posted by: BinM | March 11, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

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