Since there is very little to talk about coming out of Spring Training (I know we could all write pages about Thurston vs. Conrad ) I thought we should look at our "enemies" in the division.
2B - Adam Kennedy
C - Ivan Rodriguez
SP - Jason Marquis
RP - Matt Capps
RP - Brian Brunney
The Offense - The Nationals have a quality offense with speedster Nyjer Morgan at the top of the order and big boppers in the middle (Dunn, Zimmerman and Willingham). They also added solid players that will help compliment their stars, adding Adam Kennedy was the good move putting quality bat in front of the meat of the order and adding some speed. The other plus was Ian Desmond beating out Guzman adding very good defense and a better potential bat as Guzman has only really had 2 good seasons.
The only real holes in the lineup appear to be Ivan Rodriguez and Justin Maxwell. Rodriguez's bat overall has really fallen but that is to be expected of a catcher his age and with the rest of the lineup the Nationals can afford to carry a below average bat like Pudge. Willie Harris is the projected opening day RF and while I like the type of person he is (do anything to help the team) he isn't anything special.
The Defense - The Nationals have a very good defense built around key guys like Zimmerman, Kennedy and Morgan. Desmond should be an upgrade over Guzman and while Harris' arm isn't strong at all he has good range and should get to a lot of balls. As for Pudge it is hard to truly gauge how good a catcher he still is and while he isn't throwing out %50 of runners anymore he still comes in with an impressive CS % around 30 the last 3 years.
The only blemishes on an otherwise great defensive face are Willingham and Dunn. While Willingham considering he is replacing Dunn he might look like Willie Mays in LF, so while he isn't good it is still an upgrade. Dunn at 1B isn't really a solution to his bad defense but it will help hide the problem a little better then him patrolling LF, he might cause a few headaches but I have to believe he will cause less runs for the opponents at 1B then LF.
The Middle Relief - The Nationals have a very nice bullpen, built around guys like Burnett, Bergmann and Clippard. Burnett is a very nice lefty out of the pen, Bergmann failed as a starter but appears to have found a nice little spot in the pen but to be fair he isn't great by any means and Clippard had a great year in '09 and will look to carry that into '10 season. Brian Bruney looks to be the setup man and is a quality player but hasn't really worked a lot of innings so it should be interesting to see if his workload will remain the same.
The even better news is the fact that Drew Storen could be up this season making a good bullpen into a potential great one.
Starting Pitching - The Nationals Starting Pitching isn't terrible but it likely won't be good either. The two pitchers in the rotation that are solid are Lannan and Marquis but neither are stars and both are at best solid 3rd or 4th starters on good teams.
Ugly is all I have to say about the projected final 3 starters. Craig Stammen starts off the parade of bad pitching, at his best Stammen a fringe starter with his low strikeout rate and with an average GB % he isn't great. He could give the team a sub 5.00 ERA but that is far from a certain. 79-Year Old Livan Hernandez is next with his plus 4.50 ERA, nothing complicated about Hernandez as he walks to many, gives up to many hits, doesn't get enough strikeouts, can't keep the ball on the ground and thus gives up to many HRs, their is just nothing good to talk about when you look at Hernandez. Scott Olsen (not completely sure about this) is the final head case to grab a spot, Olsen still hasn't tapped into any of his potential yet still getting hit around, giving up to many walks and struggling to keep the ball in the park.
Nationals fans shouldn't lose hope though as this weakness could easily become a strength in a few months. The possible additions of uber prospect Strasburg could quickly turn the pitching staff around, not to mention the possible returns of Detwiler, Jordan Zimmermann and Chien-Ming Wang (though he isn't a sure thing) could make this rotation one of the best up and coming in Major League Baseball.
The Closer - I like Capps (even suggested the Braves trade for him this past offseason) but I don't like him as a closer. When Capps is on he is a lockdown guy but when he is off he is not someone I want out there. Capps has potential but I would not feel comfortable with him as my teams closer going into the season.
The Nationals are actually a pretty decent team but I doubt they can compete this year. This is a team that will be a contender in the future but this year I expect another last place finish though one much closer then previous years.
Prediction - 60 to 70 Wins
Up Next - The New York Mets
Edit :: Garrett Mock has been named the 5th starter instead of Olsen, the impact is low though. Mock has good stuff but his history as a starter has been at best mixed, the good news for Nationals fans is that his most recent stint as a starter in the minors he has been successful but his stint as a starter in the majors wasn't as successful. If he can find command of his pitches he could be a good starter but his presence does not upgrade them enough to change my opinion of them.