Posted on: February 27, 2012 10:03 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 12:33 pm
By Matt Snyder
The Washington Nationals have never had a winning record. They finished 81-81 in 2005 but came in last. Then they dipped all the way down to consecutive 59-win seasons before winning 69 in 2010 and going 80-81 last season. So is 2012 the time for the first Nationals winning season -- and possibly more? Unfortunately for the Nats, they play in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Fortunately for the Nats, they are improved from last season's third-place team.
Danny Knobler's camp report: Harper decision might make all the difference | Likes, dislikes
Major additions: LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Brad Lidge
Major departures: OF Layne Nix, RHP Livan Hernandez, RHP Todd Coffey
1. Ian Desmond, SS
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Michael Morse, LF
5. Adam LaRoche, 1B
6. Danny Espinosa, 2B
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Roger Bernadina, CF
1. Stephen Strasburg
2. Gio Gonzalez
3. Jordan Zimmerman
4. Edwin Jackson
5. Chien-Ming Wang
John Lannan is also a possibility as the fifth starter, and remember Strasburg is on a 160-inning limit this season.
Closer: Drew Storen
Set-up: Tyler Clippard, Brad Lidge
Important bench players
C Jesus Flores, IF/OF Mark DeRosa, OF Rick Ankiel
Prospect to watch
C'mon. You know who. We've all been watching Bryce Harper since he was about 15, and from everything said in camp it sounds like 2012 is the year we see him in the majors. Will he break camp with the club? Only if they're ready to play him everyday, which means Werth is shoved to center. I believe the Nationals would have to be 100 percent convinced Harper was ready to star right now, otherwise there's no reason to do so -- especially since the defense would suffer as a result. More likely, an injury or underperformance opens the door sometime in May or June. Regardless, scouts collectively believe Harper is an elite-level superstar when he does stick in the majors. Anthony Rendon bears watching as well, but not to the extent of Harper.
Fantasy breakout: Jordan Zimmermann
"One could argue that in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery Zimmermann had already broken out. Last year the 25-year-old posted a 3.18 ERA and 1.15 WHIP and only an innings limit kept him from being a top 40 starting pitcher. This season, Zimmermann won't be curtailed in terms of his workload, and better yet, there is room for him to perform better even on a per-inning basis. He averaged slightly less than seven strikeouts per nine innings in 2011, not meeting the standard he set prior to his surgery but he started to miss a lot more bats over his final 10 starts. Over that span, Zimmermann got to strike three 53 times in 58 2/3 innings. With more innings and a higher K-rate likely this season, look for Zimmermann to emerge as a No. 3 starting pitcher in mixed leagues." - Al Melchior [Full Nationals fantasy team preview]
Fantasy bust Jayson Werth
"Leaving a homer-friendly ballpark in Philadelphia behind, many expected Werth to have a down year in 2011, but the worst may be yet to come. Park factors may have worked against Werth with his move to Washington but even before he signed with the Nationals he was facing a steady decline in his home run per flyball ratio. While Werth's home run power seems to be evaporating the 46 doubles he hit in 2010 was merely an outlier as he has never hit more than 26 in a season barring that one year." - Al Melchior [Full Nationals fantasy team preview]
Every player plays like he's capable and the Nationals don't have a major weakness. The offense has the potential to be strong top-to-bottom, with great starting pitching -- Edwin Jackson proving to be the best No. 4 in the league -- and a lock-down back-end of the bullpen. If everything comes together like it can, the Nationals would make the playoffs. They may not be able to win the toughest division in the National League, but with a possibility of two wild cards on the table -- seriously, Bud, how long until this is decided?!? -- there's certainly no reason to count out the Nats.
While there are good hitters in the lineup, the lack of an elite slugger in addition to a hole in center field holds the offense back. Werth's struggles bleed into 2012, Zimmerman again can't stay healthy and the pitching staff is plagued by Gonzalez's control issues and Jackson's inconsistency -- not to mention Strasburg's inning limit. Playing in the mighty NL East, the Nationals come in fourth or even last, with the Mets surprising and jumping over them.
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Tags: Adam LaRoche, Brad Lidge, Chien-Ming Wang, Danny Espinosa, Drew Storen, Edwin Jackson, Gio Gonzalez, Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth, Jesus Flores, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Mark DeRosa, Matt Snyder, Michael Morse, Nationals, NL East, Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Tyler Clippard, Wilson Ramos
Posted on: November 25, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2011 1:38 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no waivers, no minor- or major-league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams.
For years, the Minnesota Twins were the model of how to build a consistent winner in a small market. From 2001-2010, the Twins appeared in the playoffs six times and recorded just one losing season. But the wheels fell off in 2011, with a mixture of bad fortune and bad pitching. The Twins have two former MVPs in their lineup, but it would be tough to find two former MVPs who did less in 2011 than Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. Those two homegrown players were supposed to be cornerstones for the franchise, but their performance last season was more fitting a tombstone. The team's fortunes, for better or worse, will be tied to those two for the next few years.
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Michael Cuddyer, 3B
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Justin Morneau, DH
5. Torii Hunter, RF
6. Jason Kubel, LF
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Danny Valencia, 2B
9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS
1. Matt Garza
2. Nick Blackburn
3. Kevin Slowey
4. Brian Duensing
5. Anthony Swarzak
Closer - Jesse Crain
Set up - LaTroy Hawkins, J.C. Romero, Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Grant Balfour, Peter Moylan
Notable Bench Players
A.J. Pierzynski, Ben Revere, Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe.
With Ramos and Pierzynski on the roster, there's zero reason for Mauer to get anywhere near catching gear -- unless it's for another commercial. With Mauer freed of pitching duties, he can concentrate on first base and Justin Morneau doesn't have to worry about playing in the field. Even though Morneau is a very good defensive first baseman, keeping him off the field could keep him on the field. Last year he suffered concussion-like symptoms after merely diving for a ball. Limiting his risks for a recurrence of head injuries should be a top priority for the Twins, and the easiest way to do that solves the team's other big problem, getting the most out of their long-term deal with Mauer. While the Twins don't have anyone on this list with a large number of saves on their resume, there are a ton of good relievers.
It's a good thing the team has good relievers, because they're going to need them -- and even more than the seven listed above. The rotation, after Garza, is shaky. That rotation isn't going to get much help from its defense, either. The roster makeup requires several position shuffles, including Cuddyer to third, a position he's played, but is not too keen on playing. The Twins also have to put Nishioka at shortstop. Although he played there some in 2011, the team signed Jamey Carroll to play shortstop every day in 2012 for a reason.
Comparison to real 2011
Well, if you thought it couldn't get much worse in Minnesota than it did in 2011, it may with this lineup and rotation. Minnesota went 63-99 in 2011, and it probably breaks the 100-loss barrier with this squad, but don't expect them to be historically bad, so it'd probably only cost four-to-eight wins in my unscientific research. Either way, it's an ugly summer in Minneapolis.
Up next: Pittsburgh Pirates
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: A.J. Pierzynski, AL Central, Anthony Swarzak, Ben Revere, Brian Duensing, C. Trent Rosecrans, Danny Valencia, Denard Span, Glen Perkins, Grant Balfour, homegrown, J.C. Romero, Jamey Carroll, Jason Kubel, Jesse Crain, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Kevin Slowey, LaTroy Hawkins, Luke Hughes, Matt Garza, Michael Cuddyer, Nick Blackburn, Pat Neshek, Peter Moylan, Torii Hunter, Trevor Plouffe, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Twins, Wilson Ramos
Posted on: November 18, 2011 4:17 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Ramos came to Washington DC to visit with team doctors and front office personnel following his kidnapping last week in his native Venezula.
"It was great, seeing him happy," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said in a news conference (via the Washington Post.) "He had a big smile on his face like he usually does. We sat down, relaxed, talked baseball. It'll be all baseball from here on out."
Rizzo said the doctors told him Ramos was in "terrific" shape. He also said the team wouldn't prevent their Venezuelan-born players from playing winter ball in the country. Ramos is scheduled to play for Tigres de Aragua.
"I had no second thoughts," Rizzo said. "He plays for his country, in his country. He's very prideful about his country, and he feels safe there. He plays for his country. He plays in front of his family. We can't ask him not to do that."
Ramos didn't take questions at the news conference, but did make a brief statement (via MASNSports.com): "I just want to say, 'Thanks, Nats fans, for your prayers and your support.' I'm happy to be here. I'm happy to be with my family, and see you in spring training."
And speaking as a baseball fan, it was great to see Ramos and we can't wait to see him safe and sound in spring training.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 1:35 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Francisco, 24, was unharmed after the robbery. Playing winter ball for Licey in the Dominican winter league, Francisco left to visit his parents after Tuesday's game and when he stopped to eat in Villa Altagracia, four men robbed him.
This, of course, is a bigger deal because it comes on the heels of the kidnapping of Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos in Venezuela last week that highlighted the problem of player safety in Latin America.
H/T to MLB.com.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 13, 2011 5:37 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2011 5:37 pm
By Evan Brunell
Despite recently being abducted by kidnappers and safely rescued by police this past week, Wilson Ramos intends to suit up for a Venezuelan baseball team on Wednesday, MASN writes.
Citing a tweet from Ramos' PR representative, Marfa Mata, Ramos will make his winterball debut on Wednesday and intends to play in at least a few games to show the fans his appreciation for their support during his abduction.
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Posted on: November 12, 2011 3:16 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2011 3:21 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Despite the recent kidnapping of Wilson Ramos, the Giants are not asking star third baseman Pablo Sandoval to cancel his trip to his native Venezuela next month, Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Sandoval is expected to go to Venezuela on Dec. 10 and play 10 games for Navegantes de Magallanes near his hometown of Puerto Cabello.
"We are aware of the situation (with Ramos)," Giants vice president Bobby Evans told Baggarly. "Everyone is cautious about the safety of their players."
Sandoval tweeted late Friday, celebrating Ramos' safe return home:
Kidnapping has been an epidemic in Venezuela, even though Ramos said he believed his kidnappers to be Columbian.
Former big league pitcher Scot Drucker is playing for the same team in Venezuela as Ramos, the Tigres de Aragua. He's currently blogging about his winter league experience in Venezuela. Friday, before Ramos was found, Drucker blogged about the situation.
Many friends and family members asked me about the team and my safety. The team and front office staff goes over and beyond with team security. We have about 8-12 armed guards who travel with us on the planes and buses. We also have police escorts to and from the fields. I know the import players feel safe.
Drucker also tweeted about his experiences after the news broke that Ramos had been rescued:
Posted on: November 11, 2011 9:43 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2011 11:51 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos is "safe and sound" after being kidnapped on Wednesday, Venezuelan justice minister Tareck El Aissami said on state television Friday night.
"I don't know who those people were. I know they're Colombians by their accent," Ramos said. "Three guys grabbed me there in front of my house, they took me to another SUV and from there they took me into the mountains," in central Carabobo state.
Wilson said the kidnappers didn't say much to him -- "They simply told me to cooperate, that they were going to ask for a ton of cash for me."
"They put me in a room with a bed. I was lying there," he said. "It was hard for me to think about, if I was going to get out alive first of all ... about how my family, my mother were."
The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore tweets that Ramos spoke to his relatives on the phone and his mother, Maria Campos, said he told her, "Mama, I'm fine. Mama I'm, good. The freed me. They rescued me. ... I love you."
Wilson's teammate with Tigres de Aragua, Scot Drucker, tweeted that it was announced during Friday's game that Ramos had been found and was greeted by cheers. The news was announced at all of the games in Venezula on Friday.
Posted on: November 11, 2011 10:00 am
By Matt Snyder
Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was abducted in Venezuela Wednesday night. Many are expecting the kidnappers to be seeking a hefty ransom, but Ramos' family has still heard nothing from the assailants, 36 hours after the abduction took place (MASNSports.com).
One report from Thursday indicated the kidnappers could be part of a very savvy criminal organization and it's possible they'd be seeking upwards of $20 million for his safe return (SI.com). The scary part there is Ramos doesn't have anywhere close to that. He made $415,000 in his rookie season in 2011. There are deeper pockets in play, though. The Venezuelan government and Major League Baseball's Department of Investigations are on the case, and there's word even the FBI will become involved, even though Ramos isn't an American citizen (MASNSports.com).
It's entirely possible Ramos' relatively low salary is the reason the family hasn't heard anything from the kidnappers; that maybe if it's an organized crime group to blame, they're shooting to get a big payday from the MLB -- which could more than afford to pay.
Thursday, Venezuelan authorities found the vehicle that is believed to be the one used to kipnap Ramos. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like a huge lead, because it was reportedly a stolen vehicle.
All reports indicate Ramos is still alive, but the longer the situation draws out, the scarier it gets.
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