Senior Writer

Nationals camp report: Likes and dislikes


VIERA, Fla. -- What I like, and don't like, about the Nationals:


 Say what you want about Jayson Werth's seven-year, $126 million contract -- and plenty already have -- but two things here from the Nats' perspective. They really need buzz after disappointing attendance, and more than that, they need to get their offense moving after ranking 25th in majors at 4.02 average runs scored per game in 2010. I don't like the contract, either. But I do like that Werth can do many things -- he led the NL with 46 doubles last year, he grinds pitchers (.388 on-base percentage last year), he steals bases and he's good defensively.

Washington Nationals
Scott Miller In Philly, Jayson Werth was a 'complementary player.' Now in D.C. with a $126M deal, he's expected to lead the Nats. Is he ready? The All-Star says he 'isn't one to take a back seat.' Read More >>
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 The Nats should have a lockdown infield defense. Ryan Zimmerman is a Gold Glover at third. Ian Desmond is slick at short. Rookie second baseman Danny Espinosa is a converted shortstop with terrific range. And Adam LaRoche can pick it at first base.

 There's a better feeling in the clubhouse here than there has been in years. The players are more professional, they sense that something good is happening and they want to be a part of it. "I see this organization with a lot of younger guys and older guys who play the game the right way," says veteran Matt Stairs. "Guys running balls out, things like that." Says manager Jim Riggleman: "The players have been outstanding. There's a lot of energy in the workouts." Part of that energy includes strict attention to detail from Riggleman and his coaches. They're still building here, still installing the high expectations and teaching how to meet them. But it's coming.

 Jordan Zimmermann, 24, entering his first full season following Tommy John ligament transfer surgery. It's the same path Stephen Strasburg is on and, before Strasburg, Zimmermann was one of Washington's most highly touted pitching prospects (not to the degree of Strasburg, but. ...)


 Nyjer Morgan was a mess last summer. He says he's matured now, says things that shouldn't have bothered him but did last year are gone. He can really help this club if his head is on right. But don't expect the Nats to be nearly as patient with him as in the past. According to the modern metric Wins Above Replacement Player -- a stat that measures a player's value as it relates to the team winning -- Morgan was the eighth least valuable player in the NL in 2010.

 Bryce Harper isn't 25. He looks every bit at 18 the highly touted prospect we've all heard about. We will not see him in the majors this summer. But mark it down: We will see him before he can legally buy a drink in a bar.

 The rotation will have trouble matching up with stellar NL East rivals like Philadelphia and Atlanta. With Strasburg out for the year, there's nobody who dazzles. Ageless Livan Hernandez (3.66) is coming off of a very good year, but he's 36 (at least, that's what the program says). Veteran Jason Marquis is coming off of elbow surgery. Then there's Zimmermann and John Lannan.


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