With players set to report by February 25(Pitchers and Catchers on Feb 20th), the 2012 Washington Nationals enter the season with their most talented roster since moving the District of Columbia in 2005. Nationals Manager Davey Johnson enters camp at the helm for his first full season and the team hopes to ride the momentum they mustered in the 2011 season’s 2nd half to post a 80-82 record into contending status in 2012. Lets look at the areas the team will focus on in camp.
1-Outfield- The key to the entire outfield focuses on 2 players-rookie sensation Bryce Harper and 1B Adam Laroche. First, Harper. The 1 overall pick in 2010 draft can play any of the 3 outfield positions and will be given every opportunity to make the big club out of spring training. Harper hit .389 in 13 games last spring and was equally outstanding in the minors and Arizona Fall League. Ideally, with a great camp, he is your everyday right fielder. Laroche, who hit 25 homers and drove in 100 runs in 2010, is returning from major shoulder surgery that limited him to 43 games in 2011, Reports have him healthy and ready for the season, if he is good to go, 1B-OF Michael Morse(.303,31 homers, 95 rbi, team high .910 OPS) can be penciled into the left field position after taking over at 1b when Laroche went under the knife. OF Jayson Werth will start regardless of the OF alignment but whether it is in center or right is almost solely dependent on Harper’s performance. The team has resigned Rick Ankiel, who has a cannon arm and great defensive instincts in center, to join returning veteran Roger Bernadina in the competition. Long time major leaguer Mike Cameron, who at one time was the top defensive centerfielder in the game, also will be in camp as a non-roster invitee. This group and how it is aligned will go a long way in determining the success or failure of the 2012 Washington Nationals.
2- Starting rotation- Like the Outfield position, their is depth and talent present and camp(as well as health) will go along way in determining how the 5 spots are selected. I think 4 of the spots are guaranteed to be filled by righties Edwin Jackson, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman with trade acquisition Gio Gonzalez the lone southpaw. Lefties John Lannan(mentioned frequently in trade rumors) and Ross Detwiler will battle veteran right hander Chien-Ming Wang most likely for the 5th spot. But do not discount the fact that Wang, Zimmerman and Strasburg have all battled injury in recent years. Look for Johnson, who is outstanding at utilizing young pitchers, to find creative ways to maximize this talented group. Lannan’s future might also be tied into the outfield competition. If Harper does not make the big club, Washington might look to make a move to solidify the centerfield position.
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