The Nats were able to avoid the NL East cellar last season with a fourth-place finish, taking a step in the right direction. Find out if they can keep climbing the ladder in Jeff Alexander’s 2008 Washington Nationals predictions and season preview for Point-Spreads.com readers. SportsBetting.com has the Washington Nationals at 100 to 1 odds to win the 2008 World Series Championship.
Starting Rotation/Bullpen – Washington didn’t do enough to upgrade a rotation whose ERA of 5.11 was second to last in the National League last season. The Nats opted to stick with their young, unproven arms in hopes of seeing some rising stars. Washington’s 2008 projected rotation combined for just 22 wins in 2007. Shawn Hill will be looked at as Washington’s number one. He is coming off ulnar nerve decompression surgery on his throwing forearm. Number two, Jason Bergmann has shown potential, but only in spurts. Unfortunately for this staff, they move into Washington’s new park which won’t be as pitcher-friendly as RFK. Matt Chico must solve control problems to be the go-to lefty on this staff. John Lannan is Washington’s reigning minor league Pitcher of the Year. He climbed all the way up from A-ball last season and could be their ace of the future. Tyler Clippard likely fills the fifth spot with a very nasty changeup in his arsenal.
Closer Chad Cordero led the majors with nine blown saves in 2007, but his 37 can’t be ignored. The guy is a bright spot out of the pen and will gain more confidence and perform better as the team performs better. Right hander John Rauch has a blistering fast ball and was third in the bigs with 33 holds in 2007. Luis Ayala hopes to build off of a successful return from Tommy John surgery and Saul Rivera proved that he can be depended on to come in and not give up the long ball. He faced 373 straight batters without allowing a round tripper. All these guys are righties and Washington will struggles at times in the pen if they can’t develop a southpaw, at least, for situational spots.
Batting Order – Shortstop Christian Guzman will lead things off for the Nats. His .380 on base percentage before enduring a torn thumb ligament gives Washington hope that they have a solid asset at the top of the order. Centerfielder Lastings Milledge will get his shot at playing every day in Washington. He brings more speed to the top of the lineup. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is the Nats’ main big bopper. He must avoid the slow start he got off to last season. He finished with 24 homeruns and 91 RBIs, but must up those numbers for the Nats to keep improving. First Baseman Dmitri Young will take the cleanup spot. He hit .320 with 13 homeruns and 74 RBIs. He brings experience and leadership to a young team, but Washington would like some bigger power numbers out of him.
Leftfielder Wily Mo Pena will get a chance to play every day for the Nats as well and I see a great deal of potential in this kid. Rightfielder Austin Kearns brings his glove to the park everyday, but he has underachieved at the plate. Still, he is one of the best power guys on this team and should benefit from a new ball park. Ronnie Belliard will likely play second base. He met all expectations and then some last season. An encore performance will help this lineup avoid the struggles it endured last season. Catcher Paul Lo Duca’s bat could also be a bonus. But he must rebound from a down year.
The most exciting this for Washington this season will be its new ballpark. The starting rotation is one of the worst in the majors and the offense has not proven that it can score on a consistent basis. While a new park figures to favor the offense, the pitching staff could suffer even more. Washington’s goal is a winning season. I don’t see it happening in 2008, but the Nats should take another small step forward.
SportsBetting.com has posted MLB odds on various 2008 Washington Nationals Predictions:
Odds to win NL East: 40/1
Odds to win 2008 NL Pennant: 50/1
Odds to win 2008 World Series: 100/1