The Washington Nationals had their 2012 season end in devastating fashion, coming within one out of the NLCS before surrendering four runs and the series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Judging by their activity in the off-season, it appears as though Washington is determined to move forward. With a young core, this team has the potential to be a stable force in this league for years. They won 98 games in 2012 and are once again a favorite to dominate the National League. Washington has several of the top fantasy baseball to target in drafts.
After years of hype, Bryce Harper made his MLB debut at the age of 19-years-old. The only thing that Harper didn’t show in his rookie season was his youth, as he was selected to the All-Star team and named the National League Rookie of the Year. Harper plays the game harder than anyone else which is a refreshing change for such a talented young player. The power that he showed at his age indicates that he will be one of the best power hitters of his generation. Despite still being one of the youngest players in the league, Harper plays like a season veteran and should be even better in year two.
Harper has the benefit of hitting in front of Ryan Zimmerman, one of baseball’s premier third baseman. It feels as though Zimmerman has been on top of his game for years but he’s just entering his prime at age 28. Zimmerman routinely hits 25 home runs when he’s healthy and there will be plenty of opportunities to drive in runs this season.
One of the games brightest rising stars is shortstop Ian Desmond. After showing an impressive skill set and exciting potential over his first two seasons, Desmond finally posted a breakout season. He hit .292 with 25 homers in 130 games while also stealing 21 bases and improving defensively. Desmond has quietly become a top-5 fantasy shortstop with upside.
Washington also added to one of the league’s best lineups by welcoming Denard Span. Span will take over outfield duties for the departed Michael Morse. The addition of Span and his stellar defense will shift Harper over to left field. He doesn’t offer much offensively but with plenty of big bats throughout the lineup, they can afford to carry Span strictly for his glove.
As good as their lineup is, Washington’s pitching staff is even better. The restrictions are gone for Stephen Strasburg meaning that he should compete for the title of top pitcher in the National League. If that and the second best team ERA weren’t enough, Washington added Dan Haren who incredibly figures in as their fourth starter.
Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman both posted sub-3.00 ERAs and still have many years of dominant pitching ahead of them. Gonzalez was in the running for NL Cy Young with his 21-8 record and 2.89 ERA. This rotation is stacked from top to bottom meaning that teams catching the bottom half of their rotation are still in for a long series.
Washington’s top five fantasy hitters: 1. Bryce Harper, 2. Ian Desmond, 3. Ryan Zimmerman, 4. Jason Werth, 5. Adam LaRoche
Washington’s top three fantasy pitchers: 1. Stephen Strasburg, 2. Gio Gonzalez, 3. Dan Haren
Washington projected record: 93-69