By Brad Berreman @bradberreman24 on March 12, 2014
The Washington Nationals had a disappointing 2013 season, with an 86-76 record and no postseason berth. But they did have players that fantasy baseball owners needed to pay attention to, from big names to players that produced well at traditionally shallow positions.
Here are my top five options for fantasy owners on the Nationals’ roster for this year.
Gonzalez had just 11 wins in 2013 after winning 21 games in 2012, due primarily to a lack of run support, but otherwise he was only marginally worse across the board last season. Somewhere in between the last two seasons is a reasonable projection for Gonzalez this year, and fantasy owners can certainly live with 15 wins and an ERA close to 3.00 over 200 innings along with a good strike out rate and a walk rate that won’t dampen his value.
Zimmerman needed 11 home runs in September to reach 26 home runs last season, but he may have finally been at full strength after offseason right shoulder surgery. Still, he has at least 25 home runs and 79 RBI in four of the last five seasons with at least a .275 batting average in all five campaigns. Zimmerman will not carry fantasy teams on his own, leaving last September aside, but there’s definite value in reliability.
A left knee injury bothered Harper for most of last season after he ran into the outfield wall at Dodger Stadium, but his home run (20) and RBI (58) totals only dropped slightly from his 2012 Rookie of the Year campaign (22 and 59 respectively) in 21 fewer games. With better health and more fly balls (33 percent fly ball rate in 2013), 30-35 home runs, 95-100 RBI and 15-20 steals are possible for Harper in 2014.
Desmond’s 2013 season (.280, 20 home runs, 80 RBI, 21 stolen bases and 77 runs scored) was a worthy follow-up to his 2012 breakout (.292, 25 home runs, 73 RBI and 21 stolen bases). Even with some possible regression in batting average (.336 BABIP in 2013), we are looking at a top-five fantasy shortstop here.
Strasburg had more losses (nine) than wins (eight) last season, but otherwise fantasy owners were able to extract a lot of value out of his 183 innings (3.00 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 1.05 WHIP). Health is a lingering concern, especially after offseason surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, but Strasburg has a good chance to top 200 innings for the first time in 2014 and establish himself as a fantasy ace for many years to come.
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