I’ve seen several sites do this little segment here, so hey, why not, right? These predictions are in no particular order, so 1-5 isn’t really significant. Ok, lets go!
1. The Nationals will finish 3rd in the NL East:
Only once in their six year history did Washington not occupy the basement in their division (a 4th place finish in 2007). Their best record was 81-81 in their inaugural campaign and that was still last because every other team finished with a winning record. Well, this year is going to change. With a much-improved defense and the key of two returning starting pitchers, the Nats can and will turn some heads in 2011. Not only will they play better, two of their rivals, the Mets and the Marlins, will have poor seasons which will contribute to this happening. Keep in mind that 3rd place doesn’t necessarily mean a record over .500.
2. Adam LaRoche will have more home runs and RBI than Jayson Werth:
This isn’t a crazy pick if you look purely at the numbers. Over the past three seasons, LaRoche has the advantage over Werth in RBIs twice and home runs once. But when you look at all they hype Werth got during the offseason about signing that mega contract that has ruined baseball salaries for the next decade, it would be a shock to the general public. It’s amazing what name recognition does in sports as players people know are generally overrated and considered better than players who aren’t noticed by everyone. Here’s a fun tidbit to keep in mind: Last season, Werth got to face Nationals pitching 18 times. Now, he’ll have to face Phillies pitching 18 times. Yes, that same Phillies pitching where critics are saying could be the greatest rotation ever. LaRoche has been consistent with power for awhile now and Werth has had three solid seasons. The ballpark and lineup definitely inflated those numbers and Werth may very well have a poor 2011.
3. Ian Desmond will win a Gold Glove at shortstop:
Woah, Ian Desmond? That same guy who had 34 errors last season? How in the world will he win a Gold Glove? Well, for one, he now has a full year of experience under his belt. Rookies are under a lot of pressure and in some cases, every game could be their last, knowing that some have a short leash. A second reason is the improving defender that’ll join Des in the middle, Danny Espinosa. With all due respect to Adam Kennedy, Espi is a much better defender than you are. Lately, Gold Gloves haven’t been given to elite defenders, but good defenders with elite offensive numbers, which is wrong. Desmond could threaten 20/20 this year and will hit better than the .269 that he accumulated last year. Finally, the biggest reason is the before-mentioned Adam LaRoche. He’ll save a handful of throwing errors with picks that Adam Dunn would never be able to make. Look for Desmond to be in the low-20s in regards to errors, possibly under 20. Crazy, I know, but look at the title of this!
4. Bryce Harper nor Stephen Strasburg will play in the majors in 2011:
Ok, maybe this is a safer pick because I don’t want to get my butt whipped by something posted on the internet, but truth be told, I really hope this is the case. We all know about these two players for quite some time and both have been called the best two prospects in awhile. Harper will start in Single-A and at only 18 years old, it’s very unlikely the Nats will rush him up and get him overconfident. Strasburg may have a tiny chance at making it back from Tommy John surgery in September, but why rush him? They typically could because we all know when his arbitration years are over, he’ll be a Yankee, Red Sox, or Phillie, but why damage potentially 4 years of success in DC? Hopefully, GM Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman do the right thing and hold these two gems back until they are completely ready to compete at the major league level, whether it’s skill-wise or health-wise.
5. Jordan Zimmermann will have 200 strikeouts.
Let me first say that this Zimmermann (with two Ns) is a pitcher, so the futility of a batter striking out 200 times is thrown out the window. The 24-year old is also coming back from Tommy John surgery and the former 2nd round pick of the Nats in 2007 is ready to prove he’s ready for the big time. He pitched nearly 100 innings in 2009 and struggled at the tail end of last season, but his stuff and minor league numbers indicate a high strikeout total is in order. Remember that the Nationals have never really had a strikeout pitcher (besides Strasburg) as their team record is John Patterson with 185 during their first season. In fact, that was the only season in these six years that the team leader had more than 120 Ks. Twice, the team has failed to have any pitchers with 100 Ks, which by the way, is half of the total I’m expecting from this That would mean the other three seasons, the leader was between 100-120 punchouts. Strikeouts are nice, but lets first hope that J-Zimm could log some innings.