Ryan Gaydos's 2012 Washington Nationals Preview

By Ryan Gaydos

The Washington Nationals are coming into the 2012 season as one of the youngest, fastest rising teams in Major League Baseball. The Nationals have their sights set on winning the National League East and returning to the playoffs for the first time since 1981.

The Nationals were busy this offseason. They re-signed their third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and basically solidified his future within the Nationals organization. Zimmerman only played in 101 games last season batted .289 with 12 homers and 49 RBI. If he is not injured this season, he can really put Washington over the top.

Washington made a big splash in the offseason with a big trade. They traded three prospects Derek Norris, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone and A.J. Cole to the Oakland Athletics for LHP Gio Gonzalez.

LHP Gonzalez is coming off his second straight season of 10+ wins. In 2011, Gonzalez was 16-12 with a 3.12 ERA. He averaged 8.8 K/9. He totaled 197 strikeouts as well for Oakland. Gonzalez is projected to win 14 games this season and stop the 200 strikeout mark.

Gonzalez adds to a rotation that will have Stephen Strasburg back full time. Strasburg returned to Washington last season after Tommy John surgery and started five games for Washington. He was 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA and 24 strikeouts.

To bolster their bullpen, the Nats signed Brad Lidge to a one-year deal. Lidge was in Philadelphia in 2011 and appeared in 25 games. He only recorded one save and lost his closing duties to Ryan Madson during the season.

The Nationals have a great top of the lineup and defensive core that is looking fantastic. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa both having Range Factors over 4.5. Desmond and Espinosa are looking to make a bigger name for themselves and possibly contend for Gold Gloves.

Also the team is expecting Bryce Harper to make an appearance in the majors this season. Whether or not he does remains to be seen. Anthony Rendon is the No. 2 prospect for the Nationals and could see time in the majors.

However, with all this being said, the Nationals are still a very young team and although they can compete with anyone else I still feel Washington may not be ready enough to claim the top of the NL East. My prediction is that they will finish tied for third with the Atlanta Braves in the division.

Prediction: Third NL East

Breakout Player: Michael Morse, OF

Key Addition: Gio Gonzalez, LHP

CA: Wilson Ramos
1B: Adam LaRoche
2B: Danny Espinosa
3B: Ryan Zimmerman
SS: Ian Desmond
OF: Michael Morse
OF: Jayson Werth
OF: Roger Bernadina

Pitching Rotation
SP: Stephen Strasburg
SP: Gio Gonzalez
SP: Jordan Zimmermann
SP: Edwin Jackson
SP: John Lannan

RP: Tom Gorzelanny
RP: Henry Rodriguez
RP: Ryan Perry
RP: Sean Burnett
RP: Brad Lidge
RP: Tyler Clippard
CP: Drew Storen

CA: Jesus Flores
IF: Andres Blanco
OF: Rick Ankiel
OF: Brett Carroll
UTL: Mark DeRosa

Follow Ryan Gaydos on Twitter @RyanGaydos

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