The Washington Nationals will be back. The team that won 98 games and the 2012 NL East championship has been built to last. Washington will be a post season contender and challenge for a championship for at least the next five years.
Instead of going for the quick fix and signing high priced free agents Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo built a team from the ground up. By using his draft picks well and building a quality farm system he created competition for jobs and brought a young group of players to Washington that can play. Almost all of them are in their mid-twenties and barring injury should be around for a while.
When manager Davey Johnson looks at his roster he sees a good blend of pitching, hitting and defense. The Nationals had very few weaknesses in 2012 and all of them can be strengthened with experience. The scary part is that this team has not reached its full potential.
Washington has an infield that consists of four men who could be together for a while. They are second baseman Danny Espinosa, shortstop Ian Desmond, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and catcher Kurt Suzuki. If the Nationals opt to they can replace Suzuki with the man he replaced Wilson Ramos. Ramos was the starting catcher before suffering a knee injury in May.
Add veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche to the mix and Washington has one of the best infields in baseball.
Though it does not have a true center fielder the Nationals outfield can hold its own as well. Bryce Harper has the center field job for now and is flanked by Jayson Werth in right and Michael Morse in left. Werth may be the only one capable of winning a Gold Glove for now, but Harper may some day. Morse is adequate enough and swings a potent bat.
Speaking of hitting, Washington can throw out a lineup that can beat a team top to bottom. Werth leads off and is followed by Harper, Zimmerman, LaRoche, Morse, Desmond, Espinosa and Suzuki. Each is good at putting the ball in play and all can hit one deep from time to time.
The Nationals can look to their bench and bring in quality as well. Steve Lombardozzi, Roger Bernadina, Chad Tracy and Tyler Moore can all be called on for defense and to pinch hit.
The pitching staff is still evolving. Stephen Strasburg is expected to be at full strength in 2013. He will join Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler in the rotation. The fifth spot will be up for grabs with Edwin Jackson and John Lannan fighting for it.
Though not always consistent the bullpen should be better as well. Two closers in Tyler Clipard and Drew Storen will return. Late call up Christian Garcia may help Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen and Sean Burnett bridge the gap between starter and closer. Washington may trade one or two pitchers if they can get something good in return.
There is no use in looking back at the 2012 season. It is over. Now is the time to look forward to 2013 and beyond.
The future looks bright for the Nationals. Washington has been built for the long haul.
They will be back.