Washington Nationals: 5 Spring Training Storylines
Top 5 Washington Nationals Spring Training Storylines
Today officially marks one month until the Washington Nationals' pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. For many reasons, this is probably their most exciting Spring Training in team history. They have a young new manager, they have addressed many issues they had in 2013, and combined with losses from their divisional rivals, the Nationals could be primed for quite a turnaround season, though an 86-win season is nothing to sneeze at.
Looking around the NL East, there has been more subtraction than addition. The Atlanta Braves have lost some key players as Brian McCann signed with the New York Yankees and Tim Hudson jumped across the country to the San Francisco Giants. Atlanta now lacks a veteran pitcher in their rotation, and is seriously relying on Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, two hitters who batted .179 and .184, respectively, to bounce back. This could be easier said than done, especially since Uggla's batting average had been on a steady decline since 2010. If not for a hot April, the Braves probably would not have run away with the division in 2013 as they floundered at a few games above .500 in May, June, July and September.
Needless to say, a slow start and inconsistent results is what mired the Nationals all through 2013. So, GM Mike Rizzo went out and tried to address as many needs as he could after putting in place a manager he believed would develop with the team. Needless to say, Washington is primed and ready to take a major step forward in 2014, so here are five of the most compelling Spring Training storylines.
5. Who Will Back Up Wilson Ramos?
Ramos could be primed for a huge year, especially considering how he finished 2013. However, Washington still needs a backup catcher, and I find it very hard to believe that the Nationals think their backup is on their roster. Washington could still sign someone, even between now and Spring Training.
4. What Kind of Manager Will Matt Williams Be?
Williams said at the Winter Meetings that he already has every day of Spring Training planned out. After a few years of easy-does-it workouts from Davey Johnson, how will Williams' different style rub the players?
3. Who Will Be Nats' Fifth Starter?
Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan and Nathan Karns could find themselves in the fray to round out Washington's rotation. After Detwiler's season ended with a back injury in 2013, Roark and Jordan really opened some eyes. This could be a major story to watch.
2. Will Denard Span Bounce Back?
Span started off slow in 2013, and is looking to prove that it was just that in 2014: a slow start. Span played sparkling center field defense in 2013, but his bat at the top of the lineup was a major question, so an offensive bounce-back year is a must.
1. Who Will Be the Backup Infielder?
Danny Espinosa, Wil Rhymes, Jamey Carroll, Zach Walters, Mike Fontenot. All of these names have chances of making the Nationals roster as the backup infielder. I would say Espinosa and Walters are the front-runners because of Espinosa's major league experience and Walters showing off power numbers in 2013. However, Washington could prefer veteran leadership and savvy in that bench role, which would make Carroll and Fontenot the two to beat.