7 Washington Nationals Storylines to Follow During Spring Training
Washington Nationals: Spring Training Storylines to Follow
We are just days away from the official start of the 2014 MLB season. Well, that is, if you count Spring Training, which I certainly do. At any rate, baseball is soon to be back!
As teams head south to sunny Florida to play some preseason baseball, they take with them plenty of storylines that should be followed. Positional matchups, new faces, changes to the way they do things are all things that each fan should keep an eye on.
The Washington Nationals are no different. After the way their 2013 season underwhelmed fans, 2014 is a chance to redeem themselves. They’ve reloaded and brought in a new manager in Matt Williams. They return the same lineup and have added a few notable names via free agency and trades.
For the Nationals, pitchers and catchers will report on February 15 and the full squad will join them five days later on February 20. Eight days later on February 28, Washington will begin their Spring Training schedule against the New York Mets.
On the following slides, you’ll find seven storylines that you should following during Washington Nationals’ Spring Training. In this list, you’ll find specific players and positional battles that you need to be aware of. Along with all that, you’ll find some general things that you should stow away in the back of your baseball-loving mind.
Some people think that Spring Training can be just as boring or pointless as the NFL’s preseason, but I would disagree. When you really break things down and take a closer look, Spring Training in MLB is a very intriguing part of the league’s calendar.
The Nats will welcome Nate McLouth, Doug Fister and Jerry Blevins as the three most notable new faces in Spring Training. There should be some pretty good buzz surrounding them. You’ll also find some not-so well known names. I’m talking about minor league invites like Mike Fontenot and Jamey Carroll. When you look at the list of true-blue minor leaguers, Sammy Solis, Brian Goodwin, A.J. Cole and Matt Skole highlight that list of names to watch.
6. Backup Catcher
Wilson Ramos is pretty well set in stone as the team’s starting catcher. However, a three-way war will be waged to be his backup. Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano and Chris Snyder will all be at Spring Training trying to win the backup job. Leon and Solano both have experience in the majors while Snyder has been primarily a minor leaguer. I think it will come down to either Leon or Solano, but it should be an interesting position battle to watch either way.
5. The Fifth Starting Pitcher
The Nationals have locked in their first four starting pitching spots. What about the fifth? It seems as though it could be Ross Detwiler’s to lose. However, young gun Taylor Jordan and veteran Ross Ohlendorf could give him a run for his money.
4. Second Base
There’s a pretty interesting battle brewing at second base. Danny Espinosa is returning from the minors to battle with Anthony Rendon to get his spot back. Last season, it was poor hitting and an injury that doomed Espinosa. He’s healed and Mike Rizzo still has confidence in him. What about Rendon? He can hit, but he’s not as good defensively as Espinosa. Who will win the job?
3. The Bullpen
Entering the offseason, the Nationals were severely lacking a left-handed reliever, but relieved (see what I did there?) that problem by acquiring Jerry Blevins. Along with him, there are some other names waiting to get their turn. Sammy Solis, Xavier Cedeno and Christian Garcia all have potential to be notable relievers. You also can’t forget about the veterans like Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen and Drew Storen. The bullpen struggled last season. Who will step up this year?
2. The Matt Williams Way
This will be Matt Williams' first-ever Spring Training as a manager in MLB. He wants to instill a more aggressive mindset in this team and that transformation starts in Spring Training. Will they buy in to the new skipper’s plan?
1. Bryce Harper
Aside from the sheer size that we should expect from Harper as he has set a goal to enter Spring Training at 245 pounds, how’s that knee doing? A couple weeks ago, Harper himself said that the knee, which was injured after crashing into the outfield wall in Los Angeles, was hurt worse than people thought. Is he at 100 percent?