Here are the top five questions for the Nationals:
Will Stephen Strasburg reach 200 IP this year?
If the Nationals want to repeat what they did last year they will let Strasburg throw as many innings as it takes to get them back in the playoffs. Last year they shut him down at 159.3 and he still managed to strike out 197 batters. With a full season with no restrictions the young phenom can make a run at 250 and a possibly Cy Young award. Strasburg has the potential to be the best pitcher in all of baseball and if the Nationals decide not to hold him back the sky is the limit for the 24-year-old flame thrower.
Will Bryce Harper be an elite OF by the end of the season?
Yes. Harper showed up to camp this year having added 20 lbs. of allegedly pure muscle in order to increase his stamina and power. He won the ML ROY last year at the age of 19 after hitting 22 home runs and swiping 18 bags. Harper is one of the toughest players in the game, running everything out and willing to sacrifice his body to make any play. His added weight won’t decrease his stolen base total much because he hustles so much but it will increase his power stroke for sure. Harper may not put up Trout-style numbers but don’t be shocked when you see him ranked amongst the best outfielders in the game at seasons end.
Will Rafael Soriano be a top 5 closer in 2013?
Though he has the talent and is on a team that will likely win 90 games this year, the answer is no. There are two former closers in his bullpen that can very easily take save chances away from Soriano. Last year Tyler Clippard held the closer job for most of the season and tallied 32 saves while Drew Storen notched 43 in 2011 before getting hurt in 2012. Both of them can very easily step into the closer role should Soriano struggle, and if he doesn’t, Clippard can sneak in and take a few saves away if there is a favorable lefty matchup.
Can Adam LaRoche repeat last year’s performance?
Anything is possible, but this is highly unlikely to happen. Last year, LaRoche had his best season at the age of 33. He put up career highs in RBI’s and home runs. He won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award. LaRoche has a lot to live up to this year, but most know it won’t happen. If you are in a keeper league and carried him over from last year, try and trade him. You will never be able to get more for him right now, and you can’t expect another 30 homers and 100 RBI’s from him in 2013.
Will Ian Desmond go 20-20 again in 2013?
Desmond is heading into his prime at the age of 27 and really found his power stroke last year when he belted 25 home runs. His .292 average was very high for a player with 113 strikeouts and his BABIP of .332 explains why. With an inevitable regression in batting average and the fact that he has never drawn more than 35 walks over the course of an entire season leads me to believe the answer to this question is no. Unless Desmond learns to be more selective and swing at better pitches his numbers will more than likely end up in the 15-15 range.