Nationals look poised to compete in NL East

Posted: February 16, 2012 in Uncategorized
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The Miami Marlins were the talk of baseball in the early portion of the offseason after making a huge splash on the free agent market in signing shortstop Jose Reyes, closer Heath Bell, starter Mark Buehrle and also acquiring starter Carlos Zambrano in a trade.

Ryan Zimmerman is a cornerstone for a Nationals team that is on the rise. Limited to 101 games because of injury last season, he hit .289 with 21 doubles, 12 home runs and 49 RBIs. (B. Calloway photo)

But quietly, the Washington Nationals look like they are poised to compete and challenge the Marlins and reigning division champion Philadelphia Phillies.

The Nationals made a few moves that bolstered their rotation – and pitching alone should give them as good a chance as anyone in the NL East. Washington finished 80-81 last season – and that was without having their best pitcher for a majority of the season.

A full season with phenom Stephen Strasburg, plus the additions of Gio Gonzalez (acquired in a trade with the Athletics) and Edwin Jackson (signed as a free agent) will give the Nationals a solid rotation. Factor in Jordan Zimmerman (8-11, 3.14 ERA in 2011) and Washington has a strong 1-4. Washington also signed Brad Lidge to bolster their bullpen.

Washington also has a strong core of offensive players led by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse, who had a breakout season in 2011 by hitting .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs season. Up and coming players such as shortstop Ian Desmond, second baseman Danny Espinoso, catcher Wilson Ramos and the highly regarded outfielder Bryce Harper could help the Nationals make some noise in a loaded NL East this season.

If Harper does open the season in the bigs, his success will be a key to the Nationals. Also getting more production out of last year’s big free agent signee Jayson Werth (.232, 20 HRs in 2011) will also be important for Washington’s chances.

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