After an admirable effort to lure first baseman Mark Teixera, the Washington Nationals are in relatively the same place as the 2008 season.
Stuck in neutral.
They have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball and general manager Jim Bowden wasn't opposed to adding it for the right piece but with so little talent all around, the question asks where should he begin?
The rotation is chock-full of guys you've probably never heard of and if you have heard of them, you know they stink.
Scott Olsen, he of an 8-11 record in 2008, is the no. 1 starter in the rotation be default. Perhaps even more terrifying is the fact that Baltimore Orioles castoff Daniel Cabrera may be the guy slated at the two spot. Cabrera was hilariously close to a 1-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 2008 with 95 strikouts and 90 walks.
John Lannan may be the most respectable starter of this bunch with a 3.91 ERA in 2008 but he couldn't find much run support in 2008 and it shouldn't be any different in 2009. Lannan is 24-years-old and should continue to get better after a respectable first full season in the majors.
It would also help if former No. 1 draft pick Ross Detwiler made the team via a strong spring training.
To be honest I never saw what scouts saw in Detwiler that made their jaws drop. I watched the guy pitched three times when Missouri State played Southern Illinois years ago and didn't think he'd amount to anything more than a back of the rotation innings eater.
But the pressure is on Detwiler to carry the load because the Nationals "Plaxico Burress'd" themselves in the 2008 draft by running out of time to sign super-stud pitcher Aaron Crow out of Missouri. Crow will now play independent league baseball to prep for the 2009 draft. Frankly, this seems dumb for both parties.
The offense isn't a pretty sight either aside from the potential the outfield has to shine.
The middle infield, second baseman Willie Harris and Christian Guzman, maxed our in terms of career years and I wouldn't expect them to improve anymore on what they already did. That being said, if they can duplicate their 2008 numbers it will go a long way for this relatively punchless offense.
Nick Johnson is a borderline major leaguer at this point after hitting .220 at first base while former five-star third base prospect Ryan Zimmerman struggled the majority of the season but finished with a respectable .283 average coupled with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs but Washington was expecting him to be a 30-100 guy for years to come. Zimmerman is only 24-years-old so there's no reason to think he won't improve this season unless there's a lingering injury.
The outfield is probably the most interesting part of this team. The Nationals have two enigmas in Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes patrolling center and right field and if they continue to build on the progress they've made last season, the outfield could be one of the strongest in the division with the new addition of Josh Willingham.
If nothing else, Washington should hope for continued improvement from Milledge, Dukes and Zimmerman in hopes that they can eventually settle into a dominant 3-4-5 punch in the middle of the order. But until then, it doesn't make any sense to start spending money wildly.