Well, we're one week from Opening Day (Huzzah!) so I don't even care that the weather sucks. Better now than next week! Time for the final roster countdown. Not that anyone asked, but if I were Rizzo & Riggleman, this would be my 2011 Washington Nationals:
SP (5): Livo; J-Zimm; Lannan; Marquis; and Gorzelanny. I expect Detwiler and Maya to open in Syracuse, but I also expect that they will be starting in DC by this summer. The AAA rotation would also include Milone, Stammen and Mock, and none of the previous emergency starters (Martin, Atilano, Martis, Chico). They will fight it out for spots in the bullpen (Kimball will be the closer there) until someone else gets called up. This is really where you feel the organization's progress; with Solis, Peacock, Roark and Tatsuko at AA Harrisburg, it's going to take considerably more talent to stay on the Nationals' pitching ladder. It's still very early, but getting Roark and Tatsuko for Guzman is feeling like a steal.
Bullpen (7): Burnett; Storen; Clippard; Slaten; Balestar; Broderick; and Rodriquez. I've seen nothing from Coffey or Gaudin to indicate to me that they are anything other than the mid-4's ERA >1.5 WHIP guys that they've been in their careers. H-Rod is the only one on here due to option reasons; Broderick has earned his way into the "long relief" role and offering him back to the Cardinals would be a mistake. Storen and Clippard have struggled in Viera, but (like Capps last year) should have the chance to step it up as the season opens - and anytime I have a choice between older and plateaued (Coffey) and younger with potential (Storen and Clippard), the 2011 Nationals should go for youth and upside.
Catcher (1): Pudge. The HOF catcher gets to start Opening Day, but Ramos starts April 2nd and should get 3-4 games a week regardless of the schedule. Flores in Syracuse and Norris in Harrisburg will be pushing here, so it is doubtful that Pudge lasts the year unless Ramos or Flores is traded for a SP or CF.
Starting infield (4): Zimmerman, Desmond, Espinosa and LaRoche. No debates here.
Starting outfield: (3): Werth, Morse, and ... Morgan. Yes, I said it. He's going to open on a short leash, but I'm not a big believer in Ankiel as a starter - and I think Ankiel offers more coming off of the bench. I wouldn't hesitate to bat Morgan 8th though, and he could be gone pretty quickly. Hairston should start in CF against lefties.
Bench (5): Ramos/Pudge, Hairston, Ankiel, Gonzalez, Bernadina. This works because Morse can play 1b or 3b in a pinch. Bernadina wins a spot over Stairs in my world because of the "younger with potential" principle. That said, I think that the flexibility provided by Hairston and Morse enables the Nats to carry Stairs if they want to, and Bernadina would start in LF in Syracuse while Cory Brown plays CF there. A right handed bat off of the bench other than Ramos (or shortly thereafter, Pudge) would be nice, but I'd rather have the other righties (Zim, Werth, Morse) in the lineup. Alex Cora hasn't earned a spot on this roster, IMHO, being in the "old and plateau'd" camp.
Morgan's status is the most precarious; he may end up making the Bernadina/Stairs question moot in a big hurry if he reverts to his early Spring performance level over the last few ST games. Storen, OTOH, I think gets to at least open the season in Natstown. I do wonder who the "emergency catcher" will be now that Willingham is in Oakland.
Well, there they are, d_c_guy's 2011 Washington Nationals. Let's see what Rizzo has up his sleeve ...