WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 17: Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals celebrates with Michael Morse #38 after hitting a home run in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park on August 17, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
• Fantasy Nationals?: So you want to win your fantasy league, and you also want a Washington National or two on your team so that you can cheer for them a little harder when you're watching the Nats all season. If you were going to pick from the Nationals' roster, who would be the one pitcher (starter/reliever), one hitter, or one rookie or sleeper pick, a player those who don't follow the Nationals might be able to keep stashed on their player list until late in the draft to get a late-round steal no one's thinking of taking? Who would you suggest others stay away from? Would you draft Bryce Harper and hope that he's up early enough to make an impact? Do you draft Stephen Strasburg and ride the Nats' ace until he reaches his innings limit? Or go with Jordan Zimmermann who'll be in his second-year after Tommy John and hopefully continuing to get better and better? Or do you just jump all over Michael Morse and get the big bat early in your draft because you know he's going to put up big numbers again this season while sending opposite field blasts out to places right-handers shouldn't hit them? A lot will depend, of course on what sort of rules your own league has, if it's a keeper league, etc., but speaking generally, if you're taking one hitter, one pitcher, one reliever or a sleeper/rookie from the Nats' roster, who would it be? I'll make my suggestions below, you can make your own in the comments...
• Best Hitter: Michael Morse? Ryan Zimmerman? Morse had a monster .303/.360/.550, 36 double, 31 HR, +3.4 fWAR 2011 season, by far his best as a major leaguer. Zimmerman missed significant time with a torn abdominal muscle, but he still managed to put together a .289/.355/.443 campaign, hitting 21 doubles and 12 HR's in 101 games and 404 PA's over which he was worth +2.5 fWAR. That's down from Zimmerman's .307/.388/.510 2010 season, of course, when he managed to hit 32 doubles and 25 HR's in 142 games and 525 AB's and was worth +7.2 fWAR. They've both had high BABIP's in 2011, Morse at .344 and Zimmerman at .326. Can Zimmerman stay healthy for a full season? Can Michael Morse continue his late-20's surge? Is there any hitter you're going to take from the Nationals' roster before you take either of the two? Danny Espinosa? Wilson Ramos?
• Bill James' Projections for 2012:
Michael Morse - .291/.347/.505, 33 2B, 25 HR's, 95 RBI's, .328 BABIP.
Ryan Zimmerman - .291/.363/.486, 35 2B, 22 HR's, 81 RBI's, .324 BABIP.
• Best Pitcher?: Stephen Strasburg? As noted above, he'll be on an innings limit in 2012, but so far in his career the 23-year-old right-hander has a 2.54 ERA, a 1.87 FIP, 19 walks (1.86 BB/9) and 116 K's (11.35 K/9) in 17 starts and 92.0 IP. No Bill James' projections, but Rotochamp (via Fangraphs.com) is projecting a (13-7) season for Strasburg, a 2.38 ERA, 1.97 FIP, 27 walks (1.56 BB/9) and 185 K's (10.74 K/9) in 155.0 IP. It's hard to go wrong with Strasburg, but plan ahead for late in the season, when all signs point to the right-hander being shut down. Jordan Zimmermann's coming off an (8-11), +3.4 fWAR 2011 season in which he posted a 3.18 ERA and 3.16 FIP in 26 games and 161.1 IP, over which he walked 31 (1.73 BB/9) and struck out 124 (6.92 K/9). Bill James is projecting an (11-8) season in 2012 with Zimmermann posting a 3.39 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 38 walks (1.95 BB/9) and 147 K's (6.92 K/9) in 28 starts and 175.0 IP.
Or what about Gio Gonzalez? The left-hander will be making his first tour of the National League, with a filthy curveball and 8.5 K/9 so far over the course of his four-year MLB career. Gonzalez finished his last two seasons at +3.2 fWAR and 3.5 fWAR with 15 and 16 wins, respectively. The lefty had a 3.23 ERA and a 3.78 FIP in 33 starts and 200.2 IP in 2010 and a 3.12 ERA, 3.64 FIP in 32 starts and 202.0 IP in 2011. The high walk totals are a concern of course, but something the pitcher and the GM who acquired him this winter think are going to go down as he matures. The 26-year-old has walked 264 (4.44 BB/9) in 535.1 career IP thus far in the majors. Will the move to the NL (and away from the DH) result in a better-Gonzalez in D.C. next season? If you're picking Nats' pitching, it's going to be one of these three first. (Take Ross Detwiler later in the draft and hold on to him for a little while.)
• Reliever?: Drew Storen? Tyler Clippard? Can you go wrong either way? Storen brings the saves, Clippard brings his invis-ball and the high K totals. Storen, 24, was (6-3) with 43 saves, 20 walks (2.39 BB/9) and 74 K's (8.84 K/9) in 73 games and 75.1 IP in 2011 over which he was worth +0.9 fWAR. Clippard, who turns 27 tomorrow (2/14), was (3-0) with a 1.83 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 26 walks and 104 K's in 2011. The right-handed set-up man was worth +1.2 fWAR, and was the Nats' most valuable reliever by fWAR standards. Bill James' projections say Clippard is going to be closer to the 2.96 ERA/3.91 FIP pitcher he's been over the course of his career than the 1.83/3.17 reliever he was last season. Storen, according to Mr. James, has a 40-save, 2.63 ERA/3.21 FIP season in his future. Sean Burnett is your man for fantasy LOOGY if there's a need for one.
• Rookie/Sleeper?: Bryce Harper a sleeper? I know, I know. The question is: Will Bryce Harper start the season in D.C.? Come up in June? September? Will he start slow when he comes up as he has at each new level? If he starts late and starts slow is he worth taking for your fantasy team? If it's a keeper league? That's a question not worth asking, right? Someone's going to take a chance on Harper, how long are you willing to wait in a draft to see who takes him first? 3 of every 4 writers you read will insist that Harper's not going to make the Nats' Opening Day roster, but sooner or later (can the Nats really wait til September?) the left-handed hitting power bat will be up in the outfield in Washington and the Nationals and the baseball world will find out just how good he is...
• So? Who are you drafting for your fantasy team from the Nationals?