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Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo talks counting on Michael Taylor and Tyler Moore

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With Jayson Werth and Denard Span expected to start the season on the DL, the Washington Nationals are expecting big things from Michael Taylor and Tyler Moore, who might start in center and left, respectively on Opening Day.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Williams didn't rule out the possibility of Jayson Werth showing up in the Opening Day lineup on Monday when he spoke to reporters in Florida on Friday before the Washington Nationals' 8-2 win over the New York Yankees in the Grapefruit League finale.

While Washington Post writer James Wagner acknowledged today that, "Werth is likely headed headed to the DL to start the season," he noted that Werth, "... continues to progress," and wrote that, "Williams... stopped short of saying Werth would be inactive for Monday."

"I think that it shows the depth we've had in our system when you can lose a Denard Span, for instance, and you can plug in one of the best prospects in all of baseball..." -Mike Rizzo on the Nationals' outfield depth

Barring a faster-than expected ramping up, however, Werth is likely to start the season on the Disabled List.

Denard Span took batting practice today, as he recovers from surgery on a core muscle injury, but he isn't going to be ready for Monday's game either.

In the final Spring game, Williams sent out an outfield of Tyler Moore, Michael Taylor and Bryce Harper against the Yankees.

Nats' GM Mike Rizzo talked earlier this week, in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier about the important roles Moore and Taylor will play while the Nationals wait for their expected everyday starters to return and how important it is to have options available in the organization.

"It kind of proves the point that we always have here: Depth is key," Rizzo said.

"You have to have good depth behind your key players and I think that it shows the depth we've had in our system when you can lose a Denard Span, for instance, and you can plug in one of the best prospects in all of baseball in Michael Taylor into that position.

"I think it speaks volumes for our scouting and player development staff," Rizzo continued, "and the way that they've put together this roster. It's really comforting to know that although nobody wants their 1-2-and-3 hitters from last year on the disabled list to start the season, but now that it's here, we've got to deal with it. And we've got players to plug in there to at least keep the ship afloat until we get our core players back."

The 1-2-and-3 hitters, or core players, are, of course, Span, Anthony Rendon (MCL sprain) and Werth, all three of whom are expected to start the season on the DL.

"You never know with Jayson. He's very close. He's the closest of the three right now." - Rizzo on Span, Werth, Rendon starting season on the DL

"It looks that way," Rizzo said. "You never know with Jayson. He's very close. He's the closest of the three right now. And all these guys, if they're not ready for Opening Day, then they should be ready soon thereafter."

Is Taylor ready for the assignment?

The 24-year-old outfielder broke through in 2014, posting a .304/.390/.526 line, 20 doubles, three triples, 23 HRs, 37 stolen bases, 57 walks and 144 Ks in 110 games and 493 PAs between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse before he was called up to the majors.

Taylor made his major league debut in mid-August  and went 8 for 39 with three doubles, a home run, three walks and 17 Ks in 43 PAs for the NL East Champions.

"We think Michael Taylor is right where he should be," Rizzo said this week.

"And right where he belongs in his development. He's a 24-year-old young player [who] got to the big leagues last year at 23 and is going to be in the big leagues this year at 24 and hopefully he takes that next step.

"Last year's taste allowed him to be where he's at in this year's Spring Training, feel more comfortable, feel more a part of the team and the roster, knows the players and his comfort level and confidence level is big.

"He had the breakout season last year and he's one of the few guys that are big power and big speed type of threats and does a lot of things that we like in a center fielder. Plays great defense. He's got a great throwing arm. He can steal you a base. He can hit for power and [is] a guy that's really developing his batting acumen at the big league level."

Can Tyler Moore, who's struggled in a backup role after a strong 2012 coming off the bench for the division-winning Nats, produce given regular at bats while the Nationals wait for Werth to return?

The Nationals traded Michael Morse in the winter of 2013, at least in part, because Moore was in the organization and could play a similar role.

"They have very similar skill sets and to have two of them is almost redundant," Rizzo explained at the time.

"And Michael with one year left of control only, we felt that we had an ample substitute in a more-controllable Tyler Moore."

With Morse and other outfielders like Steven Souza no longer part of the organization, Moore, who entered Spring Training as an option-less question mark, will be counted on early.

"We're going to be counting heavily on Tyler Moore to be a guy that plays a lot for us," Rizzo said.

"With the injuries to start the season, Tyler is going to get a lot of reps out in the outfield and we're going to count on him to be an offensive force for us. He's had a great approach at the plate this Spring Training.

"He's hit all sorts of pitching, all types of pitching, the good power velocity guys, the finesse, breaking ball guys. So he's seeing the ball well, he feels good at the plate and is a guy that we feel is going to be a contributor for us."