I'm sure everybody remembers when I did this last year, right? For those too busy to click and read, the thought process is this; every year most players are going to do about what you think they will, some players will do better/worse than you thought, and a certain small percentage will outpace your best/worst expectations. It's this last group that I'm interested in because the wrong player crashing or the right one soaring can make a game or two difference in where you expect to be in the standings.
What happened last year for the Nats? Of course Werth is the one that sticks out like a sore thumb. Most of us
thought he'd underperform expectations, but not like that. After that you could argue LaRoche (who I had as my CRASH) but that depends on how much you think the injury was at fault. I don't like counting injuries against players in this, since that's something else entirely. Matt Stairs falling right out of the league is also a possibility but a 43 year bench player dropping off the face of the Earth isn't unheard of. On the SOAR side, I think Mike Morse fit the bill, and Tyler Clippard, but I can see the arguments saying they were within expectations. Jordan Zimmermann is one people might bring up but I'm not sure we had enough base information on him to feel secure he couldn't make this leap.
So what's up in 2012? While I could probably make up a hard and fast rule for this (based off like PECOTA confidence intervals or the like) I think it's just better to go at this informally. To reiterate, we're looking for players that will drastically under or over perform expectations. Personally I think rookies/2nd year type players are awfully hard to put into this group. Last year Danny Espinosa hit .236 with 21 homers. This season I think he could hit .260 with 28 homers or .215 with 16 homers this year and neither would really surprise me. We just don't have the data yet. For someone like Ryan Zimmerman though, equal bumps (say a .315 30 season, or a .265 16) would. Also thanks to small sample sizes, relievers can easily bounce around from year to year, so I'm hesitant to pick one of these guys. Storen could put up a 1.80 ERA or a 3.80 ERA and I wouldn't bat an eye, but that's me. Guys coming off surprising good/bad years or injury are also hard to judge because they could bounce back to just above normal numbers or continue to fall a bit and it wouldn't be shocking. So really the Nats don't have many easy candidates for surprises, at least not on the offensive side.
For SOAR, a good chunk of my head wants to go with Gio Gonzalez. The age is right, moving the NL could make a big difference. It's all there. That being said I'm going to go with Wilson Ramos for my soar. The minor league numbers suggest a batting average ceiling that he hasn't reached yet and he's showing more power in the majors than I thought he would. I'd probably put his reasonable high expectation now at around .285 22 hrs. Part of me believes that a .300+ 25+ season is there.
For CRASH, Mr. Beast Mode is an obvious choice given the huge flaw in his game and the way he bumped his expecations up after last year. Now a seasons like 2009 expanded out (.250 29 homers) seems almost impossible, but I think the potential is still there. But just because the potential is there doesn't mean I think it's remotely likely to happen. I'm going with Edwin Jackson. It's really nothing but pure opinion. I see a guy who didn't manage to step up his game, despite moving AL->NL, to a team in the playoff hunt, and to a staff known for making pitchers better, in his first year heading into free agency. I see a guy that was traded 5 times in 6 years. I know the Nats say they've found his flaw but come on guys, you don't seriously buy that do you? That 6 other teams, all looking to make their pitchers better to win games, all missed this flaw the Nats spotted? I think the floor on Edwin is probably an ERA season around 4.40. Let's see if I'm right and he crashes through that.