Early season analysis is all about reining it in. Anyone can have a hot/cold couple of weeks and when that's all the data you have it gets magnified. The smart analysis looks at this early data and only tweaks the assumptions they had going in. Plus, a lot of things don't matter in the long run. Bryce or Zimm struggle? They still will be starters the rest of the year. Espy gets hot? Yuney is still option #1. The team will temper your excitement or worry if you can't do it yourself.
This leaves us with only a little to really be interested in the first few weeks of the season. There are things I care about (like a slow start for Ian meaning he's collapsing as a hitter, or a Werth return with no pop meaning it'll be another HR challenged season) that aren't going to change anything the Nats do. These you just have to ride out. And there are things that may happen (Cedeno can't get out lefties, Tyler Moore still can't hit) that I don't really care about. These don't excite me. We have to hit that sweet spot. Things that I care about that might effect change. Where do I see that?
Ramos may not hit. Yuney may not hit. Yuney may not field.
In an healthy Nats lineup - these are the only two regulars who hit below average last year. They are also the presumed starters not only for 2015 but for 2016 as well.
For Ramos, we assume that it's a health thing. It always feels like he hits well when healthy, he hit well just 2 years ago, and he's only 27. But last year Ramos looked beat after managing to play 20 healthy games in a row (with an All-Star break tucked in there). He finished the year hitting .230 / .254 / .391 in his last 45 games. Was it a fluke? Was he figured out? Was he somehow not conditioned enough (that's terrible conditioning, if you believe that)? It's important because the Nats don't have a guy lined up to replace Ramos soon
For Yuney, we hope it's a fluke thing. He hit a little better in 2013 and more importantly he fielded great. Fielding stats are often wishy-washy and we assume an injury, that he's now over, affected both his bat and his glove. But history tells us that even decent Yuney at the plate, just below
average, is probably the fluke, not the numbers he put up last year. He
can, and has, done a lot worse. So it will come down to the glove. Yuney isn't a young player anymore and things you might get past at 25, you don't at 32. Plus the injury was a shoulder one which may explain the increase in errors, but it's hard to understand how exactly that would effect his range. Getting down on the ball? Well if that's the case his oblique injury in Spring is a ominous portent. The Nats do have a MI replacement in Turner lined up, but he's to take Ian's place. If Yuney goes bad then you need Turner AND Difo to get good in a hurry. Possible, but far from likely.
I trust Rizzo in a deal but there are only so many good C and MI around. Anyone playing fantasy baseball can tell you that.
Can Barrett or Treinen step up?
You have to understand what the Nats were thinking when they traded Clippard and let Soriano walk. They looked at the rotation and thought "Middle relief isn't as important with these guys. We only really need two strong arms and our regular bunch of ok guys. So let's deal Clip, insert Barrett in the 8th. He'll be great. Storen will be great. The pen will be fine then we can deal Storen in the offseason and promote Aaron. SOLVED"
Of course Aaron Barrett is no sure thing. He had moments last year where he looked great but moments (in certain months beginning with O) where his wildness caught up with him. His minor league numbers are favorable, but the last step is the hardest. Treinen is likely next in line to be the "controlled for a long time" reliever the Nats would want, but he's a former starter who's stuff isn't as electric as Barrett's. Both are 27 this year and relievers are brief candles. If neither develops and/or Storen doesn't perform, all of a sudden the Nats are left with nothing at the back end of their pen*
Relievers are easily found and acquired but trading for a reliever (even one with a couple years of control like Chapman) for a decent prospect? That doesn't feel like this team at all.
*If this happens and Yuney doesn't work out they would have effectively traded Clippard to turn one problem into two