Nationals Baseball: March 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fantasy draft Nats

I know listening to other people talk about their fantasy teams is the worstestest but it does hold some interest in seeing how the Nats are being valued. Personally i ended up with 4 Nationals. Wilson Ramos (kept - its a keeper auction league) who's a steal, totally overpaid for Zimmerman ( again) and took dollar level fliers on Lidge and Lombardozzi The top 4 in the Nats rotation were kept along with Mike Morse, Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa, and Ian Desmond. Someone loved Bernadina and got him early and Werth was bid over with some interest. Clippard was bid on (thinking hed replace Storen - the fool!) H-Rod was gotten too for the same reason I pulled Lidge Only LaRoche had lukewarm interest.

Meaningless really but I did sense a lot more respect for the Nats this go around especially for the pitchers who were kept at not exactly bargain prices

Monday, March 26, 2012

Plus or Minus time wasted

I can't leave this well enough alone.

Could Werth have hit the ball 500 ft? Assuming all Boz's walking was correct it IS possible. Boz assumes a 3-4-5 triangle to calculate the distance the ball would have went if it didn't hit the tree. Why does he go with 3-4-5?  Probably because he remembers it from school, but as you can imagine there really isn't any good reason for that choice. A line drive hitting the tree 12 feet up would go further than 12 feet out, a can of corn
 hitting at the same place would probably be lucky to go 4 feet more.

Without knowing the angle of the ball when it hit the tree, we're pretty much at a loss for being exact. (there are other ways of getting at it but they involve even more stuff we don't know). But at 12 feet up on a long home run there isn't that much difference between a good average guess, which is kind of what Boz put out, and the most accurate calculation. He said 9-12 feet. The old baseball Tale of the Tape, which is slightly better (but honestly not much), would put it at 7.5 (high fly) -14.5 (line drive) extra feet.  If we take the longest possible answer from that (and why wouldn't we for a Spring Training home run) we get 501 feet.

So let's say that then.  501 feet for Werth.  Why not, right?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mike Morse Contest!

Allright boys and girls, Mike Morse's lat is not healing up according to the best case scenario the Nats training staff laid out for us, much like they lay out for every injury.  This leaves him unlikely to be ready for Opening Day.   The easy breezy weekend question for you is - when will Mike Morse take his first cuts this season? I'll go ahead and guess May 1st the day the Nats start their 2nd homestand.  Do I honestly think it will take that long? No - but with the Nats injury history I'd feel silly not guessing a few weeks longer than I would for another team.

What do the Nats do in the meantime?  Not much.  In house the easy answer is using some combination of DeRosa, Ankiel, and Bernadina. None of them can make up for Morse with the bat, though so the Nats are looking at other options.

Brett Carroll - you've heard his name alot this spring and you've probably thought "Why am I hearing his name a lot this spring?"  The reason is because he fields pretty well. Is he a CF? No, but if say... Werth got injured and the Nats wanted a guy on the bench that can be a late inning defensive replacement, he could fill that role.  Problem is - he can't hit. At his peak he put up some good AAA numbers, but those never translated to anything in the majors and by now you'd be silly to expect anything decent.

Jason Michaels - At one point in the mid 2000s you might have thought Michaels was a bit of an underrated player.  He seemingly could hit for average and field pretty well, which normally would make a guy a very useful 3rd OF for a bad team, or 4th OF for a good one. Problem is Michaels can't hit righties. His success in the past has been dependent on smart platooning. At age 36 Michaels could be terrible at any moment but if you can find a decent lefty to platoon with him, he wouldn't be the worst choice to fill in for a month or so.

Xavier Nady - Nady was a nice prospect back in the day but only developed into an average-hitting poor-fielding outfielder. He had one good half-season with the Pirates and turned that into a trade to the only Yankees team to not make the playoffs since Bryce Harper was two. Prospect + good half-season + recognizable name has given him more opportunities than he's deserved, including this one.

So - a strict Michaels, Bernadina platoon might be the best bet for now. Roger doesn't show big splits but you want Michaels up versus lefties. You might be thinking about Laynce Nix right now and he would be perfect... in a platoon just like Michaels. Nix could hit better but Jason probably brings better fielding and Bernadina is better on the base paths.  None of this is perfect but you can cobble a temporary solution together from what the Nats have on hand.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Needing Morse and LaRoche

The Nationals would like to win 87/88 games this year.  This would give them an excellent chance at getting into the playoffs. Obviously to do this they need to get better.

To break it down to it's most simplistic level, baseball is about scoring and preventing runs.  To improve your record you can score more runs, prevent more runs, or preferably do both.  Last year the Nats scored 624 runs and gave up 643.   624 runs was 44 runs below the National League average, good for 12th place in the league. In other words, it was at best a mediocre offense.   643 runs was 30 runs better than the NL average, good for 7th in the league. It was a good pitching staff. Logic would say the Nats it would probably be easiest for the Nats to improve by improving the offense.  However they chose to improve the pitching. Can they improve it enough?

Let's say for the moment that the Nats offense remains the same.  624 runs, and below average.  How many runs would the Nats have to give up to win 87/88 games?  The method used by most interested in the fancy stats is the Pythagorean equation. It's not perfect, but it gives you a good general idea of where you need to be in terms of runs scored/allowed in order to get the wins you want.  Using this the Nats would need to allow about 570 runs to expect 87/88 wins. Last year only the Phillies accomplished that. In 2010, no one did.

What does that tell us? Well it tells us that even with one of the best pitching staff in the majors the Nats may not prevent enough runs to carry that mediocre offense to the playoffs. Can it happen? Sure. But should you expect it? It's hard to say that. Plus, the dirty little secret about last year was how well that starting pitching staff actually performed. Take a look at these stats :

Jason Marquis - 20 starts - 120.2 IP - 3.95 ERA
Brad Peacock - 2 starts - 10.2 IP - 0.00 ERA
Tom Milone - 5 starts - 26 IP - 3.81 ERA
Ross Detwiler - 10 starts - 56 IP - 3.21 ERA

Put them together and you have a guy that pitched 213 innings and put up a 3.54 ERA.  In other words - that's pretty much what they are hoping for from Edwin Jackson. You'll get more from ZNN, but only 5 starts more.  You have Strasburg back, but the Nats aren't going from 0 Strasburg to 30+ starts of Strasburg. He was back last year, and he won't pitch all of this one. So you can only add about 20 new Strasburg starts in there. Is Gio much better than Livan? Certainly.  Will Wang or whoever, be better than the mix of remaining Nats starts from 2010 (Wang, Gorzelanny, Maya)?  Probably.  But be realistic here. For the Nats to improve by 70 runs their starting pitching would have to see their ERA drop from a perfectly respectable 3.80 to a wow-inducing 3.12.

But that's ok right? Because the Nats are going to get better offensively too, right? Yes, I believe that is the case.  I believe a full year of Zimmerman, a better year from Werth, a healthy year of LaRoche, minor improvements from Ramos and/or Espinosa, the eventual rise of Bryce, should all make the Nats offense better enough to score more runs even considering the potential negatives in the offense (poor hitting from Desmond and the Ankiel/Bernie platoon, possible minor regressions from Ramos and/or Espinosa, Morse's minor regression).   If they can score just a handful more runs say 25, then the Nats can give up closer to 600 runs.  That's needing a top 3-5 pitching staff rather than one of the best pitching staffs in recent memory. That seems much more reasonable.

And this is where we go back to yesterday's post - you NEED a healthy Morse and LaRoche to do this.  The bench depth (right now) is simply not there to compensate from and major issues with these guys.  Remember, even if you believe it was a little bit of a fluke, Morse hit .303 / .360 / .550 last year.  In terms of pure offense that was one of the Top 10 seasons in the NL.  You can't just shrug losing something like that.

The Nats improved in the offseason, but injuries to Morse and LaRoche can potentially wipe out those improvements. If you care most about the macro picture - about the Nats as a contender in 2013 and beyond, this is a bump in the road. LaRoche was never a factor for those years and Morse was not necessarily seen as a long term piece either. The Nats still look like they are going to be able to make that jump (assuming the last few right moves are made). But if you care most about the micro picture - about the Nats as a contender in 2012, these injuries could be a very big deal.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

So if the season started today...

Would 5-9 be Ankiel, Desmond, DeRosa, Bernadina?  What's that sound?  It couldn't be... but it sure does sound like... you know, I may be crazy but I swear I can hear the sound of Roy Halladay laughing.

I know you can't plan for every contingency, but Rizzo;
  • wanted Bryce down in the minors,
  • knew LaRoche was coming back from a major injury,
  • knew Werth was coming back from his worst year ever,
  • knew Zimmerman was coming back from his own injury plagued year in a career full of nicks and bumps,
  • knew Morse greatly outperformed expectations last year,
  • knew Ian Desmond was on his last chance,
  • knew Ramos and Espinosa have potential to regress,
  • knew Ankiel and Bernadina were no better than space filler
 Under these circumstances DeRosa & Lombardozzi is not an acceptable bench. Hopefully Morse and LaRoche will be healthy by Opening Day.  If not the Nats are either going to struggle mightily or Rizzo will have to make some interesting moves.  "Starting at first, Johnny Damon", anyone?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bryce to the minors? I'm shocked. Shocked!

Bryce Harper will start the season in the minors.  This made the most sense as explained by everyone everywhere. For a few weeks, the Nats will gain an extra year of control.  For a few months, an extra year of savings. I expect the former and not the latter but that will depend on Bryce.

Once again Mike Rizzo asserted his control of this team. Davey wanted Bryce up.  Of course he did.  Davey is going to coach a couple of years. Bryce up now gives him the best chance of winning during that time. Why should he care what happens 6 years down the road?  He'll be kicking up his feet in some advisory role by that time. But Rizzo cares.

I'm not a stickler on this.  In fact usually I say bring the guy up now.  Six years is a long time.  Who's to know what will happen between now and then, and whether you'll even care about his FA status by the time it rolls around. But we're not talking about the usual player. We're talking about someone universally hailed as a can't miss prospect who has only suffered some minor road bumps on his way to AAA, and he's not yet 20.  This is special.  Special players have different rules.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Don't not trade Lannan to the Red Sox!

First Commandment - Do not trade John Lannan
Second Commandment - If you must trade John Lannan, do not trade him to the Red Sox

(I have a weak understanding of the word "commandment")

I don't want to hate John Lannan and root for his utter and complete failure. Don't make me.  Tigers? If you must.  I would at least then see how Roar of the Tigers renders his eyebrows in illustration. But to Boston? America's ear infection? No I say, no.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

17 vs 1821

Not to harp on the subject but after the last rounds of cuts (which included Rendon! Shocking as it may be that the guy with the most perfect swing in the world, who makes baseballs rocket off his bat in defiance of all laws of physics, is not ready for the major leagues.)  The Nats in general, and Johnson specifically, were effusive in their praise for Corey Brown. 

You might remember Corey as the other guy in the deal for Josh Willingham. The guy fans were less enthused about.  He had hit .320 / .415 / .502 in AA in 2010 but it was only 90 games, he was admittedly old (24) for the league, and in AAA (though only 40 games) he immediately struggled with a .193 / .253 / .378 line.  Last year was supposed to tell us what kind of player he really was and he put up a .235 / .326 / .402 line.  So there you go.  But wait!  That's only because he sprained his ankle! and then put to much pressure on himself! And then had a staph infection a mere (1,2,3,4) 5 months later! And the locusts! Don't forget about the locusts! 

Corey's time in camp impressed the staff but all it was was a good week and a half of baseball. Only 17 at bats to look at.  Of course if he keeps hitting .400 the Nats won't have to look for a CF, but history tells us he won't.  Corey Brown has had a handful of seasons in the minors. 1821 at bats to be precise.  He has proven himself to be a middling average, good but not great power hitter, with ok patience. He fields well but strikes out too much. That latter is a problem because guys that strike out too much in the minors tend to strike out WAY too much in the majors. If he can control his strikeouts he might be a decent bench player or 4th OF for a couple years. But he needs to make the improvements now because over the next couple of years the adjustments will become harder and harder to make as his body starts to feel the effects of age.

There's a reason Justin Maxwell isn't anchoring the Nats outfield. It's the same reason you may not see Corey Brown back in a Nats uniform this year. They just aren't good enough.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Will you ever learn?

I'm talking to you. You know who you are. Why must we go through this every spring?  The beat guys have to write these stories because you can only pen so many Bryce Harper attitude pieces in one week. But you the reader, you need to know these reports come with mall-purchased soft pretzel sized grains of salt.

Gio Gonzalez doing real well in Spring?  Doesn't matter.
Eury Perez doing real well in Spring?  Doesn't matter.
Jayson Werth struggling in Spring?  Doesn't matter.
Ian Desmond struggling in Spring? Doesn't matter.
Chien-Ming Wang struggling in Spring? Doesn't matter.
Mark Teahan struggling in Spring? Telling. (Sorry, Mark. You're done)

Also if you could stop with the "why not have this guy play center" questions, that would be nice too.  It's bad enough Werth may be playing there and he's spent the majority of his career as an above average corner outfielder in the majors. You can't just stick someone in the outfield and expect them to play ok, this isn't Little League. As fake Ron Washington would tell Andy from Parks and Rec; "It's incredibly hard."

Friday, March 09, 2012

Still no worries about Davey

Davey Johnson is a proven manager but he has been away from the game for a long time.  There doesn't seem to be any negative effects of a long layoff on managing ability (of course assuming you think much of managing ability being impactful at all) but still it's good to kick the tires on the ol' jalopy here and there to make sure he's still running well.

This weeks minor check - Davey went out and noted that he wants Werth to be aggressive. Kilgore had a very nice blog entry noting how this could be problematic since a lot of Werth's value is being selective at the plate. But the comment got me thinking - is Davey himself too aggressive? It has been a decade since he last managed and that decade has dramatically shifted the ideas on patience, right?

Well sort of.  The real peak of walking came during the height of what most people would call the steroid era; 1998, 1999, 2000.  In other words right when Davey last managed. Then there was another peak at the end of the 2000s (Moneyball reaction?) but last year's NL walk total was the lowest since 1997.  No "strange new landscape" here.

Also Davey's teams never seemed to suffer from over-aggressiveness.  Here's the team's rank in walks for his tenures and two years before/after.

Mets :  9, 12  | 7, 5, 1, 3, 3, 9 6, 3
Reds :  9, 3  | 10, 4, 3 |  2, 10
Orioles :   4, 3  | 5, 6 |  5, 4
Dodgers : 11, 14  | 9, 5 |  9, 16

There's ALOT of noise here.  For starters I should be looking at walk-rate (Good teams score more runs, get more plate appearances, get more opportunities for walks) and doing it by player not whole team (you could bring in a great walking player and have him walk less but still make the team walk more. That'd be a GM improvement not a Davey one), but I don't see any reason to spend time doing that. The league is not real different from the times when Davey last coached, and there's no cursory evidence he makes his players too aggressive.  Nothing to see here, move along.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Adam LaRoche: A Second Look

Last season most Nats fans weren't... enthused when the team signed Adam LaRoche.  Part of that had to do with the failed pursuits of Carlos Pena and Derrek Lee, players that were just a couple years removed from seasons that surpass LaRoche's best ever. In comparison, LaRoche was a mild letdown. Part of it, though had to do with LaRoche's numbers.  2010 was not as good as 2008 or 2009, and given his age,  most saw this as a sign of his decline.

I took a walk through the stats last year and came to the same conclusion. For those that don't want to read all that the basic thought process was that in 2010 his K-rate went way up and his BB-rate went down. While this could have been because of the "D-back Way" the numbers seemed to to be backed up by other fancy stats, most notably a increase in his swings at pitches out of the strike zone, a decrease in contact at pitches in the strike zone and an drop in his line drive rate.

Look at what happened last year to those stats:
  • K-rate back down from 28.0% to 20.9%
  • BB-rate back up from 7.8% to 14.1%
  • Swinging out of the strike zone down from 28.1% to 21.8%
  • Contact in the strike zone up from 85.1% to 87.4%
  • LD% up from 18.2% to 19.1%

In other words, everything I was looking at got better. In fact they basically returned to what he was doing the few years prior to 2010. The exception was the LD% which didn't quite get there - but his... let's say "post-contact" stats were all messed up - he was basically grounding everything weakly - we assume that's the injury...right?  So back to the question at hand - maybe it was the the D-backs?  To check that I looked at the players who joined Arizona in 2010 from other teams to see how they fared compared to the 2-3 years prior

Kelly Johnson
K-rate - Up
BB-rate - Up
Swing Out - Up (but not by much)
Contact In - Down
LD% - Up

Tony Abreu (I could only find minor league stats for K-rate and BB-rate. His major league AB are really limited)
K-rate - Up
BB-rate - Down

Mostly got worse. What about those that left the D-backs in 2011 in comparison to 2010?

Mark Reynolds
K-rate -Down
BB-rate -Down
Swing Out - Up 
Contact In -Up
LD% -No Change

Chris Snyder
K-rate -Down
BB-rate -Up
Swing Out - Down
Contact In -Up
LD% - Up

Mostly got better. Toss in LaRoche's numbers here and you do see a small (and to be honest, totally unconclusive, it's five players we're talking about here) pattern. The 2010 Diamondbacks, who not only led the league in K's but set an all-time record in the stat, may have adversely affected their hitters with the approach the team took to at bats. I'm not saying they struck out too much (I don't really believe that matters), but there is a difference between "Find a good pitch, swing from the heels, we don't care if you whiff" and "Swing from the heels, we don't care if you whiff".  The D-backs may have strayed too much toward the latter and suffered because of it.

What does this mean for LaRoche?  Well maybe I was too harsh in the initial judgement.  If it was the "D-back Way" that caused a drop in stats in 2010, not the inevitable decline that comes with age, than perhaps there's a good chance a healthly LaRoche can put up that .275 60 BB 25 HR season the Nats were hoping for when he signed. That may not seem like much but it would be an improvement over what LF was producing last year and this offense needs to find improvements.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Around the NL East

The Nats don't play in a vacuum, or at least they don't until Oreck buys the right to name Nationals Park, to win a spot in the playoffs they are going to have to fight it out in what may be the toughest division in baseball next year.  What's going on over there?

Braves - Injuries have become a big concern for the Braves.  Tim Hudson, who had back surgery in November, is not going to recover in time for Spring Training as originally hoped and is looking more and more like a May return. Tommy Hanson meanwhile, is trying to recover from a Grade 1 (re: mild) concussion he suffered in a car wreck. Hanson should be fine, and they have depth to cover Hudson, but this is not how they hoped to enter the season.  Offensively, Freddy Freeman partially dislocated a kneecap.  Right now all seems ok, but it's the 2nd time he's had this injury.  He'll be in a brace for the immediate future, if not his career.

Marlins - It's all about Josh Johnson.  Ok it's about Reyes and Josh Johnson and maybe Giancarlo but there was no question on whether Jose and "Don't call me Mike" would play.  Josh Johnson, if healthy, is a premier pitcher and all early indications are he's on track to be ready for Opening Day.  First start of Spring went real smooth. In less promising news Anibal Sanchez has some back soreness but no one is worried, and frankly you'd trade a healthy JJ for an injured Anibal every day of the week.

Mets - What a mess.  Thanks to Madoff, the Wilpon's have to pay back 80 mill and have to go to court with a chance to pay up 300 million. Most think they'll win that case, but still it's a distraction.  Meanwhile, David Wright is sitting out with a stiff rib cage and Ike Davis is being treated for Valley fever. (insert "Gag me with a spoon full of medicine" joke here).  Both are still slated to start the season with the team, and Davis is only missing a day or two of work here and there, but it's not an auspicious start for an offense that was average last year and lost their two most productive players. On the good side for the Mets, Johan looks to start next. His quick return to form is crucial. Without him the team's rotation looks alot like the Nats from 2006-2010.

Phillies - As would be expected from a veteran team, a lot of nagging injuries.  All eyes are on Ryan Howard, who tore his achilles making the last out of the NLDS. Things looked optimistic enough a few weeks ago to dream of a pre All-Star break return, but a recent infection makes that more and more unlikely. Utley (knee) and Polanco (hernia) are being brought along slowly but both are expected to play on Opening Day.  Of course, the Phillies are a pitching team first these days and Joe Blanton (the 5th starter) was the only concern coming back from an elbow injury.  He looks fine.

So no early return for Ryan Howard, and with nagging injuries the Phillies could be the SF Giants of the NL East. The Braves also look a little vulnerable now that Tim Hudson is going to be out longer than expected.  The Mets were set to finish 5th and don't appear to have a string of good fortune setting them up for anything else. This is all good news for the Nats.

On the flip side the Marlins appear to be healthy and their one big question mark Josh Johnson looks like he'll be ready Day 1.  That's trouble.  And let's not forget about the Nats own issues with LaRoche still yet to play and Werth not 100%.  The offense can ill afford any bad luck this year given how it struggled last year and no external improvements were made in the offseason.

All in all a good early spring for Nats fans, but not perfect.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Center Post

Kill-Gore at the Post takes on the Nats centerfield issues. Worth a read despite calling Ian Desmond a "stalwart".  This paragraph is a fun one to think about:
For this spring, that meant re-signing Ankiel with a minor league deal. (The Nationals, Rizzo said, were surprised Ankiel could be had for a non-guaranteed contract.) Ankiel won the center-field job last season, convincing the Nationals to trade Morgan to the Milwaukee Brewers. Despite two stints on the disabled list, Ankiel provided excellent defense; Nationals scouts and statistical analysts alike graded him highly.
Ok, first off, why were the Nats surprised that Ankiel could be had for a non-guaranteed contract? He's a 33 year old who can neither get on base or slug anymore.  He was the 24th best CF in the league (by Fangraphs WAR) last year and that had everything to do with an oddly productive defensive year.  I looked through all the teams and found two that may have wanted him for a CF (given his bat wanting him for LF or RF seemed like a non-starter).  The Marlins (currently projected to start Emilio Bonaficio) and the White Sox (someone named de Aja).  Sooo pretty obvious here - Ankiel could be had on a non-guaranteed contract because 27 teams had obviously better options available, 2 of the other 3 had chosen another direction, and his bat and primary skill (rocket arm!) don't make him worth a guaranteed bench deal.

Second, did Ankiel winning the job really convince the Nats to trade Morgan for a guy who has a last name that sounds familiar? (who incidentally karaoked with Jamie Lynn Sigler  the other night and doesn't even get an off-hand mention from the Sports Bog.  That's how meaningless this guy is right now to the Nats). Really? Or did Nyjer wear out his welcome and Rizzo kick him to the curb to satisfy his obsession with "clubhouse" guys? I know which way I'm betting.

Third. I'm gonna go ahead and HOPE that the scouts and stat analysts had him graded highly defensively.  Not because that makes any sense, as the lifetime numbers peg him as average to slightly below average, but at least they could tease out a defense to... no no on second thought if you are gonna use the word "highly" you can't even defend that.  You can defend "not embarrasing",  "acceptable", "best available at the money the Nats are willing to dole out", maybe even "good enough that they thought he could squeeze out one decent year at this age" but not "highly".  The scouts and stat guys might know what they are doing in other places, but if they really graded out Ankiel highly - they need new guys to do their CF scouting and analysis. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

CRASH and SOAR '12

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.