Monday, February 18, 2008

2008 Washington Nationals Fantasy Preview

The Nats have the greatest scrap heap team ever assembled. They are like a professional version of the LI Ducks, or the St. Paul Saints. The Nats finished the 2007 season with a 73-89 record and have made a plethora of moves this off season as apparently they believe that quantity outweighs quality. Let's check out the new faces for the Nats - this roster reads like a fantasy waiver wire.

Projected Positional Starters


C- Paul Lo Duca/Johnny Estrada
1B- Dmitri Young
2B- Ronnie Belliard
SS- Cristian Guzman
3B- Ryan Zimmerman
LF- Willy Mo Pena/ Elijah Dukes
CF- Lastings Milledge
RF- Austin Kearns

Projected Starting Rotation

#1 - Shawn Hill
#2 - John Patterson
#3 - Jason Bergmann
#4 - John Lannan
#5 - Matt Chico

Projected Bullpen

Closer - Chad Cordero 
Setup Man - John Rauch 
Middle Relievers - Luis Ayala, Saul Rivera, Jesus Colome

Hitter to Draft

This lineup is like a singles bar of mediocre to bad baseball players. The outfield has spent more time talking to the police than they have talking to Peter Gammons. They have spent more time in a cop car than on an All Star Field. This team should be renamed The Washington Re-Treads.

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B - Zimmerman will give you 20-30 Home Runs and if he has any protection in the line up or has anyone producing in front of him should get 100+ RBIs hitting out of the clean up spot. Zimmerman is also an excellent fielder, so he may save you a few errors at 3B which tends to be error-heavy. Zim is the only glimmer of hope that you will find in the National's Clubhouse.

Pitchers to Draft

Chad Cordero- He is a solid closer who will approach 40 saves every year. Rumors of him being traded may increase his value if he will continue to close with that team. If that team has a closer already he will become a "Holds" guy.

John Rauch, MR - Rauch is the unquestioned 8th inning setup man and an excellent source of holds in leagues that value that category, getting 30+ in 2007. Additionally, keep in mind that if Chad Cordero is traded, Rauch immediately becomes the Nationals closer, a position he could thrive in.  

Sleepers

Washington Nationals Outfield - Wily Mo Pena, Elijah Dukes, Austin Kearns and Lastings Milledge -  These guys have a chance to put up solid numbers given the collective talent. However, in a crowded outfield, issues like playing time distribution and the possibility of being traded hang serious question marks over their value. Out of the four I would say Milledge has the greatest upside in 2008 since the Nats have all but assured him the CF position. He has 20 HR - 20 SB potential, but playing in RFK and in a weak lineup, it may be difficult for him to reach those numbers.

Would I draft any of these guys before the 20th round? Maybe if I had been drinking. All four of these outfielders have good potential but don't risk drafting them until later in your draft. The worst thing to have on your team is a guy who isn't playing that you drafted.

Dmitri Young, 1B - He had a great season last year and he was a member of my fantasy team, so Da' meat Hook and I are real tight. Young showed last year that with consistent playing time he can help a fantasy team in BA, OPS and to a lesser extent RBIs. Nick Johnson is slated to return to action this season and this could cut into Da' Meat Hook's playing time killing his fantasy value. Speaking of Johnson...

Nick Johnson, 1B - Before he was the poster boy for medical insurance, Nick Johnson was a solid, up and coming first basemen who was supposed to win a batting title one day. Watch him in spring training; if he wins the starting job and can manage to stay healthy, he is an excellent waiver wire pick up/late draft flier that can post solid BA and OPS while contributing in power numbers. 

Luis Ayala, MR - As we said earlier, if Cordero is dealt Racuh becomes the closer. This opens up the setup role for Ayala who was solid in the pen last season with an E.R.A. in the low 3's. In addition, if both Cordero and Rauch are dealt midseason (trade talk surrounded them both last season) the Ayala may finish the 2008 season as the Nats closer.

Shawn Hill, SP - Although he is injury prone, Hill has shown great flashes of ability. Last season in 97 innings, Hill put up a 3.42 ERA and solid 1.14 WHIP in an injury-ridden campaign. He will be 27 in April and could be a good source of ERA and WHIP support for fantasy teams. However, as the defacto ace of the staff he will be facing some tough pitching matchups so don't expect a sparkling W-L record.

Players to Avoid

Paul Lo Duca, C - Steroids check is cashed and posted on the internet, knee injury could cost him his job to Johnny Estrada, and the women in D.C. aren't as hot as the women in the big apple. This may make Paul's all-around performance SUB PAR.

The Middle Infield - Cristian Guzman is awful; he actually batted under .220 the entire 2005 season! Ronnie Belliard may have lost some weight, but I don't want him near my fantasy team. 

Nationals Starters Not Named Shawn Hill - This bunch is inexperienced and injury prone, a terrible combination. Although RFK is a great pitchers park, their value is minimal given the team's anemic offense and the fact they play in the powerful NL East. Out of the bunch, Bergman and Patterson have the best value as spot starters in the right matchups. 

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