If everything goes according to plan in 2013, the Washington Nationals franchise should be deep into the playoffs come October. After all, the team is coming off a 98-64 record and its young stars still have their best years ahead of them.
That said, there are still some questions that need to be answered this year.
Can Gio Gonzalez Duplicate his Career Year?
Coming off a season in which he won 21 games, Gio Gonzalez should be set to anchor a stellar starting rotation. Instead, the left-hander is finding his name being connected to a South Florida clinic that supplied performance-enhancing drugs to MLB players. Even if he is cleared of any wrongdoings, the media scrutiny that is sure to follow may affect the way Gonzalez pitches in 2013; a strong spring training would go a long way towards Gonzalez having a successful season. However, if he falters he may not be able to mentally recapture his 2012 form.
Will Jayson Werth become Disgruntled?
Jayson Werth was used mainly as a leadoff man last season, but the former Phillies slugger wants to get back to hitting in the middle of the lineup. On Werth’s side is the team’s GM, who feels that the outfielder’s skills are better suited for the middle of the order. However, before that happens Werth will have to convince manager Davy Johnson, who has not settled on his lineup for 2013. If the two can’t see eye to eye, will Werth become a problem for the Nationals this season?
Will Rafael Soriano as Closer be an Improvement?
Washington’s run at a title came to a quick end last season when closer Drew Storen faltered in the decisive game of the NLDS last season. While Storen is quick to point out that such nights come with the territory, Washington management wasn’t buying it, since they were quick to sign Rafael Soriano as their closer this season. Soriano is an exceptional closer, but batters have found more success against him the last two seasons than the previous five. Hopefully, that trend will not continue in 2013.
Can Stephen Strasburg Handle a Bigger Workload?
Washington management will be taking all restrictions off of Stephen Strasburg this season, and it will be interesting to see if the pitching ace can log +200 innings without re-injuring himself. Strasburg looked great last season, posting a 15-6 record with 197 strikeouts, before management shut him down in early September. Yet even though he enjoyed a successful year, it must be noted that Strasburg only pitched more than six innings on five occasions last season. How he will react to the extra work this season will have a great impact on Washington’s season.
Will Bryce Harper Adjust to Hitting Third?
With everyone, including manager Davy Johnson, expecting a breakout year from Bryce Harper this season, it remains to be seen if the 2012 Rookie of the Year will adjust to hitting third in the lineup. While it’s easy to start projecting big stats for the Washington star, it must be noted that rookie stars sometimes experience a sophomore jinx where their stats drop sharply the next season. Washington is counting on the hard-hitting Harper to adjust well to the move. If he fails to live up to expectations, will it affect the team’s chemistry this season?
Writer: A collector of old Roy Sievers and Frank Howard memorabilia from past Washington teams, the writer shares an equal love for Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper led team of the present.