73-89, fourth in National League East
1. SS Cristian Guzman:
.328 BA, .380 OBP, .346 SLG, 2 HRs, 14 RBIs in 2007
2. CF Lastings Milledge:
.272 BA, .341 OBP, .446 SLG, 7 HRs, 29 RBIs in 2007
3. 3B Ryan Zimmerman:
.266 BA, .330 OBP, .458 SLG, 24 HRs, 91 RBIs in 2007
4. 1B Dmitri Young:
.320 BA, .378 OBP, .491 SLG, 13 HRs, 74 RBIs in 2007
5. CF Austin Kearns:
.266 BA, .355 OBP, .411 SLG, 16 HRs, 74 RBIs in 2007
6. RF Wily Mo Pena:
.293 BA, .352 OBP, .504 SLG, 8 HRs, 22 RBIs in 2007
7. 2B Ronnie Belliard:
.290 BA, .347 OBP, .347 SLG, 11 HRs, 58 RBIs in 2007
8. C Johnny Estrada:
.278 BA, .296 OBP, .403 SLG, 10 HRs, 54 RBIs in 2007
1. Shawn Hill, 4-5, 3.42 ERA in 2007
2. John Patterson, 1-5, 7.47 ERA in 2007
3. Jason Bergmann, 6-6, 4.45 ERA in 2007
4. John Lannan, 2-2, 4.15 ERA in 2007
5. Matt Chico, 7-9, 4.63 ERA in 2007 Projected bullpen
Closer: Chad Cordero, 37 saves, 3.36 ERA in 2007
RH setup man: Jon Rauch, 3.61 ERA in 2007
RH setup man: Luis Ayala, 3.19 ERA in 2007 The new guys
Aaron Boone: He will most likely be the first option off the bench. Boone can play all of the infield positions and provide some pop with the bat. Last season, Boone played in 69 games for the Marlins and hit .286 with five home runs and 28 RBIs. He was playing on a regular basis at first base before a left knee injury in late June put him out for the rest of the season. Boone's knee is now considered 100 percent healthy. Tyler Clippard: Acquired from the Yankees, Clippard will compete for a rotation spot. Before the deal became official, the Nationals wanted Clippard to take a physical. He was on the fast track to the big leagues in 2005 and '06, but he took a step back last season. The team noticed that he has some mechanical issues and wanted to make sure that Clippard was not injured. He passed his physical, and the team now feels that pitching coach Randy St. Claire can fix the right-hander's problems.
Elijah Dukes: There is no question that Dukes is a talented outfielder, but he must stay out of trouble. Because of Dukes' off-the-field problems, the Nats have a plan in place to make sure that he's successful on the field and a solid citizen off of it. Young and Manager Manny Acta will be Dukes' mentor on the field, while Dukes will seek counseling off of it.
Estrada: The Nationals insist that signing Estrada is not a reaction to Paul Lo Duca's left knee surgery. The move was made because the Nationals are heavy on right-handed bats. The switch-hitting Estrada is more successful from the left side of the plate. In the last three years, in fact, Estrada hit .282 against right-handed pitching.Garrett Guzman: A Rule 5 Draft pick, the left-handed-hitting Guzman will be competing for the fifth outfield spot. Guzman was named an Eastern League postseason All-Star in 2007 after hitting .312 with 14 homers and 88 RBIs in 125 games with Minnesota's Double-A New Britain club.
Ray King: The 2008 season will open King's second stint with Washington. Last year, he was a valuable situational lefty out of the bullpen for the Nationals, going 1-1 with a 4.54 ERA in 55 games before being traded to the Brewers in September for outfielder/first baseman Andrew Lefave. As a member of the Nationals, King held left-handed hitters to a .161 batting average.Lo Duca: In December, the right-handed-hitting Lo Duca was slated to be the everyday catcher for Washington, tutor a young pitching staff and become a mentor to backup catcher Jesus Flores, but a knee injury will now force Lo Duca to battle Estrada for the starting job. Lo Duca is considered a player who works the count and can hit anywhere from the two-hole to eighth in the lineup. Willie Harris: Harris was one of the Braves' best players coming off the bench in 2007. He is experienced at every defensive position except first base, catcher and pitcher. Rob Mackowiak: A career .262 hitter, Mackowiak is considered one of the best reserves in baseball. He has played all three outfield positions, as well as first, second and third base. Milledge: The Nationals believe that Milledge can develop into a middle-of-the-order hitter and become a good defensive outfielder. He most likely will be the everyday center fielder. Milledge has been in and out of the big leagues since 2006.
Matt Whitney: A Rule 5 Draft pick, Whitney led the Indians' Minor League system with 32 home runs and 113 RBIs in 128 Minor League games last year. According to Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, Whitney is a Flores-type player -- not ready for the Major Leagues, but he has tremendous potential.
Prospects to watch
Ross Detwiler: Almost three months after being selected in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Detwiler was in the big leagues and appeared in one game. He will most likely start the season in the Minor Leagues.
Alex Escobar: This will be Escobar's fourth year in the Nationals organization. No one has questioned Escobar's talent as a big leaguer, but he has had a tough time staying on the field because of shoulder, foot and ankle injuries. Cristian Guzman: Guzman was off to his best start as a member of the Nationals in 2007, but he tore ligaments in his left thumb in June and missed all but three games the rest of the way. Hill: He was clearly the best starter on the Nationals last season, but left shoulder and right elbow problems limited Hill to 16 games. He is already throwing off a mound. Nick Johnson: Johnson missed the entire 2007 season because of a broken right leg. He is now healthy and will compete against Young for the first-base job. If he plays every day, Johnson could give the Nationals a boost on defense. John Patterson: Patterson hasn't been healthy since 2005, when he struck out a career-high 185 batters. He has been plagued by right forearm problems the past two seasons, but he said not too long ago that he is pain-free. Ryan Wagner: Wagner missed most of last season with a right shoulder injury, but he is expected to be ready for Spring Training. Still, look for manager Manny Acta to be cautious when it comes to Wagner. On the rebound
Felipe Lopez: The Nationals' depth chart has Lopez as a backup second baseman and shortstop, but privately, the team believes he can rebound from a tough 2007 season and serve as the club's leadoff hitter. Lopez was the primary guy at the top spot last year, his worst season as an everyday player, when he hit .245 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs. Long gone
Jonathan Albaladejo: It looked like Albaladejo was going to be a mainstay in the bullpen, but the Nationals traded him during the Winter Meetings for Clippard. Tony Batista: He was the Nationals' best pinch-hitter, but the club decided to sign Boone instead. Ryan Church: The Nationals wanted Church to hit home runs, but they received doubles and not enough RBIs in return. He was traded to the Mets for Milledge. D'Angelo Jimenez: It took Jimenez half of the 2007 season to learn how to be a reserve. During his stronger half of the season, Jimenez hit .304 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. Nook Logan: Logan started the '07 season as the starting center fielder, but he was ultimately a disappointment. He didn't get on base often enough and made his share of mental mistakes. Brian Schneider: The Nationals wanted more than just a catcher who called good games. They also wanted a hitter and a leader in the clubhouse, and those two things never materialized the last two years. Jason Simontacchi: Simontacchi was third on the Nationals in wins in 2007, but his season came to an early end because of a right elbow injury.
2007 hitting leaders (min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Young, .320
OBP: Young, .378
SLG: Young, .491
Runs: Zimmerman, 91
RBIs: Zimmerman, 99
Hits: Zimmermann, 174
2B: Zimmerman/Church, 43
3B: Cristian Guzman and Lopez, 6
HR: Zimmerman, 24
SB: Lopez, 24
2007 pitching leaders (min. 30 IP)
IP: Chico, 167
W: Rauch, 8
L: Chico, 9
Win %: Jesus Colome, .833 (5-1)
S: Cordero, 37
ERA: Chris Schroder, 3.18
K: Chico, 94
K/9: Schroder, 8.54
WHIP: Schroder, 1.13
1. Will the Nationals get quality starting pitching?
The answer is yes, but the big key is staying healthy. Last season, Hill, Patterson and Bergmann missed significant time because of assorted injuries and pitched in a combined 44 games.
The Nationals sure hope so. Another year of 16 home runs and 74 RBIs would be a major disappointment for the team. It is time for Kearns, considered by many to be the second-best player on the team behind Zimmerman, to put up Zimmerman stats.
3. Just how good is Zimmerman?
Very good, but he has the potential to be great. He is already perhaps the best defensive third baseman in baseball. With a healthy wrist, Zimmerman is capable of hitting over .300 with 30 home runs. He will drive in more than 100 runs, provided that there are runners on base consistently when he gets to the plate.
By adding Milledge, Dukes, Estrada and Lo Duca, the Nationals improved their offense and hope that it will get them over the .500 mark for the first time since the 2003 season.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.