Next in line for my new plan for the Nats is First Base. Follow along with the series here.
The ideal situation in my opinion is for Josh Willingham to be named the starting 1B from day 1 (in Spring Training, that is). I do believe, athletically, he is better suited as the better long-term option for the Nats at 1B. If he can't cut it, it won't hurt to shift Dunn back, but I do wholeheartedly think Willingham can be an above-average defender at 1B. I picked Morse because of his ability to play multiple positions (although none of them very well) and hit at the ML level (despite little success in 10 plate appearances to date this year, he's still a .297/.360/.394 career hitter in the majors). I expect him to be our Ronnie Belliard in 2010. I doubt Ward and Eldred will be back, but there is always a possibility...
Sleeper Pick (from the organization): A slight, slight, ever so slight possibility could be Chris Marrero. I do not advocate rushing him to the bigs, as he only has 50 plate appearances against AA pitching. If he has a strong showing in Spring Training and throughout the first few months in Harrisburg and Syracuse, I could see him showing up in DC around the all-star break, especially if the team plans on moving Dunn at the deadline.
Sleeper Pick (from outside the organization): Nick Johnson. No, not all of these sleeper picks are going to be Nats re-treads, but in a thin 1B free agent class, he (and maybe Ross Gload) are the only ones I can really see making sense. Most of the free agents out there are either starters (Delgado, Thome, LaRoche) or guys who are past their prime (Giambi, Sweeney). Branyan or Stairs might be decent fits, but I would expect them to want to sign with contenders rather than the Nats.
2009 production by Nats first basemen to date: .289/.415/.459, 19 HR, 76 R, 72 RBI
2010 projection: Significantly better offensively and significantly worse defensively. Johnson is not the ace with the glove he used to be, but he's still light years ahead of the likely 2010 Nats starter Adam Dunn.
A list of the Nats currently under contract can also be found at Cot's.
The latest projected Elias Rankings (for Type A/B Free Agent purposes) can be found at MLB Trade Rumors.