Do you like the speed the Nats are displaying on the bases this spring? I really hope to see a lot of it during the regular season.
-- Garin S., Austin, Texas
The speed isn't what is exciting for me. What I like the most is that the Nats have a bunch of guys that know how to use it. Generally speaking, you need to have a 75% rate or better for it to be worth stealing bases. Willie Harris has a 77% SB success rate with the Nats. Ian Desmond was 22/27 across all levels last year (81%). Nyjer Morgan was 24/31 with the Nats last year (77%). Willy Taveras is 194/236 (82%) over his career. Roger Bernadina has a 78% rate in his minor league career.
While guys like Taveras, Harris and Bernadina may be better off as bench/utility players, I have to give them credit; they ARE good base-stealers.
(EDIT-the Nats have stolen bases at a 79% rate in Spring Training. Nice.)
With the 25-man roster almost set, will the Nationals have a winning record this year?
--Billy P., Washington D.C.
Don't bet on it. If the Nats want a legitimate shot at a winning record, they would need to start the year with Storen and Strasburg on the big league squad in addition to signing/trading for a legitimate RF. Even if that were the case, their chances would still be slim-this team isn't quite ready to make that jump yet in my opinion. I expect them to win 72-78 wins with what they have in the system now.
After watching Matt Capps' below-average performance this spring, do you think he's the best choice for the closer role?
-- Daniel O, Centreville, Va.
Capps wasn't great, but neither were Bruney or Clippard. All three had disappointingly high walk rates and for anyone to surpass Capps on the depth chart in Spring Training, they would have needed to be lights-out. Since Bruney and Clippard couldn't do that, Capps wins by default. I won't be worried about Capps until the second or third week of April if his stats are still lackluster.
In your opinion, who should be the fifth starter and why?
-- Alex C., Montreal
I'm glad the Nats didn't go with Olsen. Spending time in Syracuse will allow him to work on his arm strength in a lower pressure environment where he (hopefully) won't rush his progress. I agree with Farid Rushdi, however, that J.D. Martin would have been a better option than Mock. I've always had a soft spot for Mock, but from a statistical standpoint I can't see why he is a better option at this point, especially since both have options left. My only guess is that the Nats see their rotation as a bunch of pitch to contact types in Lannan, Marquis, Hernandez and Stammen and they would rather have one guy who can rack up some K's than another guy who relies on his defense for outs.
When are the Nationals going to sign Jermaine Dye?
-- Jerry J., Atlanta
Not soon enough. Even though Dye is an awful defensive outfielder, he's at the very least a better platoon candidate than Willy Taveras. And I'm sure that even if he hits at an average rate (say, .250/.340/.453 like he hit in 2009), the Nats will be able to find a taker for him at the Trade Dealine.
. What do you make of Jason Marquis' struggles this spring? How worried are you?
-- Austin D., West Hartford, Conn.
I'm not worried. It's just Spring Training.