The Nationals just finished up an exciting homestand that saw them go 4-2 against two teams that were picked by many to win their respective divisions. The club’s only losses came to two pitchers who can easily claim the title as the best right- or left-handed starters in baseball, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and by winning both games of the doubleheader Sunday, the Nationals are now 8-7 on the season.
With 15 games under their belt, they are just about 10 percent of the way through the year, which to me makes it the perfect time to make a few predictions on how the season will play out. It’s early enough that not too much has developed, but late enough to have at least gotten asense of what this team will look like in 2011.
So without further delay, here are three predictions for the Nationals in the coming months:
Wilson Ramos will come back down to Earth
Ramos has excited many Nationals fans early on this season as he has come out of the gate with a hot bat. The 23-year-old rookie is hitting .414/.500/.483 in 10 games, and has come through with several big hits in tight situations. Obviously, these numbers are not sustainable, no matter how talented he may be. The question is, how far will he come down?
Unfortunately, Ramos’ 24.1 percent strikeout rate, coupled with his unsustainable .545 batting average on balls put into play lead some to worry it might be quite a far tumble. Essentially, Ramos is currently getting extremely lucky on balls he’s making contact with (a very good BABIP is traditionally around .330), and he is not making contact with enough pitches, striking out almost once every four times he goes to the plate. His Isolated Power of .069 is second worst on the team to MIchael Morse, which essentially means he’s poking singles and not driving the ball. Eventually, the law of averages will have to even Ramos’ numbers out.
The starting center fielder for August and September isn’t on the team yet
Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday that the Nationals are shopping for a center fielder. The club had hoped that it could catch lightning in a bottle with Rick Ankiel, but unfortunately it looks like his ability to hit lefties hasn’t improved and the more at-bats he gets, the more weaknesses he has exposed.
Ultimately the Nationals want Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper to make up two-thirds of their outfield, and they are desperately trying to find the final member of their future outfield. Expect to see a move made by July to try and bring a young center fielder to Washington, whether it be one of the Upton brothers or somebody a little less known.
Jason Marquis will pitch again in the playoffs
Marquis is in the final year of a two-year contract, which means he has trade bait written all over him. Going on 33, Marquis likely doesn’t fit into the Nationals’ future plans and if he continues to pitch at his current pace, he could be a great asset for a playoff contender needing to add a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
The value which the Nats could get in return for Marquis is debatable. Marquis could help a contender, but given his recent stints on the disabled list, and his god-awful 2010 season, the Nationals may need to pair him with a prospect or two to land a real young star like Justin Upton or even Cody Ross. The Nationals were able to get a good return last year for Matt Capps and, as a starter, Marquis is much more valuable. Expect a move to be made in mid-to-late July.