Teams can be chock full of talent and potential, and end up going nowhere. Other teams can lack elite talent and still find a way to rattle off wins and make a run in the playoffs.
Talent level guarantees nothing in professional sports. There are other factors that determine how far a team will go, which is why some organizations can spend upwards of $175 million in a season and still end up watching the postseason from home.
As they prepare to enter the 2013 season, however, the Nationals are starting to get recognized for the level of talent that general manager Mike Rizzo has assembled on his team’s roster.
People are talking about the Nats’ starting five - featuring Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren - as one of the league’s best rotations.
With the addition of Denard Span, the Nationals’ already impressive defensive metrics should improve. Bryce Harper will move over to a corner outfield spot and Jayson Werth will enter spring training healthy, giving the Nationals a strong outfield alignment to go with top-notch defensive abilities in the infield.
When healthy, the Nationals have a deep, dangerous starting lineup which features guys that can get on base and seven players with 20-home run potential. Their bench includes at least three or four players who could start on a number of other teams.
That apparently was all noticed by The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, who ranked the 10 best rosters in baseball heading into this season, and gave the Nationals the top spot.
Here’s Cafardo’s reasoning for slotting the Nationals as his most talented team in the majors:
Obtaining a leadoff man and center fielder in Denard Span just made this roster even more impressive. Hard to beat the young core of Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Drew Storen. They added righty Dan Haren. If they don’t re-sign Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse starts at first base. They’re likely to add another arm to the bullpen.
The Nationals are followed on Cafardo’s list, in order, by the Reds, Tigers, Angels, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Braves, Cardinals, Giants and Royals.
There were years when the Nationals’ talent level might have ranked 30th in the league. Those years are no longer.