Cherry blossoms likely at Nationals Park and Harper could have a big year

The Nationals begin the 2013 campaign with a home series against the Miami Marlins. It could also be a spectacular week to view the cherry blossoms in D.C.

The National Park Service has announced that the peak viewing time this year has now been pushed back to April 3-6.

The Nationals open April 1 at 1:05 p.m. against the Marlins, and are also home April 3-4 against Miami. The left-field pavilion at Nationals Park is lined with cherry blossom trees. This season, the timing might be perfect for viewing the cherry blossoms and seeing some great baseball on the same field during the opening week.

The Nationals have announced there will be approximately 400 grandstand seats available for $15 at the main box office starting at 10:30 a.m. on the day of the opening game.

* It will be interesting to see if left-hander Fernando Abad can hang for another week or two and make this team. The former Houston Astros reliever has gone 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in eight appearances this spring, allowing two runs on five hits over seven innings. As far as newcomers, Abad has made a nice splash with the Nats and is making it difficult for the team to decide what they will do. Manager Davey Johnson said he could go north with just one southpaw, but you never know.

* Last week, I looked for some Nationals names on the ESPN crawl regarding “sleepers” and “busts” for fantasy baseball. Sleepers included Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard and they listed Danny Espinosa as a bust. Espinosa has worked on his strikeout issues and it will be interesting to see how he comes out of the gate this season. He also was dealing with a troublesome shoulder. They also had a couple of writers that mentioned Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez on this list.

But the name that jumped out at me was one writer listing Bryce Harper as a possible fantasy baseball bust in 2013.

Tristan H. Cockcroft opined that if you were in a keeper league, it might be better to go after Harper next season rather than this season. Cockcroft compared him to more experienced Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, who hit .269 with 27 homers and 82 RBIs last season. Harper hit .270 with 22 homers and 52 RBIs in 2012. Referring to Heyward’s stats, Cockcroft believed that those are “numbers Harper could match but probably won’t exceed ...”

Even from a fantasy point of view, do you think Harper can exceed those Heyward numbers? I think so, especially starting from April 1 instead of late June. After all, Heyward played in 158 games, and Harper played in just 139.

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