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NATS HEAD TO OPENING DAY WITH MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS

[April 2nd] -- With less than a day separating the Nationals' 9-23 spring training embarrassment and the all equalizing 0-0 record of opening day, it's time to take stock of the team's future and separate the "certainty" from "unsure." If the Nationals were an accounting firm, their books would be horribly out of balance.

1B-Nick Johnson: (unsure)
Although I disagree with Bowden's decision to sign Johnson to a four-year contract (I still believe that Larry Broadway was the teams long-term solution at first), I'm certainly okay with it. I'm not worried about his horrid spring (.172-2-7). I am worried about his health. BEST CASE: .295-18-95

2B-Jose Vidro: (unsure)
Although his offensive production this spring was bad until the last few games (.268-0-4), his range and quickness at second base seems to indicate that the chronic knee is close to 100%. With Damian Jackson and Marlon Anderson available, I hope that Frank doesn't play Vidro every day; I'd rather have him healthy for 120 games as opposed to injured over 150. BEST CASE: .282 - 10 - 55

SS-Royce Clayton and/or Cristian Guzman: (unsure)
No matter who plays at short in 2006, and for how many games, their offensive production will be substandard and their defense league average. And that's okay. No team fields a star at every position, even the Yankees. I don't think it really matters who suits up and plays here. That said, Clayton's spring (.215-1-3) isn't encouraging. BEST CASE: .250-4-40

3B-Ryan Zimmerman: (unsure)
Do you remember those early, halcyon days of early 2005 when a guy named Brad Wilkerson was hitting just about every pitch he saw for an extra-base hit? That didn't last long. Although Zimmerman has hit at every professional level so far, and had the best spring by far of any Nationals' player (.358-7-15), he has still only played 20 major league games. All the indicators point to a tremendous season (the 8 spring errors not withstanding), but rookies can surprise. They can surprise good, and they can surprise bad. Who really knows. BEST CASE: .288-25-80

LF-Alfonso Soriano: (oh-boy)
Of all the variables the team will have to worry about, Soriano is the variable-ist (is that a word?) How bad will his defense be? Will his offense reflect his good spring (.321-2-4) or will the wide expanses of RFK play mind games with the Nationals' pseudo-slugger? I doubt that Soriano will still be in Washington before we have a chance to find out any of these answers. BEST CASE: .277-25-88

CF-Brandon Watson: (unsure)
It seems the only two people in all of D.C. who really wanted Brandon Watson to take over for Ryan Church in centerfield were Frank Robinson and Jim Bowden. But, I guess if you're going to have two guys on your side, those would be the two you'd want. Watson's spring (.308-0-4) was impressive, but even if he replicates that effort during the regular season, will his 30 stolen bases balance out the potential loss of Church's 20 home runs? My guess is that he won't last the season in Washington. BEST CASE: .272-0-30, 35 steals

RF-Jose Guillen: (sure)
Everything is never as it seems with Jose Guillen. If he's healthy and playing well, don't count on him playing up to his capacity. If, however, he's bumped and bruised and beated and battered, he'll probably have a monster season. But how will his potential free-agent season effect him? Tony Tavares said that he's been having "positive" negotiations with Guillen, and Bowden said that Guillen's opening day deadline doesn't mean a thing. But the mecurial outfielder said yesterday that he was "shutting down" talks for the remainder of the year. Who's right? Who knows. BEST CASE: .294-30-105

C-Brian Schneider: (sure)
The WBC fiasco has put him a week or two behind schedule this spring, but Schneider is a professional, has gotten better every year he's been in the major leagues, and is ready for a great year. If only every position was a sure as catcher. BEST CASE: .274-12-55

We'll take a look at the pitchers later this afternoon.


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