In the This Is My Nightmare series, we'll take a look at what the absolute worst case scenario for each team would be in 2013. Think of it as the negative complement to our You May Say I'm A Dreamer series that we'll be running during our preview series.
Disaster for the Nationals seems like a far-off possibility given the team's youth and shocking level of success in 2012. But is it really so hard to imagine a disastrous season for Washington? Despite the team's relative youth, there are many areas where things can go wrong for them in 2013.
Washington's starting rotation has a lot of disaster potential. It's led by Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, a pair of players that have had Tommy John surgery in the past. While Tommy John surgery has phenomenal success rates and both players' surgeries are far off in their rearview mirror, imagine if either player had their elbows flare up again in 2013. Washington management came under fire last year for their handling of Strasburg, and maybe it'll come into play again this year. The Nationals also have the injury-prone Dan Haren and Biogenesis-linked Gio Gonzalez in their rotation, and those circumstances could definitely come into play this season and doom the team.
Offensively, the Nationals almost seem like a house of cards. Ryan Zimmerman's health has come into question over the past two seasons, and his production has begun to drop off too, both on offense and defense. Jayson Werth's Nationals career has been disappointing thusfar and he missed half of last season with a broken wrist. Even before the wrist injury, Werth's power has dropped off a cliff, and his seven year contract has already been a disappointment. What about the career years put together by Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond in 2012? Desmond's production was pushed forth by an 18.2% HR/FB that could get fall by half or even two-thirds in 2013, while LaRoche is a 33-year old coming off a career year…you can see why people could bet against him.
Washington's awesome bullpen last season suffered some pretty big losses in Michael Gonzalez, Sean Burnett, and Tom Gorzelanny, but they essentially went all-in by signing Rafael Soriano and bumping the duo of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard up an inning each. Maybe the two returning Nationals relievers struggle in 2013 ahead of the veteran Soriano. And speaking of Soriano, he's got meltdown potential too considering his career of elbow problems.
The Nationals have an awesomely constructed roster. They're solid in all facets of the game, and can probably deal pretty well with declines in production from a couple of key guys from the 2012 team. But considering them a shoo-in to make the playoffs is a little naive, because there is definitely a possibility of things going south in a hurry for them.