At first glance the Washington Nationals infield has the same faces on the diamond as they did last year. But if you look again you can see there are some lingering issues and possible problems that the team will have to deal with in 2013. If healthy, this is a very good hitting infield and an above average defensive infield. Here's a look at the 2013 Washington Nationals infield.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3rd Base- In his first season of a 6-year $100 million dollar contract Zimmerman stumbled out of the gate, being placed on the DL in April with inflammation in his shoulder. Zimmerman, widely know as the face of the franchise, continued to struggle until he received a cortisone shot in the summer. His production then picked up and he ended up with good numbers offensively with 25 home runs and 95 RBI. Zimmerman had some work done on his shoulder in the offseason and one may wonder if he is going to have the same early struggles as last year. He also committed 19 errors and would have had more if it weren't for Adam LaRoche playing first base. Is he fully healthy? If he is, Ryan Zimmerman is the heartbeat of this team and one of its best players. His leadership, intensity, ability to produce runs, and defensive range make him one of the best third basemen in the National League…when healthy.
Ian Desmond, Shortstop- One of the best stories of last year for the Nats was the breakout season of Ian Desmond. Drafted by the club when they were still the Montreal Expos in 2004, Desmond had a career year in 2012 earning a spot on the All-Star Team and getting the Silver Slugger for shortstops. Career highs in just about every offensive category propelled Desmond to another level in terms of franchise shortstops. Expect Desmond to start 150 games at shortstop, while getting on base and scoring runs from the 2-spot in the lineup.
Danny Espinosa, 2nd Base- "Espi" is a fast, athletic second baseman with some pop. He also likes to swing the bat…a lot. Espinosa struck out an incredible 189 times and looked very uncomfortable at the plate at times towards the end of the season. Shoulder pain went from minor to major when it was revealed that Espinosa actually had a torn rotator cuff. GM Mike Rizzo and Espinosa believed that surgery was not necessary and that resting the shoulder would be the best path. Espinosa says he is at 100 percent and will be ready for the season. His health is the number one concern for an infield that has the same moving parts as last year.
Adam LaRoche, First Base- The biggest move Washington made was keeping one of their own. Adam LaRoche also had a career year in 2012. He had a career high in home runs with 33 and a career high-tying 100 RBI. When the Nationals needed a clutch hit, LaRoche would homer. He became the dominant bat in the lineup and the primary run producer. As deadly as he was with his bat, manager Davey Johnson loves him for his glove. He saved dozens of throws that were sure to be errors at first base. LaRoche has the Gold Glove and a new 2-year contract to prove it.
Steve Lombardozzi, Utility Player- Steve Lombardozzi earned a spot on the 25-man roster last season after having a good spring. The Nationals investment in him paid off as Lombardozzi was a valuable player all season, filling in at second base, left field, third base, and even a game at shortstop. He is becoming even more important as the Nationals continue to eye Danny Espinosa's shoulder during the spring. Lombardozzi would fill in if Espinosa needs to visit the DL during the season. A good contact hitter with good speed, he can bat near the top or bottom of the order. A good option for Johnson in terms of pinch-hitting situations, Lombardozzi is a switch-hitter. He is a luxury to have on the bench.
Chad Tracy, Utility Player- Mostly a first baseman, Tracy can also play third and some outfield. He has pop so Johnson will not hesitate to put him in key pinch-hitting situations with men on base. Another player that when healthy, is versatile and a luxury for the Nationals when it comes to match-ups.
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