SLEEPER Dmitri Young has always been able to hit, and he'll start the season in the heart of the lineup, such as it is.
BUST John Patterson is only nine months removed from elbow surgery, so expecting anything near his 2005 stellar numbers is hoping for too much.
HITTER TO WATCH: Kory Casto, 3B Casto is a plus bat off the bench down the road, but struggles too much against big-league offspeed stuff to be a regular.
PITCHER TO WATCH: Zechry Zinicola, RHP
Nobody is close, but Zinicola, a 2006 draftee, was a hard-throwing closer in college and GM Jim Bowden has a track record of promoting guys like him quickly.
MLB Preview 2007
FIXED You don't need a congressional study to know the Nats might be historically bad. But there's a new vibe in the clubhouse. Last year vets owned the floor. Now that Jose Vidro, Jose Guillen and Livan Hernandez are gone, it's power-sharing time. And while Frank Robinson is a legend, 38-year-old Manny Acta may relate better to the young squad. Veteran Brian Schneider is already setting an example. When his wife, Jordan, went into labor on March 3, he got the call at 12:15 a.m. and made it to West Palm in time for the birth of his daughter, Tatum. "I'm so glad it was at night," Schneider says. "I didn't want to have to run off the field."
NEEDS FIXING The Nationals have an owner, and they don't play home games in San Juan anymore. Now if only they had a rotation. Injury-prone John Patterson has never won 10 games in a season. Shawn Hill (6.90 career ERA) is the closest thing to another true starter. Even Jason Simontacchi, who last saw the majors in ¹04, will get a shot. "This is what the Tigers looked like three years ago," Acta says. "We are going to leave here with five starters." Sweet.
Docs placed a rod in Nick Johnson's broken femur and screwed it in three places after his ugly Sept. 23 collision. The slow-healing first baseman is hoping for a midseason return.
It's hard to pinpoint why the Nationals' attendance fell 22 percent last season -- the club's second year in Washington -- when so many things went wrong. The team finished 20 games below .500, sending manager Frank Robinson to the unemployment line.
"Things aren't looking as bad as I thought they would for the Nationals. I mean sure it's going to be bad, but certainly not 130 losses bad. I actually don't think the Nats even lose 100 games this year."