With the upcoming series against the Nationals about to go under way we spoke with Will Yoder at TheNatsBlog.com to ask him what he thought of the Nationals this year and in the future. We were also interviewed by Will on our thoughts on the Mets this year, so check out the blog to see the other side of the interview.
NY Mets Global: What do you think the Nats chances are for this year? Where will they finish?
Will: Let's be honest, the Nats are almost a certainty to finish dead last in the NL East this year. They will no doubt improve upon last season, it will be hard not to when they lost 102 games in 2008. I think if the team stays healthy they should be able to win at least 70.
NY Mets Global: With Lastings Milledge being sent down last week, how do you view the trade from two years ago (Milledge for Church & Schneider)?
Will: There's some debate on whether or not Milledge should have been sent down at all, which we talked about here. As you can see we still are behind Milledge and think he will be, and should be, back up shortly. He had an excellent year last year for a 23 year old flashing potential 30-30 talent (.268-14-24). Schneider and Church were great players, but they obviously are more helpful to a team like the Mets who are competing now, than a team like the Nats who want to win tomorrow. I still think it was a very good trade for both teams.
NY Mets Global: How important is Stephen Strasburg to the Nats future? Is he worth the probable largest deal ever for a draft pick? What are you expectations for him this year?
Will: Strasburg is essential for the Nats if they want to be competitive within the next 3-5 years. You always have to be wary on putting to much weight in pitching prospects, as their career can end in one pitch. I think the potential Strasburg possesses outweighs the risk however. Most importantly, he is extremely polished and will probably need not more than a month or two in the minors. This makes the supposed $50 million bonus less of a blow. If you assume that he can win 12-15 games a year, and you have him under that contract for 4-5 years, that's a solid major league deal.
It's hard to say for sure what he will do right away. He obviously has amazing stuff but you look at other players who dominated college and they all had adjustment periods. My hope for him is that he will make his first major league start in September, and make the opening day roster for 2010.
NY Mets Global: Where do the Nats need the most improvement, the rotation or the pen?
Will: The Nationals pen has obviously been the scapegoat of late as they have blown four 9th inning leads already. Bullpens however can be fixed from year to year with veteran signings here and there. The rotation is the spot that needs to grow the most. We have three solid young starters, Lannan, Zimmermann, and Martis, and hopefully Ross Detwieller is on the way. They're the key to the future in Washington.
NY Mets Global:When do you reasonably think the Nats will be in contention for the playoffs?
Will: The Nats will be in contention when the aforementioned pitchers develop enough to carry the team. We feel we have a young line up in place that will only get better. Elijah Dukes is a rising star, Ryan Zimmerman, Lastings Milledge and Jesus Flores are all cornerstones as well. I think the Nats will be in the hunt for the wildcard by 2012.