VIERA, Fla — The Washington Nationals have a rare spring morning off on Thursday, with a 6:05 p.m. game against the New York Mets at Space Coast Stadium and no one even working out until later this afternoon.
With that in mind, it seemed like as good a time as any to take an early crack at projecting a 25-man roster that, barring injury, holds very little mystery — even on Feb. 28.
Wednesday morning, manager Davey Johnson was asked if the first few games and a few weeks of workouts had altered his opinion much with regard to the roster. Johnson didn’t dance around the question. The Nationals had a pretty good idea of the 25 guys they’d be taking north to D.C. when they arrived in Viera and they have a pretty good idea now. Not much has changed.
That being said, the season is still one month away and, as last spring showed quite well, teams can’t always make it out of spring training with precisely the roster they expect. So, take that as a disclaimer that all of this is certainly subject to change.
But for now, here’s a basic idea of who will be on the Nationals’ charter heading to D.C. a month from today:
Stephen Strasburg RHP
Gio Gonzalez LHP
Jordan Zimmermann RHP
Ross Detwiler LHP
Dan Haren RHP
Rafael Soriano RHP
Drew Storen RHP
Tyler Clippard RHP
Ryan Mattheus RHP
Craig Stammen RHP
Zach Duke LHP
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Bryce Harper LF
Denard Span CF
Jayson Werth RF
Chad Tracy 1B/3B
Roger Bernadina OF
Tyler Moore 1B/OF
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
You may notice there are only 24 names on this list and that brings us to the one wild card the Nationals have at this moment: the final reliever in the bullpen.
Will Henry Rodriguez be ready to start the season, after undergoing surgery to remove a bone chip from his right elbow last August? Will Christian Garcia’s forearm strain ultimately squash the Nationals’ plans to stretch him into a starter, thus thrusting him back into competition for one of the relief spots? Will Cole Kimball, proving his health after 2011 rotator cuff surgery, force the Nationals hand with a strong spring?
Will Bill Bray find a comfortable arm slot, prove his health and impress enough to nab the final spot as a short-relief left-hander? Will Fernando Abad step up and seize that role instead?
The bottom line, though, is that it’s essentially one spot they have to decide on — at this moment anyway — and there are probably 29 other teams in the major leagues who’d take that situation if they could.
That’s not to discount the chances of guys like Chris Marrero or Corey Brown, guys with big league time who may end up as the victims of a roster crunch. But right now, with health not a factor, they appear more likely ticketed for Triple-A — even though both have impressed early this spring.
Where perhaps a bit more intrigue lies with the Nationals is in some of their non-roster invitees who have out clauses. The Nationals spent much of the offseason trying to acquire depth, and it was difficult given how sure things looked on the major league roster, but now they’ll have to try to keep some of it.
Right-hander Chris Young has an out clause in his contract, which can be exercised on March 24, as does catcher Chris Snyder. The Nationals would like to keep as much depth as they can in the organization, but if it doesn’t appear there will be room on the major league roster, it’s truly up to the players. Young and Snyder are at least two with decisions to watch for this next month.