- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2008

16 PAUL LO DUCA

Position: C

Age: 35

2007 key stat: Hit .341 against left-handers for Mets.

Best case: Becomes valuable bat in lineup and steady hand for young pitchers.

Worst case: Injuries force long stints on the disabled list.

23 JOHNNY ESTRADA

Position: C

Age: 31

2007 key stat: With Brewers, threw out six of 79 runners trying to steal.

Best case: Is able to spell Lo Duca and give Nationals a solid bat off the bench.

Worst case: Injuries hamper his production, and he becomes a defensive liability.

3-JESUS FLORES

Pos: C

Age: 23

2007 Key Stat: Had five game-tying or go-ahead hits.

Best case: Sticks around because of injuries to Lo Duca and Estrada and becomes Nats’ catcher of the future now.

Worst case: Gets sent down to Harrisburg within a week and remains there all year.

24 NICK JOHNSON

Pos: 1B

Age: 29

2007 key stat: Missed season with broken leg.

Best case: Picks up where he left off in 2006, hits .290 with 28 homers and 100 RBI.

Worst case: Misses large chunks of time with injuries and loses starting job to Dmitri Young.

21 DMITRI YOUNG

Position: 1B

Age: 34

2007 key stat: .366 average at RFK Stadium was highest in park’s history.

Best case: Winds up as team’s first baseman, hits .300 with 80 RBI.

Worst case: Can’t keep himself in shape well enough to make a difference, languishes on bench.

2 FELIPE LOPEZ

Position: 2B

Age: 27

2007 key stat: Hit just .218 with runners on base.

Best case: Finds All-Star form of 2005 playing in a new park, hits 25 homers and drives in 90 runs.

Worst case: Loses starting job to Belliard, chafes at backup role and becomes center of trade talk.

10 RONNIE BELLIARD

Position: 2B

Age: 32

2007 key stat: Led team with 17 games of three hits or more.

Best case: Continues where he left off last September; hits .300 as starting 2B.

Worst case: Is ineffective as a utility infielder and pinch hitter.

15 CRISTIAN GUZMAN

Position: SS

Age: 30

2007 key stat: In 46 games, .380 on-base percentage was 43 points higher than previous best.

Best case: Builds on torrid spring, lays off bad pitches, hits .300 and gets contract extension.

Worst case: Questions about effort resurface and strikeouts reach triple digits.

11 RYAN ZIMMERMAN

Position: 3B

Age: 23

2007 key stat: 18 game-winning RBI ranked second in MLB.

Best case: Takes next step in career progression and hits .300 with 30 homers and 110 RBI.

Worst case: Can’t lay off breaking balls low and away, hits .265 and strikes out 125 times.

8 AARON BOONE

Position: 3B

Age: 35

2007 key stat: Batted .286 in 69 games with Florida.

Best case: Becomes valuable bat off the bench — we hear he’s gotten a big late-game hit at some point in his career.

Worst case: Spends large chunks of the season on the disabled list like he did last year.

34 ELIJAH DUKES

Position: OF

Age: 23

2007 key stat: Homered once every 18.4 at-bats with Tampa Bay.

Best case: Given a full season, cashes in on potential and hits 30 homers.

Worst case: Can’t hit major league pitching every day or finds trouble off the field and spends most of his time on the bench.

1 WILLIE HARRIS

Position: OF

Age: 29

2007 key stat: Hit safely in 54 of 78 starts.

Best case: Finds a niche as utility player and source of speed off the bench.

Worst case: Loses out to Nationals’ young talent, heads back to minor leagues.

25 AUSTIN KEARNS

Position: OF

Age: 27

2007 key stat: Tied for eighth in NL with nine outfield assists.

Best case: Finally shows power stroke full-time, hits 25 homers with 85 RBI.

Worst case: Frequent strikeouts prompt Nationals to bench him for Dukes.

29 RYAN LANGERHANS

Position: OF

Age: 28

2007 key stat: Made just one error in 103 games with Nationals.

Best case: Uses strong arm and solid glove to stay on team as extra outfielder.

Worst case: No room for him in crowded outfield.

12 ROB MACKOWIAK

Position: OF

Age: 31

2007 key stat: Drove in 36 runs in 85 games with Cubs before being traded to San Diego.

Best case: Provides some pop off the bench and as occasional starter.

Worst case: Strikes out too much, doesn’t hang around on big-league roster.

44 LASTINGS MILLEDGE

Position: OF

Age: 22

2007 key stat: Hit .304 with runners in scoring position.

Best case: Builds on strong spring and hits 25 homers while flashing strong range in center.

Worst case: Struggles with off-speed pitches, hits .250 with 110 strikeouts.

26 WILY MO PENA

Position: OF

Age: 26

2007 key stat: Struck out 94 times in 110 games.

Best case: Learns to be more selective at the plate, stays healthy and hits 30 homers as Nats’ left fielder.

Worst case: Starts slow after injury, hits .240 with 125 K’s.

56 LUIS AYALA

Position: RP

Age: 30

2007 key stat: Posted 1.23 ERA in 14 appearances on zero days rest.

Best case: Continues to be a tough matchup out of the bullpen; matches last season’s results over 70 appearances.

Worst case: Elbow troubles resurface, he fails to stay healthy long enough to make an impact.

57 JASON BERGMANN

Position: SP

Age: 26

2007 key stat: Allowed three runs or less in 15 of 21 starts.

Best case: Continues development as a starter, posts double-digit wins with ERA under 4.

Worst case: Lands on DL and doesn’t show Nationals he’s capable of becoming a reliable starter.

47 MATT CHICO

Position: SP

Age: 24

2007 key stat: Led team with 167 innings pitched.

Best case: Makes team as back-of-the-rotation starter who can eat innings.

Worst case: Struggles with control, can’t stay ahead of hitters and heads to minors.

43 JESUS COLOME

Position: RP

Age: 30

2007 key stat: Established career high in appearances with 61.

Best case: Posts 65 appearances, drops ERA under 3.50 and continues to be valuable late reliever.

Worst case: Regresses from career year in 2007, loses seventh-inning spot.

32 CHAD CORDERO

Position: RP

Age: 26

2007 key stat: In 76 appearances, only 46 were save opportunities.

Best case: Continues to be reliable closer — only he gets 45 saves on a better team.

Worst case: Trend of rising ERA the last two years continues as hitters start to figure him out.

38 JOEL HANRAHAN

Position: RP

Age: 27

2007 key stat: Pitched just 51 innings in 12 starts.

Best case: Adapts to role as reliever, uses eye-popping stuff to make 50 late-inning appearances.

Worst case: Can’t adjust to coming in with runners on base, posts 6.00 ERA.

36 RAY KING

Position: RP

Age: 34

2007 key stat: Made 67 appearances for Nationals and Brewers.

Best case: Expands beyond specialist role, posts sub-3.00 ERA in more than 80 innings of work.

Worst case: Lefties figure him out and he loses spot to younger arm.

31 JOHN LANNAN

Position: SP

Age: 23

2007 key stat: Posted 4.15 ERA in six starts.

Best case: Wins 10 games and establishes self as bona-fide major league starter.

Worst case: Spends year at Class AAA Columbus waiting for his turn in the majors.

45 ODALIS PEREZ

Position: SP

Age: 30

2007 key stat: Allowed homer once every 9.8 IP, second-best mark of career.

Best case: Fulfills prediction of 200 innings, 15 wins.

Worst case: Gets hammered early, team looks to move him to make room for young arm.

17 TIM REDDING

Position: SP

Age: 30

2007 key stat: Held runners to .206 average with runners in scoring position.

Best case: Wins 12 games as reliable back-of-the-rotation presence.

Worst case: Can’t get lefties out, loses rotation spot to midseason call-up.

51 JON RAUCH

Position: RP

Age: 29

2007 key stat: Allowed just four more hits (75) than he had strikeouts.

Best case: Continues to establish self as top-end setup man with 80 strikeouts and 2.50 ERA in 85 appearances.

Worst case: Gives up too many homers and sees ERA balloon to 4.50.

52 SAUL RIVERA

Position: RP

Age: 29

2007 key stat: Gave up just one homer in 93 innings.

Best case: Continues to be a pleasant surprise out of bullpen with 3.20 ERA in 75 appearances.

Worst case: Third year in NL gives hitters enough time to adapt; ERA tops 4.25.

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