- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

Q: Being realistic, please predict the Nationals’ starting lineup for 2007. I think all we really know for sure is first base, third base and catcher. Also, I am so impressed with the Marlins this year. They are an example of what a good farm system can produce. They are in wild-card contention with a $14 million payroll. How long until the Nationals could have that many quality rookies in the lineup? — Mark in D.C.

A: Let’s start with the lineup prediction. Plenty still could change, but here’s an early look: 1. CF Nook Logan, 2. 2B Felipe Lopez, 3. 3B Ryan Zimmerman, 4. 1B Nick Johnson, 5. RF Austin Kearns, 6. LF Ryan Church, 7. C Brian Schneider, 8. SS Cristian Guzman.

This lineup assumes Alfonso Soriano is not re-signed, Jose Vidro is traded, Logan wins the center field job over Alex Escobar, Guzman comes back healthy, Lopez is moved from shortstop to second base and the Nationals don’t make any major free agent signings or trades.

So in other words, the chance of that lineup actually taking the field on Opening Day is almost nonexistent.

As far as the Marlins are concerned, yes, the Nationals would love to build that kind of young, talented team. But let’s remember something: Most of those young players weren’t home-grown. They were acquired during the offseason in trades for established veterans like Josh Beckett and Carlos Delgado. Washington didn’t have those kind of chips with which to bargain (aside from Soriano, who wasn’t dealt at the trade deadline and now will become a free agent).

Q: What does an Adrian Fenty administration mean for development for the new baseball stadium? — Steve Hickey

A: It’s an interesting question, and I know people are talking about this. Fenty, the District’s presumptive new mayor, was one of the most adamant opponents of the ballpark on the City Council.

That said, it’s really too late for much to change. The ballpark is under construction, the funding has been approved and everyone says it will open in March 2008. Perhaps a few elements outside the park could be in jeopardy under a Fenty administration, but that’s about it.

Q: Kory Casto is considered one of the Nationals’ brightest prospects. Why has he not been called up? I have heard that it’s because management doesn’t want him just sitting on the bench. Is this the real reason? — Jack Esformes

A: Yes, for the most part. After bouncing around a few positions in the minors, Casto is now settled in as a left fielder. If the Nationals called him up this September, he would be stuck on the pine while some guy named Soriano plays every day.

There are other reasons, though. Casto just completed a long season at Class AA Harrisburg, and he’s due to play in the upcoming Arizona Fall League. He might as well get some rest now before that starts up.

And then, there this: Maybe the team just doesn’t think Casto is ready for prime time quite yet.

Q: How is the construction of Nationals’ new ballpark coming along? — Jermaine Deese

A: They say it’s on schedule to open in 2008, and there are visible signs of progress along South Capitol Street.

If you’re interested in seeing live, updated photos of the entire ballpark site, check out clarkconstruction.oxblue.com/clarkhuntsmoot.

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

submit a question, go to the Sports Page

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