- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2009

CATCHERS

JOSH BARD: B-

The veteran switch hitter got off to a ragged start but has been one of the team’s most consistent hitters the past month and has earned a starting gig.

JESUS FLORES: Inc.

It looked like this would be a big season for the Nationals’ long-term answer behind the plate, but a fractured shoulder limited him to 26 games.

WIL NIEVES: C-

Never known as an offensive catcher, he has held his own with the bat. But his work behind the plate hasn’t been as good as in the past.

INFIELDERS

RONNIE BELLIARD: D-

The veteran utility infielder is suffering through his worst season in the majors and has been buried on the bench. He could be released by the end of the month.

ALBERTO GONZALEZ: B+

A strong glove man at either middle infield position, he’s beginning to establish himself as a solid contact hitter and a valuable bench player.

CRISTIAN GUZMAN: B-

He has become a reliable .300 hitter, which certainly is valuable. But he refuses to work the count and gets lazy in the field.

ANDERSON HERNANDEZ: C-

He opened the season as the starting second baseman but hasn’t particularly excelled in any one area and now is splitting time in the lineup.

NICK JOHNSON: B+

He’s healthy and has stayed healthy, which is most important. He also has regained his old hitting stroke, though his defense isn’t what it used to be.

RYAN ZIMMERMAN: A-

He made national headlines with his 30-game hitting streak but has slumped at the plate and in the field since. He’s still headed for his best season to date.

OUTFIELDERS

ELIJAH DUKES: C-

It’s the same old story for the talented young outfielder: He has his moments but can’t stay healthy or consistent. He’s back at Class AAA.

ADAM DUNN: B+

He has pretty much been everything advertised. He’s on pace for 40 homers, 115 RBI and 120 walks - but 180 strikeouts and 20 errors.

WILLIE HARRIS: B

Always a spark plug, the super utilityman does everything asked of him and usually succeeds, though he isn’t really suited to play everyday.

AUSTIN KEARNS: F

It has been another disastrous season for one of Jim Bowden’s favorites. The only thing that has kept him on the roster this long is his $8 million salary.

NYJER MORGAN: B+

A small sample size since he just arrived two weeks ago. But so far he looks like the best leadoff man and center fielder this team has had in five years.

JOSH WILLINGHAM: B

He got off to a slow start and then was burdened with family tragedy but has turned things around since and has earned the starting job in right field.

STARTING PITCHERS

DANIEL CABRERA: F

If there was a worse pitcher in baseball the past three months, it was impossible to find him. The Nationals wasted $2.6 million on him.

ROSS DETWILER: C-

The 2007 top draft pick has had flashes, but it’s clear he’s still not quite ready for the big time and needs more seasoning.

JOHN LANNAN: B+

At 24, the lefty has established himself as the leader of the staff, not to mention a stopper of losing streaks. He deserves a better record.

SHAIRON MARTIS: C

The rookie went 5-0 out of the shoot but regressed from there and was sent to Syracuse to refine his stuff. He’ll be back before long.

SCOTT OLSEN: C

He looked terrible before going on the disabled list with a shoulder injury but came back strong and could prove successful after all.

CRAIG STAMMEN: C

On no one’s radar screen when the season began, he earned a big league promotion and then earned his first career win at Yankee Stadium. He’s still a work in progress.

JORDAN ZIMMERMANN: B-

He has the highest upside of anyone on the staff and has shown it more frequently in the past six weeks. Now he needs to show consistency.

RELIEF PITCHERS

JOE BEIMEL: B+

Veteran lefty has settled in as a reliable eighth-inning option, though he is 0-5. He’s a strong candidate to be traded by the end of the month.

JASON BERGMANN: C-

He dominates at Class AAA but has been inconsistent in the majors. He should be able to enjoy more success at this level.

SEAN BURNETT: B+

He wasn’t heralded as much as Morgan, but the lefty reliever could prove even more valuable in the end. He has looked solid so far.

TYLER CLIPPARD: C+

Like Bergmann, he dominated at Syracuse. It’s still to be determined whether that success carries over to the big leagues.

JESUS COLOME: F

He has a million-dollar arm with a 10-cent head. The Nationals saw his act the past two seasons; what made them think that would change?

JOEL HANRAHAN: F

The hard thrower wasn’t ready to close and lost all confidence in himself. He may yet become a good reliever, but the team had to trade him.

MIKE MACDOUGAL: B+

New closer hasn’t gotten many chances, but he has been successful when he finds the strike zone. He needs to do that more.

JULIAN TAVAREZ: C-

The veteran right-hander was serviceable early on but has turned sour since. He has lost seven games already as a reliever.

RON VILLONE: C

This is a tale of two quarter-seasons: 0.00 ERA in his first 19 appearances, 12.86 ERA in his past 12. He’s another trade candidate.

KIP WELLS: D

He had a fleeting moment or two but quickly reverted to his true form. He was designated for assignment and is now unemployed.

COACHING STAFF: C-

Manny Acta has come under intense scrutiny for the first time, and one report last month suggested he was about to be fired. But the third-year manager continues to have the support of many in the organization. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire, though, was fired June 1, with better results since Steve McCatty took over.

FRONT OFFICE: C+

Mike Rizzo inherited a mess. Give the acting GM credit for trying to fix it. He has made some shrewd moves in acquiring Morgan, Burnett, Beimel and Bard, but he has also misfired with several veteran relievers. The big test for the entire organization — especially the Lerner family — comes next month when negotiations with top draft pick Stephen Strasburg come to a head.

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