In Part 2 of our Washington Nationals roster prediction series, we delve into the Nationals current pitchers that are a lock to make the 2012 Opening Day roster. This is always tricky, because some young minor leaguer could shine in Spring Training, while another that showed promise could crumble. As always, we're assuming there are no injuries. The list of guarantees are going to be short, because there a few true guarantees in the Nationals organization at the moment. The fun happens in our On The Bubble edition to come.
Stephen Strasburg: This should come as a surprise to no one, but Stephen Strasburg will make the roster, he will be the Opening Day starter, and he will make an impact starting next season. Some have said that because the Nationals are starting the season in windy and chilly Chicago, the team should consider starting Jordan Zimmermann instead. It won't happen that way. If Strasburg is healthy enough to be on the roster, he's healthy enough to start in the cold. He may not go 7 innings out of the gate, but he'll be there.
Jordan Zimmermann: JZimm is coming off of an absolutely stellar season. In his first full season with the Nationals after successfully recovering from Tommy John surgery, he put up a 3.18 ERA and 3.16 FIP and put up a 3.4 WAR. That his ERA and FIP are so close is important, because it means we can likely expect more of the same from JZimm this season. His success wasn't an anomaly; it's the real deal.
Tyler Clippard: Clipp has quickly become a fan favorite and his acquisition is among the most successful moves that former GM Jim Bowden made with the organization. Clippard likely won't make the All-Star team for the 2nd straight season, but only because the Nats will be a much better ballclub that will likely have other representatives in contention, like Stephen Strasburg and a healthy Ryan Zimmerman. It doesn't mean Clippard isn't going to be one of the most important members of the team next year though. He's pitched an extraordinary number of innings for a reliever both this year and last year, so it will be interesting to see if his arm holds up through his abrupt delivery for yet another season.
Drew Storen: I hesitate to put Storen in this list, because he is extremely valuable as trade bait. Something tells me Drew will be back, though. His 43 out of 48 saves is impressive in its own right, but he's become a de facto face of the franchise on radio shows and as the MLBPA Player Representative, which is no small feat for the young closer. I like Storen as a player and as a person, and I'm willing to admit that I hope he sticks around. That may have something to do with the reason that he's on this list and not On The Bubble.
Chien-Ming Wang: This one is a bit dicey, too, but I'm pretty confident that CMW will be back next season. The Nationals wouldn't have spent millions of dollars and 2 seasons to rebuild his shoulder and have a season like 2011 to let him walk. There seems to be mutual interest between the Nats and Wang to work something out, and that's no small potatoes in baseball negotiations. He won't be as cheap as $1 million + incentives like he was this season, but he could be the front line veteran starter that Mike Rizzo is looking for.
Tune in next time for the position players that are "On the Bubble." These players will be those stuck in limbo, they may make the roster, they may get traded, or they may be sent down to the minors. It should be a fun read.