The strength of the 2012 Washington Nationals lies in its pitching staff. Between its young talent and veteran presence and depth, this team will rely on strong pitching performances almost daily. Their offense is a different story, though. With Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche hurt, it could be a rough stretch for offensive production.
Both Morse and LaRoche believe they will be ready for Opening Day according to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, but both will miss at least another week. Morse is nursing a strained right lat muscle. Meanwhile, LaRoche is still dealing with what was once called a sprained ankle, but an MRI showed he had a bone bruise and cartilage sprain in his left foot. With these injuries, the Nats have to at least entertain the possibility that these two key bats won’t be ready on Opening Day.
Missing just one of these players could severely limit the Nationals ability to score runs this season. Morse, coming off of a break out 2011 season where he hit 31 HR and 95 RBI, was good for 3.4 WAR last season and projects between 2 and 3 WAR this season if he is healthy. Meanwhile, Adam LaRoche missed the vast majority of last season with left rotator cuff surgery, but when healthy, he’s typically good for between 1 and 2 WAR, at least 20 HR, and at least 80 RBI. If the Nationals were to miss those two players for any significant time this year, it could spell trouble.
With both players missing from the lineup, the Nationals lineup goes from above-average to something like this:
- Ian Desmond
- Danny Espinosa
- Ryan Zimmerman
- Mark DeRosa
- Jayson Werth
- Rick Ankiel
- Wilson Ramos
- Roger Bernadina
In terms of ideal situations, that would be pretty far down the list. DeRosa has had a fine spring, and he says the wrist that’s ailed him in the past few seasons is healthy, but he’s still 37-years old. A player that age can’t be counted on to be a regular starter for a team that is looking to make the playoffs. A bench player? Sure. But not a starter.
Hopefully, reports that both players will be ready by Opening Day are accurate. If they are ready, and realatively healthy, the Nationals should be able to get by on pitching for a few weeks in April while the bats across the league are still warming up. If not, the magical season Nats fans have hoped for could be a bit less secure than it was a few weeks ago.