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Washington Nationals Fantasy Report

June 20, 2008 | By RotoRob | comment on this post

After winning a surprising 73 games last season (when most experts predicted the Washington Nationals would be hard-pressed to even win 50), the Nats have backslid substantially this year. After getting off to a 3-0 start, the Nats have fallen apart. Following a sweep in Minny this week, Washington has fallen to 29-45 – 11 games back of the second-place Marlins, where it needs to be to have a shot at the Wild Card. An offense that ranks dead last in the NL in almost everything, and a pitching staff that’s not much better has doomed this club in 2008. A team batting average of .240 that’s even worse with runners in scoring position has exposed the club’s serious lack of power. It’s going to be a long season in D.C.

On the plus side, Dmitri Young is starting to come around after an awful start. He’s batting .324 in June to take his season average up to .264. Young is a long way from duplicating last season’s wonderful comeback story, but at least he’s headed in the right direction. The fact that he’s walking more often this year – especially lately, with five free passes in the past six games – will definitely help him out in the BA department, but his slugging percentage is down almost 100 points from 2007. At this point, I’d say Young is a marginal fantasy asset in NL-only leagues, but one worth keeping an eye on because of his current trends.

Shawn Hill has been a big disappointment this year, and is now barely worth owning in anything but a seriously deep NL-only league. I had high hopes for him this season, but he’s simply been far too hittable. Apparently, his arm is feeling fine, but Hill’s recent results suggest that something is awry. This guy has too much talent to be doing so poorly if he’s truly healthy, but judging by how his season continues to get worse, I suspect something is up here. You can’t use Hill at all right now, and unless you really believe in his ability to turn things around, you should probably just dump him.

Wil Nieves gave starting catcher Paul Lo Duca a rest Thursday as Lo Duca is dealing with problems in both hands – one of which (right) he broke earlier in the season, and the left hand is hurt now too, jammed on Wednesday. Veteran backup Nieves has never seen remotely enough action to be of any use, but he’s enjoying the finest season of his career, already breaking career highs with 20 hits and 10 RBI. No, I’m not recommending him, but if Lo Duca is forced back to the DL at some point, Nieves could have some short-term value. Of course, the fact that Lo Duca has never looked worse (and is a completely useless fantasy commodity now) could mean that he’ll simply get more pine time in the second half anyways.

Elijah Dukes is starting to pick things up with four hits in the past two games, a .320 BA in the past week and a .311 mark for the month of June. I’m wondering where the power is that he hinted at as a rook with the Rays last year, and of course, Dukes won’t score many runs in such a crappy offense, but his hot play right now makes him a decent target for NL-only leagues. Despite all his baggage, he’s just 23 and has tremendous upside, so is worth tracking.

Felipe Lopez is another Nat worth taking another look at. With another two hits Thursday, Lopez has now hit safely in ten straight games, raising his BA 21 points to .256 for the year. His home runs are down, but he’s still smacking plenty of doubles, is drawing walks and has cut his strikeouts. Yes, without much pop, Lopez has limited appeal, but given his current hot streak, he might be able to help you in an NL-only league.

One of the few Nats that’s a must own is Cristian Guzman. He also spanked a pair of hits Thursday, running his hit streak to a dozen games. Guzman is the rare Nat who is scoring runs fairly regularly and he’s already got more homers than any season since 2004. Okay, his walks have fallen off the table again, but he’s making more consistent contact this year, so Guzman looks like he’ll maintain his BA despite a weak OBP.

Despite some rough outings of late, Joel Hanrahan is doing better as a reliever than he did as a starter last year. In a very deep NL-only league, his strikeouts (10.56 per nine) and occasional win or hold, make him someone to consider. Don’t touch Hanrahan, however, until he starts putting up results like he did in May.

Tim Redding, who gets the nod Friday as Washington hosts Texas, is worth looking into in NL-only leagues or perhaps even deeper mixed leagues. He looked very good his last time out, but that was in Seattle, where even my stuff has no-hit potential. The key for Redding is health; he looked solid last year, but lost half the season because of injury. He’s already topped 2007’s inning total, and while his overall results aren’t as good, he’s winning more games, and is someone worth considering if you need starting pitching assistance.

Aaron Boone got off to a strong start, but struggled badly in June until waking up the past few days. His pop seems to have returned this year, so if Young winds up getting hurt again, Boone could be a decent short-term option.

Odalis Perez has rebounded nicely with the Nats this year, but shoulder tendonitis will keep him sidelined for at least another week. He’s been tossing BP sessions this week, so is getting close to a return from the DL. Perez might be able to help NL-only league owners when he gets back. In the meantime, Garrett Mock will get the call for another spot start Saturday. In his first start a couple of weeks ago, Mock was roughed up badly, but the 25-year-old righty has put up strong numbers at Triple-A, so he could surprise.

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