We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2009 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2009 Nationals Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Fire Jim Bowden.

1) Which Bowden Fluffer are you the most excited about? And what do you expect from them in 2009?

Elijah Dukes. He has tremendous plate discipline for a player his age, very good on-base skills, and tremendous power. He gets a lot of negative press because of his track record, but from what we’ve seen in DC he’s been a good teammate and frankly pretty close to a model citizen. I’m more concerned about his ability to stay healthy than anything. In 2009, I think a .260 / .360 / .470 line is a totally reasonable projection, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him beat that by 20 points in each category. If he stays healthy and gets 500 ABs, I think we’ll see 30+ homers, 100+ RBI, and an all-star game appearance.

2) Ryan Zimmerman seemed poised for a 30/100 year until last year’s limp-wristed year. What’s your prediction for him in 2009?

Zimmerman started slow, which has become a typical occurrence for him, and then had a shoulder injury that cost him two months and sapped almost all of his power for the next month after that. He finally hit his first dinger after the injury on August 27, and from that game on he ripped a .325 / .381 / .553 line. He’s not that good, but that’s a hell of a month for anyone. So I’m ready to toss out his 2008 as an aberration. That said, he isn’t a 300 / 100 guy. He’s a .280 BA, 20-25 HR guy who shouldn’t be hitting higher than 6th for a good team. And he’s one of the best defensive 3Bs in baseball. And he’s only 25. That’s a very valuable package, but a lot of people expect more because Bowden (as is his wont) way overhyped him when he was drafted, with comps to Mike Schmidt and Brooks Robinson. He always does that to players, and it’s so unfair. But whatever. This year I think CHONE’s projection for 2009 is a fair projection: 19 HR, 78 RBI, .289 BA / .364 OBP / .488 SLG. I’d be surprised if he did a lot better or worse than that, assuming he’s healthy.

3) Any optimism for the Nats staff? Any chance Scott Olsen or Daniel Cabrera are inspired by Obama and give us change we can believe in?

In a word, no. I dislike Scott Olsen as a player about as much as anyone in the Natmosphere. His K rates and velocity have been in free-fall. He’s gone from 8.27 K/9 in 2006 to 6.78 in ’07 to 5.04 in ’08, and he’s lost 3 mph off his fastball over that time. He’s a slight flyball pitcher also, and his command is ok but nothing fantastic. It’s just not a very good package. Last year he only survived in the Marlins’ rotation because of an unsustainably low .266 BABIP. Plus, he’s probably the worst teammate and one of the bigger head-cases in the league.

I don’t dismiss Cabrera’s chances quite as much as Olsen’s, but I don’t see him as anything more than a marginal fifth starter, and I don’t put any stock in his vaunted “upside.” He just can’t hit the strike zone–he improved slightly on his 5.11 career BB/9 last year, but at the same time his K/9 fell to 4.75. He’s just very hittable. Guys know he can’t get strikes with the slider and sit on his mistakes. A lot of people are putting stock in the move from the AL East, but it’s not like the Mets, Phillies, Marlins, and Braves are weak little sisters.

The team’s rap is that Olsen and Cabrera will be as good as Odalis Perez and Tim Redding but with upside. That’s poppycock. I actually would feel better about the team starting Jason Bergmann than either of these two, but Bowden’s hated him from the start, so that’s not going to happen. Frankly, I wouldn’t be at all suprised to see Olsen shipped off to Syracuse and Cabrera moved to the bullpen by the end of July.

4) Who gets more saves for the Nats in 2009? Hanrahanananan or Saul Rivera or wildcard?

Hanrahan will be the closer on Opening Day, and he’ll have to totally fall apart to lose the job. That could happen though. Last year was the first time in his pro career that he had any idea at all where the ball was going.

Rivera is an underappreciated gem. I know, middle relievers are pretty fungible commodities, but Rivera’s a groundball machine who never gives up the long ball and a total workhorse. I wanted him to close last year after the Rauch deal. But the team doesn’t see him as a closer because he doesn’t strike people out.

The wild card in my mind would be Garrett Mock. He should be given a shot at the rotation, but if he doesn’t get that he could be a back-end reliever. He’s been posting some very nice K-rates across every level since 2007, and last year he K-ed 10.1 per 9 in 41 MLB innings.

This team’s bullpen depth is really shaky. Who pitches the 7th inning for this team? Wil Ledezma? Jesus Colome? Steve Shell? Mike Hinckley? Nationals fans have been spoiled for years with stellar bullpens that have hidden our putrid rotations. That’s all over now. This year could be ugly.

I’d like to see Manny experiment with some less traditional bullpen usage this year. He doesn’t have any bullpen aces, so why not just play matchups? I don’t like the old Tony La Russa rigid 1-inning closer model anyway. But I’m not sure Manny has the vote of confidence from management that he’d need to push something so non-traditional.

One thing to watch is Chad Cordero. If he bounces back this year while the Nationals bullpen immolates, then you can go back to last July when Bowden humiliated Chief by announcing on sports talk radio 6 months before he had to that he’d be non-tendered without any notice to the player. Cordero said at the time that he was livid and unlikely ever to resign with the Nationals. Since then he’s been more forgiving, and he’s still out there, but I would be stunned to see him back, and I think the Nationals will miss him.

5) Your site is called Fire Jim Bowden. While Bowden certainly hasn’t distinguished himself as a GM, it is a tough economy and we hate to see someone unemployed. If no longer GM, what would you think would be a more suitable job for him?

He desperately craves the media spotlight, and although I find his personality grating I think he was a natural on Cold Pizza.

But if you’re asking about jobs in baseball, I think he would be a valuable asset as a scout. He has a decent eye for hitters, and there’s no question that he has a knack for finding useful role players in the major league trash heap. But that’s not nearly enough to build a winner, and he has no capacity whatsoever to think long-term and stick to a plan. Any fantasy baseball amateur could match his performance drafting pitchers. He doesn’t care a lick about defense. He’s literally never drafted a middle infielder who’s gotten so much as a cup of coffee in the majors ever. So I wouldn’t want him in charge of scouting and development, but if he was just a roving advance scout with a focus on finding young toolsy bats and undervalued veterans working for a guy like Jack Zduriencik or Pat Gillick he could contribute.

  1. big o says:

    one of your better guest writers .

  2. ichirosan says:

    What are your thoughts on Jordan Zimmermann? Is he worth a late round flier on a keeper league?

  3. Grey

    Grey says:

    @ichirosan: Definitely worth a late round flier if your team is hurting for pitching and your league is deep enough. Keep in mind, in general hitters are better than pitchers as keepers, then you throw in the unpredictability of a rookie pitcher, then throw in that they are the Nats. Zimmerman looks like he could be very good, but you may have to wait a year to get something from that pick.

  4. arussell1983 says:

    Here are some predictions I posted on my blog, wanted to see what you guys thought about these bold statements going into 09 season:

    1. Roy Halladay gets traded (AL Central or West team) mid-season en-route to winning the Cy Young award.

    2. 3 Year $37M man K-rod gets demoted from the Mets closer role and JJ Putz finishes with 35 saves on the season.

    3. KC Royals win 90 games and take the AL Central title.

    Here is my justification for each of these predictions:

    1. You may have heard me mention this one before. Ricarrdi will soon come to the realization that with the competition in the AL East there is no serious hope of even a wild card berth for the Blue Jays in the next couple years. What better way to build for the future then trade ‘one more season on his contract’ ‘I want to play on a winner’ Roy Halladay for a package or 4 or 5 top prospects/picks. The trade value for Roy Halladay in the last year of his contract will be half of what the Jays can get for him this year. I hope Ricarrdi recognizes this. I am a Blue Jays fan and I want them to win. Trading Roy Halladay is the best way to do this.

    2. It was all about opportunity last year in LA, being in the right place at the right time. Other then the number of saves, K-Rods numbers were really not that great. If K-rods numbers were even close to dominate, combined with the saves record, there would of been a hell of a lot more MVP consideration then what he got. The combination of the wild wind-up (due for an injury), the new location (pressure of new york), not-so-great numbers, and a more-then-viable backup just waiting for the opportunity to close does it for me.

    3. Good mix of power, speed, utility players in the lineup, most of which are primed for a breakout season. Solid pitching staff, a great setup man and even better closer. I like the potential here, especially being in the AL Central where there are som good teams, but nothing dominate and every team coulld collapse. Hate to draw comparisons, but what the hell. Think last years Devil Rays or the previous years Colorado Rockies.

  5. Eric W says:

    Whoooahhhh now there is some Elijah Dukes love.

  6. Grey

    Grey says:

    @arussell1983: 1. Random.

    2. Lack of MVP consideration is far from a reason to think he wasn’t that good. He had a viable backup every year in The Los Angeles City of Anaheim. Saves are saves and he might get replaced, but you’re offering a hunch, not much else.

    3. This year’s Royals are not last year’s Rays. They don’t have nearly the same level of pitching. Who’s their number 3 starter? The Royals may have enough DH/1B for a run at the Team With The Most DH/1B Basemen Award.

  7. GasTheObese says:

    ’09 will be the year of the angry black man. Expect big years from Dukes, Delmon, and a resounding comeback from Sheffield. Chris Brown will be the inspiration.

  8. Grey

    Grey says:

    @GasTheObese: That’s a prediction I can get behind.

  9. Steven says:

    I do like Dukes. It’s hard not to, watching him play, looking at his numbers.

    Re: Zimmermann–I would be careful. The Nationals defense is going to be terrible. He probably won’t open the season in the rotation. And I see him as more of a #2-3 eventually anyway. As a keeper, I’d put him pretty far behind Neftali Feliz, Tommy Hanson, and Oakland’s duo of Cahill and Anderson.

  10. arussell1983 says:

    in 95, 96 and 97 the rockies had the NL homerun champion. Each year was a different player. Name them without looking it up.

  11. arussell1983 says:

    @ Grey
    1. Random, maybe, but more then a possiblity, absolutely. If only ricarddi smartens up.
    2. ya maybe a hunch got me started, but when i looked at the stats and shit it didnt make the hunch go away.
    3. Alex Gordon is going to be a monster this year, and grienke becomes a serious #1 starter. third starter is bannister. young guys behind him that may push bannister to more of a 4 or 5.

  12. mc serch says:

    in 10 secoonds, off the top of my head, d. bichette, l. walker and and v. castilla?

  13. sean says:

    the nats strike me as exactly the look you DONT want your fantasy team to have. there are some intruiging names and guys with upside, but looking at the roster only leaves you with question after question.

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