March 29, 2013; Washington, D.C., USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (27) pitches in the third inning against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Ten Bold Predictions For The 2013 Nationals

Recently, notable blog You Can’t Predict Baseball made their bold predictions, one for each team, for the 2013 season. They predicted that the Nationals outfield would hit the most home runs in the division, beating out the power-packed Atlanta Braves lineup of Justin Upton, BJ Upton, and Jason Heyward. With the season beginning tomorrow, it was only fitting that District on Deck made its own set of bold predictions for the upcoming season. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. The Nationals will win at least 100 games.

The lineup, rotation, and bullpen have all improved from last year’s 98-win team. Ryan Zimmerman will return to form like he did after his cortisone shot last season, and Jayson Werth will stay healthy. On paper, this is baseball’s best team.

2. Bryce Harper will win NL MVP.

Like Mike Trout did last year, Harper will take a big step in his age-20 season. The signs are all there: he ended 2012 at a torrid pace, despite only tapping into his vast potential, and he played out of his mind in spring training. The rest of the MLB should get ready.

3. Ryan Zimmerman will finish in the top 5 of NL MVP voting.

After receiving his cortisone shot last season, Zimmerman hit .321/.383/.584 with 22 home runs in 90 games, which would translate to 40 homers across a full season. If he even comes near those numbers, he will be a strong MVP candidate, and should have good peripheral stats with the productive lineup around him.

4. Stephen Strasburg will win the NL Cy Young.

Among NL pitchers with at least 140 IP last season, Strasburg had the most strikeouts per nine innings at 11.35, nearly two full strikeouts over the next closest pitcher. He was also in the top 10 in ERA and WHIP, at 3.16 and 1.15 respectively. Without the distractions of The Shutdown looming, he should establish himself as one of the game’s best pitchers next year.

5. Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann will both receive Cy Young votes.

Last season, Gonzalez led the NL in wins, and was top ten in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts among qualifying pitchers, earning him a third place finish in the Cy Young voting. It’s not hard to see him receiving votes, but Zimmermann was not far off. Among those same qualifiers, he was also top ten in ERA, WHIP, and fewest BB/9, in addition to being 11th in K/BB. If he can get a little more attention and keep his stats up, it’s not hard to see him contending for the Cy.

6. Danny Espinosa will be an All-Star.

His entire career, Espinosa has played great defense and hit for great power for a middle infielder. His main problems have been striking out, at an extremely high 27% rate in his career, and batting average, .239 career. Coming into his third season, he could be one of baseball’s best 2B if he can improve his plate discipline and make more contact.

7. Ian Desmond will not be an All-Star.

Last season’s success story, Desmond hit .292/.335/.511 with 25 homers, all of which are high above his career numbers. He is a prime candidate for regression, especially when you note that his HR/FB%, usually dependent on chance, tripled from 2011 to 2012. He should still be a good starter, but not the NL’s best offensive shortstop.

8. Dan Haren will win at least 15 games.

This prediction is essentially a vote of confidence in Haren’s health. Despite his painful 2012, he had pitched at least 217 innings in each of the previous seven seasons. He had no major issues in Spring Training, and looks poised to show that 2012 was a fluke. Even if his stuff doesn’t return to its previous levels, the wins should come with the support of the offense.

9. Henry Rodriguez will be off the MLB team by May, replaced by Cole Kimball or Erik Davis.

Rodriguez has always had poor control, but it descended to career-worst levels for him this spring, as he walked 10 batters in only 8.2 innings of work. Whether under the guise of an injury or a straight demotion, Rodriguez will wear out his welcome within the season’s first month, and his spot will be taken by a pitcher currently in the minors. JC Romero was a candidate after his strong WBC for Puerto Rico and Spring Training innings, but he has a career 4.16 ERA, including a 9.00 ERA last year, and will show his true self in AAA. Rodriguez will instead be replaced by Davis, who had a 2.71 ERA in AA and AAA last year, or Cole Kimball, who is returning from shoulder surgery to be the AAA closer.

10. Zach Duke will have an ERA below 3.50.

Although it seems pedestrian, this prediction may be the most “out there” one of all. He has a career 4.52 ERA, but had a 1.32 ERA at the end of last season in 13.2 IP out of the Nats’ pen. Beyond that there’s not much support for this one, but perhaps the environment of being the Nats’ long-relief man will help Duke perform well.

Will all of these come true? Not a chance. The Nationals can’t sweep all major awards and compose the entirety of the NL All-Star team en route to the title. But if even two or three (of the positive ones) come true, 2013 will have been a great season.

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