Mar 24, 2014; Jupiter, FL, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Nate McLouth (15) connects for an RBI double during a game against the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Bline: Health is Critical For 2014 Nationals

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As part of a short series leading up to and through the opening week of the season, District on Deck writers will share their thoughts on several questions regarding the 2014 Washington Nationals. These are just the opinions of our staff, so feel free to voice your own in the comments below! Today we will continue with Scott Bline, our newest writer who joined District on Deck earlier this week.

What are your thoughts of the roster general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Matt Williams have put together?

I’m a big fan of Nate McLouth, so I’m excited to see him added as a fourth outfielder. During the Orioles’ run in 2012 he was huge, and his speed off the bench will be a huge asset. I’m hopeful that Denard Span can rebound and have a good year, but I think first base is going to be a huge issue for this team all year long. Adam LaRoche is who he is, which is what he showed last year. Moving Zimmerman to first base permanently might be the best option long-term for this club.

Who will be the best/most important player on the Nationals this season and why?

The obvious answer is Harper, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. If he stays healthy, his continued maturation at the plate will be key for this offense. He has to put up the numbers this year. Otherwise, I’m not sure where the offense will come from.

What will be the single most important development for the Nationals in 2014 and why?

Health is critical. Werth is now 34, and he’s missed a large chunk of time the last two seasons. Can he stay healthy the entire season? He’s not exactly ready to fall of the cliff, but you can expect some decline. His health will help mitigate some of the damage LaRoche’s anemic offense will cause. A full season with Rendon playing second base will be great too.

Any other thoughts on the 2014 Washington Nationals?

The pitching is there, but will this team have enough offense to compete with the Cardinals? This team is built for a World Series run, and I think they’ll need to address first base at some point this year. 10-15 games of Zimmerman just won’t cut it. I’m also worried about Soriano in the ‘pen. Last season his hits were up and his K’s were down, not exactly encouraging signs for an aging reliever. Relievers can be inconsistent season to season, but his numbers didn’t exactly make me feel good about the end of games. I’m excited to see if both Strasburg and Harper can make their respective leaps. I’ve picked Strasburg to win the Cy Young this year, and Harper’s steady diet of protein shakes and clean living over the winter makes you wonder if this is the season he hits 30+ homers. Although, an OBP close to .400 would be just as great.

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