The Nationals are the trendy pick to make the playoffs these days. Odds-makers in Vegas have been improving their odds for weeks, national writers are choosing them for wild-card spots as I have been for a few weeks now. It's almost setting them up to fail, but that is probably just my pessimistic view brought on by being an Orioles fan for the past 14 years. Now that spring training has started, what are some story lines to follow for the next 3 weeks?
Will Harper make the opening day roster?
It's no secret that D. Johnson would like to see the wunderkid break camp with the big league team, but I'm sure he wants him to EARN his way on the squad as well. While many teams believe in delaying ML debuts to save the team money and control of players, Harper making the ML team out of camp would be setting him up to be a 25 year old UFA and quite possibly in line for the biggest contract in MLB history if the hype holds true. Purists will say at 19 he can't be ready for the emotional responsibility that comes along with being a professional athlete, time will tell.
What order will the rotation follow?
Will Johnson mix left and right handers to keep teams off balance? Truth is, this only matters for the first couple weeks of the season when the 5th starter won't get as much of a workload, and Strasburg, Zimmermann, Jackson and Gonzalez will all be getting their starts. Rumors of a potential trade of John Lannan persist through camp, and one could argue that he would be of more use turned into prospects than as a $5m swing starter out of the pen, although with questions around Wang, and injuries in baseball, a smart team would hold on to him if they are going to challenge for the playoffs
Will everyone stay healthy?
This is a question no one can answer, a little luck is always a good thing and this may be one of the more important keys to the season. So far, top prospect Sammy Solis has gone down for the year with TJ surgery, but hopefully with a healthy year we can see the results of good drafting and smart moves made over the past couple years.