Injuries helped derail the Washington Nationals’ 2013 season, as Bryce Harper, Ross Detwiler, Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, and Adam LaRoche all spent extended time on the DL, or on the bench due to injuries. If the Nationals hope to surpass the Braves for first place in the NL East, they will need their key players to healthy for the majority of the season.
Recently, Harper noted that he has not hit “with no pain in about a year”, clearly affecting his play. Many people had high expectations for Harper last season, who went on to have a solid year, but injuries hindered him from reaching his full potential. He hit 20 home runs in 118 games in 2013, but Harper has a strong chance to reach 30 home runs in 2014 if he is able to play the entire year.
Strasburg also appears to be reaching 100% health just in time for spring training. Three months ago he had bone chips removed from his pitching elbow, however, he is now back to his normal work out schedule. Last season, Strasburg struggled to straighten out his arm after games, though he was still healthy enough to pitch in games. A completely healthy Strasburg would be great news for an already loaded pitching staff in 2014.
Ramos is a young catcher with high potential if he can stay on the field for an entire season. He is another player with 30 home run potential if he can last an entire season, which is important for the Nats, considering they do not have a proven backup. The Nationals traded Kurt Suzuki last summer, and will have a spring training competition to determine who will backup Ramos.
Zimmerman had one of his worst defensive seasons in 2013, in part due to lingering injuries to his throwing shoulder. Zimmerman made 21 errors, the most he had made in a single season since 2007. He had a hitch in his throwing motion, and many poor throws that were difficult to handle for first baseman LaRoche.
Washington will need a healthy team to win the division this year. The Nats especially cannot afford a significant injury to a catcher or middle infielder, positions where they are inexperienced or lack depth. Both the Nationals and Braves are talented World Series contenders, the NL East crown may be won by the healthiest club.