I loved what I saw from relievers Henry Rodriguez and Craig Stammen last year. What do you think 2012 has in store for them?
-- Kyle K., Washington
I think Rodriguez is going to have a breakout season, provided that he throws strikes. Without a doubt, he will join Tyler Clippard and Brad Lidge as one of the setup men. If the last two months were any indication, I expect Rodriguez to be a dominant pitcher this season.
As far as Stammen is concerned, I would like to see him get another chance in the big leagues. I respect the fact that he pitched with bone chips in his right elbow in 2009. He was impressive after being promoted from Triple-A Syracuse. If he makes the team, Stammen most likely will become a long reliever.
Who do you think will be the Nationals' Opening Day starters in right and center field? Do you think Bryce Harper gets the nod with Jayson Werth in center?
-- Andrew F., Bristow Va.
It's too early to say who will play center and right field. In my opinion, considering the Nats had problems on offense last season, I think having Werth in center and Harper in right are the best options. While I respect Mike Cameron and Rick Ankiel, I don't see a lot of production in a platoon situation in center field. We'll see what happens.
Assuming Harper starts in the Minor Leagues, why not have Mark DeRosa as an option in right field? The team can still put Werth in center. When healthy, DeRosa is a proven hitter who could provide more offense than any platoon of players could.
-- Sean O., Springfield, Va.
Provided that Harper starts the season in the minor leagues, having DeRosa in right field is not a bad idea. When he is healthy, DeRosa is a productive hitter. To me, he was an impressive starting outfielder when he was with the Cubs a few years back. As of now, he is slated to be a backup first baseman. Things could change during Spring Training.
What is Danny Espinosa doing to correct the drop-off that we saw during the second half of the 2011 season?
-- Jon G., Washington
I hope to know more during Spring Training. It's not a secret that he has to improve from the left side of the plate. Espinosa needs to cut down on the strikeouts, which I think he will. It would not surprise me if he had a breakout season. I think Espinosa is capable of becoming a complete player in the National League.
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Does Stephen Lombardozzi have a legitimate shot at taking a starting spot from Ian Desmond in Spring Training? Desmond has been inconsistent and doesn't get on base enough for someone with little power.
-- Tom C., Kensington, Md.
For now, it's a long shot for Lombardozzi to become an Opening Day starter. The Nationals still believe in Desmond, who is projected to become the leadoff hitter. I would think Lombardozzi has a chance to become a backup infielder. However, I could see Lombardozzi getting a chance to start if Desmond or Espinosa get off to slow starts.
With the addition of Edwin Jackson, where does Ross Detwiler fit with the Nationals?
-- Alex C., Montreal
Detwiler is out of Minor League options. If he is not traded and the starters in the rotation are healthy, I could see Detwiler becoming a long reliever out of the bullpen. The way he performed last year, which was great, I don't see him getting outrighted to Triple-A Syracuse.