Are the Nationals done as far as improving the team for next year?
-- Harvey L., Washington
No, they are not done. They are still looking for a backup catcher and maybe another infielder, although general manager Mike Rizzo said he is going to give Danny Espinosa a chance to make the team.
It appears the Nationals are set with their starting eight, but I can't help but wonder if the Nats are the mystery team in the Shin-Soo Choo sweepstakes. He has a great on-base percentage and can play center field. I find it hard to believe that the Nationals are totally satisfied with what they saw with their offense last season. Let's not forget that the offense was average in 2013 and one of the reasons Washington didn't make the playoffs. As long as Choo is still out there, I will never consider the Nats out of the sweepstakes.
Have a question about the Nationals?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Nationals beat reporter Bill Ladson for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
With MLB looking to ban home-plate collisions, could you see the Nats giving Bryce Harper a chance behind the plate if Wilson Ramos can't stay healthy? You can find a quality outfielder with power, but you can't find catchers who are strong on offense and defense like Buster Posey and Yadier Molina.
-- Justin L., Fredericksburg, Va.
There is no way the Nationals will put Harper behind the plate, not only because of the home-plate collisions, but to save his knees as well. Harper is an outfielder until he says he can't do it anymore. Remember, he has to learn not to bang into walls like he did last year. Harper hurt his left knee last season and it cost him a couple of weeks. He is still learning to play the outfield.
Do you think pitchers Nathan Karns, Lucas Giolito and A.J. Cole will be used in spot starts this season?
-- Andy C., Buena Vista, Va.
I could see Karns and Cole making spot starts in the big leagues as long as they are pitching well in the Minor Leagues. This will be Giolito's first full season pitching in professional baseball, so I don't see him making the jump to the big leagues until 2015.
Could you please explain to me why Zach Walters is only No. 11 on the list of the Nats' top prospects? The numbers he put up last season are pretty amazing.
-- K. Selbig, Rochester, N.Y.
The rankings were done before the 2013 season. I'm sure he will be ranked higher in next year's rankings. Keep in mind that Walters is a fine hitter, but he didn't have any power when the rankings were done. He hit 29 home runs this past season. I would be shocked if Walters wasn't in the top 10 next year.
Who do you think will win the fifth spot in the Nationals' rotation?
-- Carol W., Washington
I would have to say that Tanner Roark is the favorite entering Spring Training because of the success he had during the last two months of the 2013 season. But I can't rule out Taylor Jordan or Ross Detwiler, who seems destined for the bullpen.
Do you think Espinosa will be a valuable backup for the Nats?
-- Allison T., New York, N.Y.
To be honest, I don't know. Espinosa is a great defender, but I don't know if he can hit off the bench. I would hope he would make adjustments to his swing and not strike out a lot. We'll see how Espinosa does in Spring Training. His agent, Scott Boras, claims he is healthy, but I have to see it for myself.