2013 Nats fan's guide to fantasy baseball

2013 Nats fan's guide to fantasy baseball
March 11, 2013, 11:00 am

For those out there that are both Nats fans and fantasy baseball players, these are pretty good times. Washington fans these days have that rare privilege to actually have a competitive fantasy team featuring their favorite players. The days of hoping Lastings Milledge finally comes around or Nick Johnson finally stays healthy are long gone. Now the Nats are a balanced team rife with fantasy value almost all across the board.

With that said, don’t go taking Jayson Werth over Giancarlo Stanton just because you hate the Marlins, sometimes personal allegiances have to be set aside. Henry Rodriguez is not a first round pick just because you think he's cool, don't do that. Overall, however, most of the Nationals players are safe fantasy bets.

Of course some are safer than others and that’s the purpose of this list. Here are the fantasy-worthy Nationals players separated by categories and where they rank in Yahoo! Sports’ top 250 cheat sheet.

GET THEM IF YOU CAN

Stephen Strasburg – SP 
2012 stats: 15-6, 3.16 ERA, 197 SO, 159.1 IP
Yahoo! rank: 12

Expected to push 200 innings this season, nearly everyone in the baseball world is excited to see what Strasburg can do in 2013 (except maybe those in the N.L. East). Strasburg had the best strikeout to walk ratio in the majors last season (11.1) and who knows how many K’s he’ll get in a full campaign. He had 197 in 159 1/3 innings in 2012, which is just outrageous. Strasburg should challenge for the Cy Young award and is one of the highest ranked fantasy players for good reason.

Bryce Harper – OF
2012 stats: .270 BA, 22 HR, 59 RBI, 98 R, 18 SB
Yahoo! rank: 35

Now, ranking Harper 35th seems a bit low. Many other outlets have the 20-year-old outfielder no later than 20th and there is little chance he lasts that long in any fantasy draft. His combination of power and speed is extremely rare and he is killing it this spring. Throw in his propensity to touch home and Harper could be very fun to watch on a daily basis for fantasy owners.

Ryan Zimmerman – 3B
2012 stats: .282 BA, 25 HR, 95 RBI, 93 R
Yahoo! rank: 44

When healthy Ryan Zimmerman is one of the very best fantasy players at his position. He hits for average, posts both homers and RBI, and walks a decent amount. If you think he is finally past the injury woes of the last few years then take him, but if you are a conservative drafter then beware. It can be quite difficult to overcome losing a top pick to a long stint on the disabled list.

Gio Gonzalez – SP
2012 stats: 21-8, 2.89 ERA, 207 SO, 199.1 IP
Yahoo! rank: 53

Gonzalez may not even be the best pitcher on the Nationals, but he is a very good fantasy pitcher. He keeps his ERA down and strikes out a ton of guys, plus he led the league in wins in 2012 with 21. Gio always walks a lot of batters, but his reliability and track record of pitching full seasons is reassuring.

Ian Desmond – SS
2012 stats: .292 BA, 25 HR, 73 RBI, 72 R, 21 SB
Yahoo! rank: 67

Desmond would be ranked even higher if he had another season like he had in 2012 under his belt. Last season he ranked first among MLB shortstops in homers with 25 and finished third in average with a .292 clip. If he can recreate last year’s production than he is one of the top shortstops available, no question. Beyond Troy Tulowitzki, few guys have all-around fantasy potential like Desmond at the position.

WAIT A FEW ROUNDS

Jordan Zimmermann – SP
2012 stats: 12-8, 2.94 ERA, 153 SO, 195.2 IP
Yahoo! rank: 86

Zimmermann was the Nationals’ most consistent pitcher last season and will keep a low ERA with the potential for high win totals. If you were picking a real team he would be one of the best bets to pick (I actually predict he will win the Cy Young this season), but he doesn’t strike guys out and for some reason you can’t count on him getting wins, no matter how good he pitches.

Rafael Soriano – CL
2012 stats: 2-1, 2.26 ERA, 42 SV, 1.17 WHIP
Yahoo! rank: 131

The need for closers generally depends on your league, but anyone who is pitching the ninth for the Nats this season should have ample save opportunities. Soriano has saved more than 40 games in two of the last three years and has an unbelievable 1.05 career WHIP. The only reason you should wait is because he is a closer, they aren’t usually the first guys off the board no matter what the format.

Adam LaRoche – 1B
2012 stats: .271 BA, 33 HR, 100 RBI, 76 R
Yahoo! rank: 140

LaRoche had a tremendous year in 2012 and is as consistent as first basemen come. He will give you good power numbers, a decent average considering his power output, and he led the Nats in walks last season. The problem is, there are a lot of good first basemen and it makes sense to wait a few rounds if you want a guy like LaRoche. The difference between him and other guys who are slotted at first (at least by fantasy requirements) just isn’t that great.

Danny Espinosa – 2B/SS
2012 stats: .247 BA, 17 HR, 56 RBI, 82 R, 20 SB
Yahoo! rank: 161

Everyone knows about Espinosa’s poor batting average and high strikeout rate, but he has value based simply on his position (both 2B and SS). Espinosa’s power and speed are excellent, in 2012 he ranked 7th among MLB second baseman in homers with 17 and fifth in stolen bases with 20. He’s also durable having played in at least 158 games the last two seasons,  plus he scored least 72 runs both years.

BUYER BEWARE

Jayson Werth – OF
2012 stats: .300 BA, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 8 SB
Yahoo! rank: 216

Werth is always intriguing because of his potential for power and underrated base-stealing skills. The big risk with Werth, however, is his health. Werth missed half of last season and is now a year older. He was healthy for the 2011 season, but hit just .232. Werth could very well have a great season, but the last two years aren’t great indicators.

Denard Span - OF
2012 stats: .283 BA, 4 HR, 71 R, 17 SB
Yahoo! rank: n/a

Span is a hard call to make because you figure he will score plenty of runs batting leadoff in the Nats’ lineup and will have great protection with the guys behind him. But for a ‘speed’ guy, he has never stolen more than 26 bases in a season and for an outfielder without power that just isn’t good enough. The position is just too deep and unfortunately for him, defense doesn’t count in fantasy.

Ross Detwiler - SP
2012 stats: 10-8, 3.40 ERA, 105 SO, 164.1 IP
Yahoo! rank: n/a

Yahoo! doesn’t have Detwiler in their top 250 fantasy players, but given his 2012 season and the potential for improvement, he is worth a rotation spot in bigger leagues. He keeps a low ERA and should hit double-digit wins which is enough to be worthy of a draft pick. His stock is hurt, however, but his lack of strikeouts and resulting SO/BB ratio.

SLEEPER WATCH

Dan Haren - SP
2012 stats: 12-13, 4.33 ERA, 142 SO, 176.2 IP
Yahoo! rank: 109

Yes, Haren is ranked 109th by Yahoo! and people will see that in the draft room. But given Haren’s injury-plagued 2012 season, he isn’t fresh in the average fan’s mind. Despite the injury concerns though, he could give huge upside if he returns to 2012 form in which he finished seventh in N.L. Cy Young voting. Wins will be spread around to all Nats pitchers and he traditionally strikes out a ton of guys.

Tyler Moore – 1B/OF
2012 stats: .263 BA, 10 HR, 29 RBI (156 ABs)
Yahoo! rank: n/a

Moore should only be taken with a very, very late round pick. However, given his ability to play both outfield and first, and the likelihood of at least one long-term injury between those units, he is worth a roster spot. Moore played in 75 games last season and should see more action with Michael Morse gone. He is the next man up and has potential to give a nice power boost to any lineup when given at-bats.

Wilson Ramos – C
2012 stats: .265 BA, 3 HR, 10 RBI (25 games)
Yahoo! rank: n/a

Ramos isn’t likely to be the Opening Day catcher, but the position is always thin for offensive production. The 25-year-old backstop finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting just the season before last and has intriguing power potential. In 2011 he hit 15 home runs in 113 games and could hit the 20-mark this season. Given the potential, he might be worth a back-up catcher slot.