Inside Look: Washington Nationals

Usually we do these “inside looks” before a series begins, but Willie Randolph’s lineup changes have inspired me to “mix it up a little”.

That said, this time around we’re getting the Nationals fan’s point of view at the end of the series, instead of the beginning.

Chris Needham of Capitol Punishment was kind enough to answer a few of my questions regarding the Washington Nationals.

1. After an exciting and emotional start on Opening Day in Nationals Park, the Nats fell flat on their collective faces — and it appears it’s going to be a long season for the DC fans.

What keeps you motivated to watch and attend games?
Hey now, that’s a loaded question! You didn’t stop watching in 2003 when Ty Wigginton batted cleanup! I’m not convinced it’s going to be as long a season as you suggest, even if it’s probably going to be a bad one. Slumps happen. Our just happened to come in the first fortnight, instead of the last month.

2. Obviously, the Nats are rebuilding. Are there any big-time prospects who may come up for a tease later in the year? How is the minor league system looking overall?

The most immediate big prospect looming is last year’s first-round pick, Ross Detwiler. He’s a tall left-hander who, if he succeeds in the minors, has nobody in front of him, blocking his path. With the bat, the top bat is Chris Marrero, but he’s likely 2 years away. Other than a few other starting pitchers (none of whom have terribly high ceilings), there aren’t really any impact players ready in the next year or so.

That being said, there are lots of intriguing players down in the lower levels. The Nats have an excellent scouting and development team in place now, and they’ve spent as much money there as any other team. It paid dividends, and their farm system has gone from the bottom towards the upper third of teams in just a draft or two. There’s hope for the future!

3. Ryan Zimmerman appears to be the “face” of the Washington Nationals. Who is the #2 personality on the team?

Dmitri Young is the biggest personality on the team, but the other big bat is clearly Nick Johnson. Neither he nor Zimmerman really come across as much of a personality, certainly not to the extent that Dmitri has.

4. How do you feel about the Nats’ public position that Dmitri Young is a “positive influence” on youngsters such as Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes?

I’m not really in a position to judge that sort of thing, other than to make some guesses. If as many people who say that are saying it — and not all are directly employed by the team! — then there’s probably something to it.

5. Has there been any chatter regarding Paul LoDuca’s inclusion in the Mitchell Report?

Well, he’s not particularly well-liked by most Nats fans, but that has as much to do with his cold hitting and his blocking of Jesus Flores. Amazingly, he did tell that he was sorry for using and doing what he did, probably the most direct apology of any of the active players listed in the report.

6. Speaking of ex-Mets, how are you liking Lastings Milledge in centerfield so far?

Loving it! He’s a fun player to watch. He’s got a little bit of speed. He’s got a little bit of power. A little bit of patience. And just a dash of flash. He makes watching the games enjoyable.

He’s not a perfect player, but he’s in the right situation, where the focus is on what he does well, and not what he does wrong, nor who he’s ticking off. It’s a live and let live kind of clubhouse.

7. What should we know about Brian Schneider and Ryan Church that we wouldn’t find on the back of their baseball cards?

Well, two nights ago was the Brian Schneider Nats fans came to know and love. Weak grounders and soft flares are his main strategy. Occasionally, they fall in, as they did the first week. They won’t all year. He’s got a great reputation for working with pitchers, but that increased as the bat fell into the crapper, so I’m not sure how much stock I put into it.

Church is an interesting player. When he’s on a streak, he’s really pushing your team forward. I know you’ve already seen his arm, which always has been an asset. But he also seems like a player who lets slumps get inside his head. If he’s slumping and the team isn’t performing, I’d be concerned about whether he’ll be able to keep his head in the game.

8. Who do you think will be the biggest surprise on the Nationals this season?

If you had asked me a week ago, I’d have said Austin Kearns…. so that shows you what I know! The team’s slumping terribly, but that’s because 4 or 5 of their biggest hitters are all in the tank now. Once they revert to form, this team could hum along, and I think the 70ish win total that most predicted is certainly doable.

Or the whole thing could fall apart and we’d lose 110! Ya never know!

Thanks again to Chris for sharing his unique perspective. Be sure to visit Capitol Punishment for in-depth coverage of the Washington Nationals.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.