Pitchers and catchers have officially reported to the Nationals spring training facilities in Florida. These questions are some of the biggest for their eighth season in Washington:
1. Can the talent influx produce 90 wins, which would likely propel the team into the playoffs? Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzelez, and Edwin Jackson are the main roster additions, and along with Jordan Zimmermann they form one of the best starting rotations in baseball. We will likely know whether the team is 90-win caliber by the All-Star break in July, but we may not know about making the playoffs until the season finale against the Phillies on Oct. 3.
2. Can Bryce Harper join that talent pool by Opening Day in Chicago, or will management keep him in the minors until June or later? The Nationals manager, Davey Johnson, has indicated he prefers the former despite sound arguments for the latter, including that Harper needs more "seasoning" and that the team can have him under control for another season if he doesn't get promoted until June. We should know the answer by April 3 when the team travels north for an exhibition game against Boston at Nationals Park.
3. Who is going to play center? This question is too fluid at present given the recent retirement of Mike Cameron before he evened played a game in Washington. It seems likely to be Jayson Werth or a new player who arrives via trade. We will know the answer about the same time we know whether Harper makes the club out of spring training, but probably a few weeks before if a trade is made.
4. Will Ryan Zimmerman be distracted by the uncertainty around his contract? He is one of the top third-basemen in the National League, but his durability is in question after a series of injuries over the last few seasons. If a contract extension is not signed by Friday, we will likely not know the answer until the next offseason. He will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2013 season if the extension is not signed.
5. Will Phillies fans take it upon themselves to come in droves despite management's attempts to keep them out? We will know by May 4 when Philadelphia visits.
6. Will Teddy Win? My prediction is that Teddy will win the first time the Nats have a home playoff game. We will know when we know, and not a moment before!