With LaRoche signed, a look at the Nats lineup, past and present

Jayson-WerthWith the signing of first-baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year $15 million contract Tuesday evening, the Washington Nationals have all but put the finishing touches on what can only be described as an eventful winter for the franchise. For General Manager Mike Rizzo, the only item remaining on his wish list is a starting pitcher to plug into the Washington rotation. 

With a starting first baseman in place we can now take a look at the potential starting lineup for next season. Below is the projected lineup for 2011 as well as the opening day lineup for 2010, each player is listed with their WAR from last season:

Nationals 2011 Projected Lineup
1. Nyjer Morgan, CF – 0.9 WAR
2. Ian Desmond, SS – 1.1 WAR
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B – 7.2 WAR
4. Jayson Werth, RF – 5.0 WAR
5. Adam LaRoche, 1B – 2.1 WAR
6. Rodger Bernadina, LF -0.5 WAR
7.  Danny Espinosa, 2B – 0.4 WAR
8. Ivan Rodriguez, C – 1.0 WAR

Total: 18.2 Wins Above Replacement

Nationals 2010 Opening Day Lineup 
1. Nyjer Morgan, CF – 0.9 WAR
2. Willie Harris, RF – 0.0 WAR
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B – 7.2 WAR
4. Adam Dunn, 1B – 3.9 WAR
5. Josh Willingham, LF – 2.7 WAR
6. Adam Kennedy, 2B – 1.0 WAR
7. Ivan Rodriguez, C – 1.0 WAR
8. Ian Desmond, SS – 1.1 WAR

Total: 17.8 Wins Above Replacement 

While this seasons line up earned just slightly more wins than last years, the upside for 2011 is undeniably better. There is no doubt that promising young players like Danny Espinosa, Roger Bernadina, and Ian Desmond will outperform their 2010 numbers, meaning that overall the Nationals SHOULD be a better club in 2011, at least at the plate. At first glance it appears the lineup will be younger and more rounded. 

It appears here that Rizzo took a bet on the teams youth, making the judgement that Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham would be on the decline in the coming years. With their current lineup they are now letting the young blood show that they can play at the major league level while adding a stop-gap at first base in Adam LaRoche.

What do you think, will 2011’s lineup be more productive?