The Nationals are getting young as they get good

February 18, 2013

On Saturday, after Adam LaRoche finished taking optional batting practice on the field adjacent to Space Coast Stadium, he made an observation. At 33, he had come to realization the first activity of spring was a little harder than it used to be. “I was looking the other day,” he said. “I think I’m the oldest guy on this team.”

In actuality, LaRoche can rest easy. Jayson Werth, who will turn 34 in May, is older by five months, which makes Werth the oldest player on the projected opening day roster. Barring any surprise additions, the Nationals will have no player older than 33 line up for introductions on April 1.

As the Nationals have gotten good, they’ve also gotten young. This spring, per ESPN’s roster analysis, every team except the Indians has a player older than Werth. Last year, according to Baseball-Reference, the Nationals had the fourth-youngest position players (average age: 27.2) and the youngest pitching staff (27) in the majors.

This year, the Nationals have essentially grown together and gotten a year older. The average age of the players on the projected 25-man roster, using how old the player will be for the majority of the 2013 season, is 28.2. Only six of them will be 30 or older.

A player’s peak is generally regarded to fall between ages 26 and 30. The Nationals have 15 players who hit that sweet spot, five who have yet to reach it and five who have past it.

The Nationals have brought back essentially the same team from last year, and they will have a chance to repeat that in 2014. Of those 25 players, the Nationals control the 2014 contractual rights of 21 of them. Financial and performance considerations will almost certainly prevent the Nationals from brining back all of those under control. But they have a clear core that lasts deep into the future. These 18 players are under team control for at least the next three seasons:

Danny Espinosa

Ian Desmond

Ryan Zimmerman

Bryce Harper

Denard Span

Jayson Werth

Steve Lombardozzi

Tyler Moore

Wilson Ramos

Gio Gonzalez

Jordan Zimmermann

Stephen Strasburg

Ross Detwiler

Craig Stammen

Ryan Mattheus

Drew Storen

Christian Garcia

Again, the rise of salaries through arbitration will make it nearly impossible for the Nationals to keep all their talent together. They will have to rely on their farm system, players like Nathan Karns, Matt Skole, A.J. Cole, Anthony Rendon and others, to replenish any talent they lose. And that, in turn, will only make them younger.

FROM THE POST

Boz has been reading “Quiet,” and it makes wonder what forces the Nationals’ introverts and extroverts will have on their season.

The Nationals’ first workout served as a fulcrum between October and “the beginning of the journey.”

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Kimball looking strong

Span acclimating

Gonzalez’s WBC schedule

DAYS UNTIL OPENING DAY

43

Adam Kilgore covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.
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James Wagner · February 17, 2013