A too-early guess at the Nationals’ opening day roster

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The opening day roster may be the most over-discussed topic of the baseball calendar. The complexion of any team on March 31 will hardly be representative of that team throughout the season. Injuries, performance and circumstance will cause rapid and constant churn. The opening day roster never remains the roster for long.

But for now, it’s also all we’ve got. The spring training competitions will start to unfold once Grapefruit League games begin Friday. For now, here is all-to-early educated guess about the 25 men who will head north with the Nationals, with the necessary caveat that this opinion can, and probably will, change.

ROTATION

1. Stephen Strasburg

2. Gio Gonzalez

3. Jordan Zimmermann

4. Doug Fister

5. Ross Detwiler

Notes: The first four are no-brainers. Detwiler’s strong early performance in camp, which includes a shiny new cutter, has only cemented his status as the presumed favorite. Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan still have time to state their cases for the fifth spot. Soreness in Ross Ohlendorf’s side has slowed him and, while it’s not a significant injury, it hasn’t helped.

BULLPEN

6. Rafael Soriano

7. Tyler Clippard

8. Drew Storen

9. Jerry Blevins

10. Craig Stammen

11. Xavier Cedeno

12. Luis Ayala

Notes: The last two places on this list are the toughest to call and remain wide open. Cedeno gets the call here because Matt Williams has said he’d prefer a second lefty, and because the Nationals have liked the way he throws the ball. Assuming Ayala can opt out of his deal, he may win based on a numbers game. He has experience and, in his last 30 big league appearances, he punched up a 2.25 ERA. (Here’s a crazy piece of trivia – the Braves used him more than Craig Kimbrel in the NLDS.) Ayala is 36, but he’s a groundball machine, still quite good and worth giving a look, especially when other relievers can be stashed.

But, again, this guess is far from 100 percent confident. If Christian Garcia remains healthy and dominates in spring games, it would be tough to not take his electric stuff north. This construction leaves the Nationals a little thin in long relief, which may convince the Nationals to take Roark or Ohlendorf over Ayala. (Ohlendorf will make $1.25 million, but he does have a minor league option.) Ryan Mattheus’s, painful chest injury, which MASN reported, is a hard-luck setback that won’t help him.

The Nationals keep raving about their collection of arms. That will make this a tough call, and one that will probably be changing throughout the year.

STARTERS

13. Ryan Zimmerman

14. Ian Desmond

15. Anthony Rendon

16. Adam LaRoche

17. Jayson Werth

18. Bryce Harper

19. Denard Span

20. Wilson Ramos

Notes: The Nationals have told Danny Espinosa he is competing for second base, but this is a pretty clear situation.

BENCH

21. Nate McLouth

22. Scott Hairston

23. Jose Lobaton

24. Danny Espinosa

25. Jamey Carroll

Notes: The last two spots here are almost as tough to call as the last two spots for bullpen. Tyler Moore has just as strong a chance to make the roster as Espinosa and Carroll. Those two are the picks for now. Williams seems to believe in Espinosa, who has talked about playing a crucial role giving infielders time off. The Nationals wanted to add experience to their bench, plus Carroll has shown a knack in his career, despite dreary offensive numbers last season, for hitting lefties and pinch hitting. And anyway, the important thing is not which players make the team opening day, but which players contribute most over the long season.

FROM THE POST

Aaron Barrett overcame the yips, and now the right-handed reliever has a chance to make an impact in the majors this season.

From Sunday, Nationals players know they need to watch their weight.

Also over the weekend, Boz considered the effect Doug Fister will have.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Highlights from the workout

Espinosa’s raise

Venezuelan players show support

Williams briefed on replay

MATT WILLIAMS’S QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”

DAYS UNTIL OPENING DAY

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