Originally written on The Nats Blog  |  Last updated 10/23/14
(Image via @Nationals Twitter account) This is a segment that I’ve called “predictions” in previous seasons, but there really aren’t any questions about the Washington Nationals 25-man roster going into 2013. We’ll take a couple of posts to remind you who the key players are to the Nationals upcoming season what they’ll need to do to be successful. We start today with the starting pitchers, because if the Nats are going to be successful, it all starts here. Last season, the starting pitchers avoided a single injury to the core rotation, which is unbelievably uncommon. Statistical probability says the team won’t be quite so lucky this year. However, if they’re able to stay healthy, this is undoubtedly the best rotation in baseball once again. 1. Stephen Strasburg – Strasburg is, without question, the ace of this rotation. He’s coming off of an extremely solid season with a 3.16 ERA, an even more impressive 2.82 FIP, and a 4.3 WAR. The one issue was his innings, obviously, considering his much-discussed shutdown in mid-September. The Nationals have publicly said he won’t be on a limit this year, but I do expect they will be a bit cautious. Don’t expect Strasburg to throw many, if any, complete games unless he’s pitching historically well (see: no-hitter, perfect game), nor should you expect him to wind up with 240 innings. I do expect his numbers to be at least as good as last season, though. 2. Gio Gonzalez – By all indications from ESPN’s Outside The Lines report, Gonzalez did not receive PEDs from Biogenesis and Dr. Anthony Bosch, so the Nats can look forward to putting this nasty matter behind them once they get official word that MLB’s investigation didn’t turn up anything. The team can lock in Gio as their starter for Game 2 on April 3. They’ll hope to get similar production from him, and his 2.89 ERA, 2.82 FIP, and 5.4 WAR are definitely great numbers to strive for. 3. Jordan Zimmermann – One of the team’s most underrated players, Zimmermann finally got some recognition in mid-to-late summer when he posted some truly ludicrous July numbers: 0.97 ERA, 2.09 FIP, and 0.84 WHIP. His end-of-season numbers weren’t too bad either: 2.94 WHIP, 3.51 FIP, 3.5 WAR. Zimmermann finally had a chance to put in a full season’s worth of innings after he recovered from Tommy John surgery, and it’s clear how valuable he has become to the team. He’s among the best number three pitchers in the game, and he signed a nice one-year/$5.35 million deal for 2013 to avoid arbitration. You’d expect the Nationals would like to try signing him long term, but it’s becoming more and more clear that JZimm may make some serious dough in free agency considering recent deals like the one Zack Greinke signed with the Dodgers. The team may have some trouble getting a hometown discount for the Wisconsin native, especially considering his added experience should make 2013 a very good year for him. 4. Ross Detwiler – Detwiler was widely regarded as the best number five starter in baseball in 2012, so he’ll have a lot to live up to this season, especially since he’s moving up in the rotation. Moving Detwiler to the number four is the right move given his recent performances at the MLB level. I expect Detwiler to continue challenging hitters with his fastball like he did last season, and his 3.40 ERA to be about the same and his 4.04 WHIP to come down a tick to below 4.00. 5. Dan Haren – Haren’s acquisition this offseason was yet another shrewd move by Nats GM Mike Rizzo. Haren had back problems last year with the Angels, which caused him to put up career-worst numbers since he became a full-time MLB starter in 2005. If he’s healthy, however, Haren is a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. In the five seasons before his down, and injured, 2012, Haren posted a cumulative 3.33 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 8.1 K/9. If the Nats get anywhere near that with Haren throwing against other number five pitchers, the team will be in excellent shape. It all depends on his health, which Haren claims is a non-issue entering this season. This team has very few weak links, but the success of the team will largely depend on the health of these five players. Next edition: Bullpen preview
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Chandler Jones could miss rest of season

Report: Army football enticed recruits with alcohol, women

Report: Kobe viewed Dwight Howard's departure as 'positive'

Lions suspend CJ Mosley, send him home from London

Federal judge blocks New Jersey sports betting law

Report: Bucs sign Gerald McCoy to seven-year extension

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Tim Tebow lectures Florida fans about booing

Report: Shonn Greene arrested after parking in handicap spot

Report: Joe Maddon wants a very hefty salary

Memorabilia dealer at center of Todd Gurley scandal fired

Colt McCoy on learning he was starting ‘it’s about f—ing time’

Four Questions for Game 3 of the World Series

WATCH: Kentucky DB Blake McClain lays out Miss. St. WR

WATCH: Dwyane Wade videobombs himself

GRAPHIC: Cam Atkinson shows how close he was to losing eye

WATCH: 350-pound Arkansas lineman throws TD pass

Penn State fans blew air horns outside Ohio State's hotel?

WATCH: Oregon's Charles Nelson has impressive punt return TD

WATCH: American flag rips during Game 3 national anthem

WATCH: Tony Parker draws foul by simply yelling 'hey'

Video: Tom Izzo takes the stage with KISS on Midnight Madness

Eight NFL records that won’t be broken for a long time

Big trouble for Bruins: Chara out 4-6 weeks, possibly more

Blazers, Seahawks owner Paul Allen gives $100M to fight ebola

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Report: Army enticed recruits with alcohol, women

Penn State fans blew air horn at Ohio State players' hotel?

Tim Tebow lectures Florida fans

Trouble for Bruins: Chara out 4-6 weeks

Joe Maddon opts out of contract with Rays

NBA Replay Center debuts next week

World Series win = Giants dynasty?

Reliving the worst college football game of the last 10 years

NFL teams facing must-win scenarios in Week 8

What the return of Luis Suarez means for Barcelona

Programs with a lot on the line this week

Wilson denies rumored Harvin rift

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.