Brian Lawrence is a groundball pitcher who is coming to a better defensive club in the Nats. That in itself should help his numbers, so he's a lock in the rotation. With the limited working budget the Nats have, Bowden didn't sign Ramon Ortiz as a FA pitcher for $2.5 million to have him battle for the fifth spot. Coming from park that heavily favor hitters, plus the added defense, I also expect his overall numbers to improve. Ortiz is a lock in the rotation. That leaves, Armas, Drese, Rauch and company. (Was the $2.1 million contract Armas signed guaranteed or not? If it was, at well over $1 million more than what Drese and/or Rauch are making, along with anyone else, he has a decided edge over the others. I'd also love to know what the Nats plans are for Billy Traber, who they signed as a FA (minor league contract?) on November 15th. Will he be in camp with the others, or is he a minor league project?
Cordero, Ayala, Majewski, Eischen and Stanton might be considered locked in. That leaves Felix Rodriguez and Jason Bergmann, along with whoever the best pitcher who loses the 5th starter spot fighting for one spot in the bullpen, two spots if the Nats decide to carry 12 pitchers going into the season.
Fick is penciled in as the 3rd catcher, behind Schneider and whoever gets the official (or quasi official) backup job. Gonzalez, Castillo and Harpers would have to have more than impressive camps to earn the backup job. If one of then does, I think Gonzalez has the biggest upside. Remember LaCroy's contract is non-guaranteed, also Neither Fick or LaCroy are upgrades defensively from Gary Bennett, so if they end up being the backups, their advantage as a pair, would be they together they hit from both sides of the plate.
Backup 1st Base:
Between Fick, LeCroy and Ward,only Fick has that guaranteed contract in hand, plus Fick can also play the outfield.
If both players play up to par, it may come down to who's glove they want at SS everyday. If that's the case, Guzman might end up being the backup at 3B and SS, pushing Harris back to the minors.
Anderson and Jackson are locks as subs. Together they play every infield position and can play the OF. I think whoever loses the battle at SS pushes Harris back to New Orleans, so there may not even be a battle here.
You best insert the name of Alfonso Soriano because it's possible that the only way he agrees to play the outfield, might be if he was in the glamor spot in center.
Starting Pitchers: At least 7 pitchers vying for 5 spots.
Bullpen: Assuming a 6 man bullpen, at least 4 pitchers for one spot.
Backup Catcher: Last season all the Nats had, was Bennett.
Backup 1st Base: 4 guys (5 if you include Broadway) capable of winning the job.
Bench: Assuming a 6 man bench, 11 players (8 infielders, 3 outfielders) will be battling to be on it.
Because of the versatility of players like Anderson, Jackson and Fick, there very likely only will be one backup outfielder.
One word sums up the outlook for the Nats 2006 camp, and that word would be, SWEET!