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Inside D.C.: Scouting the Nationals infield

A quick glance around the Washington Nationals infield reveals a few interesting characters. Perhaps none of them had an offseason like starting catcher Wilson Ramos who was kidnapped in his native country, Venzuela.

With Ivan Rodriguez and Derek Norris out of the picture, the Nationals will seemingly turn over the full-time catching gig to Ramos. With good power and defensive ability, Ramos will now need to focus on his game-calling abilities.

Now let's take a look around the rest of the Nationals infield.

Adam LaRoche, 1B: Coming off shoulder surgery, LaRoche is a mystery right now. While he can't throw the ball very far, he has been swinging the bat and should be the opening day starter at first.

LaRoche has always been a streaky player and with Mike Morse's ability to hold down first, I can't imagine the Nats having a long lease with the lefty veteran.

Danny Espinosa, 2B: On the way to racking up 55 extra-base hits, the rookie finished the year with 21 homers and 17 steals. On the surface that looks like a pretty good young player and a key building block for the Nats.

Well there is one problem -- his batting average. The switch hitter batted just .236 and although he managed to work 57 walks, he also struck out 166 times. If Espinosa can make more contact on the ball, he could be much more effective. While it may come at the expense of a few extra homers, a guy with his skills running the bases can only be helpful if he makes it to first base.

Ian Desmond, SS: He trimmed his errors from 34 to 23, but that is about the only positive gain Desmond made last season. His already abysmal .308 on-base percentage dropped to a paltry .298.

His homers dropped by two -- going from 10 to 8 -- even with more at-bats and his stealing percentage. An OPS of .656 is not going to get it done and this will be a pivotal year for the 26-year old shortstop.

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B: The face of the franchise until Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg got to town is perhaps the most pivotal offensive player for the Nats this upcoming season.

When healthy, the big righty flashes 30-homer ability and plays an almost flawless hot corner. The rub on Zimmerman has been his inability to stay healthy at times. If the Nats have visions of contending in 2012, Zimmerman's health will be a big factor.

Mark DeRosa, Utility: Not enthralled with their middle infield options, the Nats went out and signed DeRosa, who is capable of playing every infield spot and even some outfield. It was been over two years since DeRosa had a consistent health stretch.

A late bloomer, when he is healthy he has shown the ability to be an above-average hitter and would certainly add something to the Nats at the very least in a pinch hitting capacity.

Around the middle of the week, I will examine the Nats outfield.

Got questions? A topic you'd like to see covered? Email me at bphaines37@gmail.com.

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