It is easy to forget now because the Nationals won 98 games and a National League East title. But there is a legitimate argument to be made that if Washington had entered the 2012 season without sufficient organizational depth, that leap wouldn't have happened.
Remember, this is a team that started last season with both Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge in the bullpen. The bench was Mark DeRosa, Brett Carroll and Xavier Nady. Michael Morse (lat tear) missed two months. Jayson Werth missed three (broken wrist), Wilson Ramos (ACL tear) was hurt in May and missed the rest of the season. Ryan Zimmerman's shoulder needed multiple cortisone shots so he could stay in the lineup. Ian Desmond (hamstring) missed a chunk of July and August.
In 2013, Ramos and Kurt Suzuki should platoon at catcher. But we know the rest of the bench is solid with Roger Bernadina, Chad Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore. At some point, though, those players may have to serve as regulars. Who takes their place? Moore is a good example. He started last season as the first baseman at Triple-A Syracuse, but by April 29 he was in the majors for good as a valuable power bat on the bench.
This season the taxi squad could prove just as important. Need another outfielder? Corey Brown, a good blend of power and speed, had a phenomenal year in Syracuse in 2012. Both Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano contributed as backup catchers last season. Former top prospect Chris Marrero is 24 now and a decent insurance policy at first base. Anthony Rendon, if he stays healthy, has the talent to contribute in the majors immediately. He could do so at second base if Danny Espinosa's shoulder falters or at third base if Zimmerman goes down. Speedy Eury Perez probably could handle a fifth outfielder/defensive replacement role if Denard Span gets hurt and Bernadina needs to start.
A potential sixth starter is still dicey without John Lannan this season. Will Chris Young accept a Triple-A gig? Will Christian Garcia's arm hold up after a move back to starting? That's where the taxi starts to show its dents.
- Brian McNally