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RHP Stephen Strasburg won only eight games but mentally got better at not letting early mistakes on uncontrollable weather conditions alter how he pitched later in games. This allowed him to pitch longer in games and will help him to pace himself in each start going forward. Catcher Wilson Ramos was the first to notice how Strasburg learned to calm himself down during games and not let a walk or freak play early in a game take him out of the focus he needed to go into the late innings.
LF Bryce Harper's athletic ability, especially as it related to showcasing his arm out of right field, are a big part of the strength of this team. Despite injuries to his hip and knee running into outfield walls in Los Angeles and Atlanta, Harper stuck with it all season and learned that he must be careful with the way he treats his body on big defensive chances if he is going to play season after season in the bigs.
2B Anthony Rendon proved he can hit in the big leagues and now just needs to refine his defense at second base. With the consistency the youngster was able to show for a good portion of the season, Danny Espinosa is very likely a trade candidate. "Rendon has played remarkably well at that position for a guy who is learning defensively at the major league level and trying to hit for the first time at the major league level," general manager Mike Rizzo told The Washington Post.
RHP Dan Haren finished the season with a 3.29 ERA in his final 15 stats after pitching seven scoreless innings Saturday, but he said afterward that he does not expect to be with the team next season. He signed a one-year, $13 million free agent deal last offseason. "I know I probably won't be a part of it next year, but we're going to be -- the Nationals will be a scary team next year," Haren said. "Nobody wanted to play us this year. If we got in, we'd be the team to beat. The talent is there for next year and this organization is in a good place."
CF Denard Span's 29-game hitting streak was a highlight for the team as they surged to get back into the wild-card race in September. It also was a signal that Span was getting comfortable against National League pitching and he will become a strong asset at the top of the order heading into 2014.
3B Ryan Zimmerman's shoulder concerns continued until August and September when the veteran finished with a flourish and got to at least 24 home runs for the fourth time in his last five seasons. It will help him in 2014 if he can go a whole season without having to worry about his shoulder strength and quiet talk a possible move to first base.
SS Ian Desmond made big steps forward in his consistency defensively again this season and continued with one of the hottest bats on the squad. Desmond was always a player that manager Davey Johnson loved to watch play because he always gives 100 percent and never takes a play off. "Desi is one of our core players," general manager Mike Rizzo told The Washington Post. "He's one of our leaders on the team. If there's a deal out there that we can get done that keeps him here for the long-term, it would be certainly up there on the priority list."
C Wilson Ramos can show the kind of power he demonstrated in the latter stages of August and September from the beginning of next season and not have to worry about lingering hamstring injuries that stunted his 2013 campaign. If that happens, the Nationals lineup will be the complete eight top hitters general manager Mike Rizzo had envisioned heading into the season.