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Series Preview Q&A: New York Mets vs. Washington Nationals with Federal Baseball

It's Opening Day! The Mets and Nationals match up for three games and we asked Federal Baseball what we should expect from Matt Williams' club this week.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It's Opening Day and that means the Mets are officially back! Hooray! There's a lot of hype around the Mets for 2015 and they open the year against the Washington Nationals this afternoon. To give you a better idea of what the Mets will see from the Nats over these first three games, we talked to Nationals' blogger Doghouse from SB Nation's Federal Baseball and he gave us a rundown of this division rival heading into the opener.

Amazin' Avenue: Denard Span, Jayson Werth, and Anthony Rendon will miss this opening series due to injury. Who replaces each player and what sort of impact will their absences have on the Nats?

Federal Baseball: Young phenom Michael Taylor looks ready to spell Span in CF--you know, he hit TWO HRs off of Justin Verlander in a Spring Training game-- Taylor has plus defense, speed, and AA-dominant hitting. Small-sample-size Spring stats have him at a 1000+ OPS, but we'll have cross our fingers on that 7-1 K:BB ratio. Is major-league pitching that much different than the minors? Taylor will be fun to watch, and Span should probably try to get better quickly if he knows what's good for him. As per Werth's own assessment, he only needs 5 ABs to get back into MLB-ready hitting form, so I figure to see him on Opening Day, since he's already played in a few minor league games. Rendon, however, is an absence that's less subject to glib dismissal. He's basically the sleeper Harper, so every game he's not in the lineup is costing us wins. We'll likely see Yunel Escobar at 3B, with Danny Espinosa at 2B, which is only probably a wash defensively, but a big drop off in terms of offense. We will be lighting candles every game that Rendon doesn't start.

AA: Mets killer Adam LaRoche is thankfully gone and the Nats have shifted Ryan Zimmerman over to first base. How has Zimmerman looked over there and do you think he'll adequately replace LaRoche? Related, how has Yunel Escobar looked at 2nd so far?

FB: Who? Just be thankful we didn't dig up Chipper Jones' corpse and stick it at first base this season. Zimmerman will likely turn out to be just about the same as ALR. He hasn't played the other corner before, but his soft hands and quick reflexes will probably translate into plus 1B defense that's maybe a little better than LaRoche. Zimm isn't as big a bopper as you'd like over there, but he will probably provide almost as much offensive production. Of course, he probably won't provide as many venison steaks for team cookouts, so that's a definite loss. As far as Escobar, it's going to be a few games until we actually see him at 2B--as per the Rendon discussion above, Escobar will likely be the starting 3B. I think he has nearly 20 games of experience at the position from 7 years ago, so...

AA: While there's a lot of focus on the Nationals' excellent rotation, their bullpen lost Rafael Soriano as a free agent and Tyler Clippard in the Escobar trade. What are your thoughts on their revamped bullpen and who picks up the slack for those two vets?

FB: If you're talking about picking the "slack" for Rafael Soriano, you may have missed the last half of 2014. Clippard is a certainly a big loss, but the combination of Blake Treinen and Aaron Barrett offer enough potential stuff to offset both. Or at least they do in my highly-optimistic fantasy. The "revamped" bullpen is currently the primary non-injury source of DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM for pessimistic Nats fans. We're all crossing our fingers to get a lot of complete games out of our "excellent rotation."

AA: Matt Williams won the National League's Manager of the Year in 2014 despite some questionable decisions in his first season as the team's manager (most notably the Jordan Zimmermann decision in the NLDS). What do Nationals fans think of their skipper and is he the right guy to manage a club with such high expectations?

FB: I'm on the record as saying the JZ decision was the right move in the NLDS, so I may not be the best person to ask this question. I think it's a good contrast to compare the previous skipper, Davey Johnson. He was a player with extensive experience as a player and a coach, including World Series success (with your Mets!). Matty will only be in his second season, with strong player experience but a thin track record coaching. Davey didn't get the team out of the first round in 2012, and didn't get them to the playoffs in 2013 when expectations were just as high as this year. I'm not sure what my point is, but Matty got them to the playoffs last year, and I think he'll get there again. Nats fans are ambivalent, given how last year turned out (past performance is a guarantee of future failure), but I think he's the right guy in this situation.

AA: The Nationals appear to be the clear favorites to win the NL East entering the season but both the Mets and Marlins look to be on the upswing. What do you think has to happen for the Nats to not win the division and do fans of your team consider either the Mets or Marlins a legitimate threat in 2015?

FB: I am also on the record as a big believer in jinxes, so I'm a bit hesitant to answer this question. I don't think any Nats fan considers the Mets or Marlins a serious threat to win the NL East, although we probably all think the battle for 2nd place and a potential wild card spot could be the most interesting thing in the division this year. Yes, I know how jerky that sounds. I also know that most Nats fans will be disappointed when we don't sweep the Phillies and Braves, but will be happy to win two out of three from the Marlins and Mets. Good luck against Miami--confusion to Loria!

Thanks again to Doghouse for giving us a preview of the Nationals! Be sure to visit Federal Baseball for plenty more Nationals coverage!