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Bryce Harper enjoyed one of the best big-league seasons ever by a teenager.
OF JAYSON WERTH
Stats: 81 G, 344 PA, 5 HR, 31 RBI, .300 AVG, .387 OBP, .440 SLG
1 E, -12.6 UZR, 1.0 WAR
2012 salary: $13 million
Contract status: $16 million in 2013, $20 million in 2014, $21 million in 2015, $21 million in 2016, $21 million in 2017, free agent in 2018
Where he fits in: After a frustrating debut season and after missing three months this season with a broken wrist, Werth finally got to enjoy playing in D.C. (and D.C. finally got to enjoy watching Werth play). The biggest key to his success: Embracing the leadoff role and becoming a potent force atop the lineup. The question now is whether he'll be back in that role next year or whether the Nationals want to add a more traditional No. 1 hitter. Given his skill-set and the makeup of the rest of the projected lineup, it probably makes sense for Werth to stay right where he is in 2013.
OF BRYCE HARPER
Stats: 139 G, 597 PA, 22 HR, 59 RBI, .270 AVG, .340 OBP, .477 SLG
7 E, 9.9 UZR, 4.9 WAR
2012 salary: $1.75 million
Contract status: $2 million in 2013, $2.15 million in 2014, $2.25 million in 2015, arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2019
Where he fits in: Harper burst onto the scene only three weeks into the season with expectations sky-high. He might very well have exceeded them by season's end, finishing strong to produce the second-most homers, the second-most stolen bases, the third-highest OPS and the most total bases ever by a teenager in the big leagues. Now the scary part: Harper is likely to improve by leaps and bounds next season. History has almost universally shown major leaguers who debuted at 19 really take off at 20 (which, FYI, he turns today). There's no reason to believe Harper won't follow that longstanding trend.
OF MICHAEL MORSE
Stats: 102 G, 430 PA, 18 HR, 62 RBI, .291 AVG, .321 OBP, .470 SLG
1 E, -9.4 UZR, 0.3 WAR
2012 salary: $3.25 million
Contract status: $6.75 million in 2013, free agent in 2014
Where he fits in: Morse missed the season's first two months with a torn lat muscle that proved far more troublesome than anyone originally expected. It took awhile for him to rediscover his power stroke, and then once he did he was hampered again by nagging injuries to both hands. There's no denying Morse's offensive skills when he's healthy, but he'll have to prove he can stay on the field for all of 2013 in what will be a contract year at age 31. Because of his contract status, the Nationals may need to decide this winter whether to try to lock him up longer or perhaps even consider a trade. Morse's status may depend on what happens to Adam LaRoche. Either way, this one bears watching during the offseason.
OF ROGER BERNADINA
Stats: 129 G, 269 PA, 5 HR, 25 RBI, .291 AVG, .372 OBP, .405 SLG
0 E, 2.5 UZR, 1.9 WAR
2012 salary: $493,500
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2013, free agent in 2016
Where he fits in: After teasing everyone with his on-and-off potential for several years, Bernadina finally came into his own this season. Davey Johnson did a nice job establishing his role as a fourth outfielder and putting him in situations in which he could succeed. He'll be a due a raise in arbitration, but even at $1.5 million or $2 million, he's a valuable player on a contending club.
OF TYLER MOORE
Stats: 75 G, 171 PA, 10 HR, 29 RBI, .263 AVG, .327 OBP, .513 SLG
0 E, -3.2 UZR, 0.6 WAR
2012 salary: $480,000
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2019
Where he fits in: Moore made his big-league debut one day after Bryce Harper and over the course of the season proved his gargantuan minor-league numbers were no fluke. The kid from Mississippi can flat-out hit and even learned how to do it while coming off the bench cold as a pinch-hitter. Could Moore be ready for an everyday job? Possibly, though his defense in both left field and at first base leaves plenty to be desired. If he doesn't crack the lineup, he'll still provide a potent bat off the bench and is nice insurance to have in case one of the veterans goes down to injury.
IN THE MINORS
Corey Brown put up some big-time numbers at Class AAA Syracuse (.285-21-75 in 126 games) and earned some limited playing time in the big leagues, but the soon-to-be 27-year-old appears caught in a numbers game and stuck down the depth chart. The speedy Eury Perez put himself on the map, hitting .314 while stealing 51 bases at three levels of the system. He'll probably return to Syracuse to open 2013 but could force his way back onto the big-league roster if he keeps it up. After a strong 2011 at Class A Potomac, Destin Hood struggled at Class AA Harrisburg with a paltry .644 OPS. Highly touted center field prospect Brian Goodwin was fantastic at low-Class A Hagerstown and earned the right to bypass Potomac altogether. He's currently in the Arizona Fall League and could crack the Nationals' roster by Sept. 2013 or Opening Day 2014. Several club executives were touting Michael Taylor one year ago, but he cooled off at Potomac and still appears to be a long-term project.
If they want to keep things as-is, the Nationals could very well return in 2013 with the exact same outfield alignment they had this year: Morse in left, Harper in center, Werth in right, with Bernadina and Moore on the bench. It's not necessarily the best defensive alignment, though, and it's possible the club would prefer to acquire a true center fielder and move Harper to one of the corner positions (which would force Morse either to first base or off the roster altogether). In the end, the Nationals seem to believe one of their center field prospects -- headlined by Goodwin -- will be ready to take over in 2014, and thus there's no urgency to spend money and devote multiple years to a premier free agent like Michael Bourn or B.J. Upton.