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Nats' breakout stars of 2012

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Nats' breakout stars of 2012

As the true breakout team of the 2012 MLB season, the Washington Nationals benefitted from a lot of players performing above expectations. The Nats saw injuries to nearly every key player early in the season and had to rely on depth and in some cases guys who weren’t intended to play major roles. 

Along the way, several Washington players had what can be called break out seasons. Some played above what was expected of them, and some finally reached the potential people always thought they had. 

Here are a few that legitimately became break out stars for the Nationals:

SS Ian Desmond - .292/.335/.511 – 25 HR – 73 RBI – 72 R – 21 SB

The talent was always there with Desmond, but the shortstop didn’t put it all together until 2012. He cut down his errors in the field to become one of the game’s best defensive shortstops and raised his offensive numbers all around. Desmond may have lost out on the Gold Glove award, but a Silver Slugger could be likely. A case could also be made he was the best overall shortstop of the 2012 campaign.

SP Ross Detwiler – 10-8 – 3.40 ERA – 105 SO – 1.223 WHIP – 164.1 IP

Detwiler was the 6th overall pick in 2007 and before 2012 hadn’t established himself as the reliable starter Washington had hoped he would be. He wasn’t expected to be in the rotation at the beginning of the season and spent time in the bullpen, but through the year proved consistent and sometimes even dominant. His stellar playoff performance in Game 4 of the NLDS further guaranteed his spot as a core player for the Nationals in the future.

OF Bryce Harper - .270/.340/.477 – 22 HR – 59 RBI – 98 R – 18 SB

Considered a ‘can’t miss’ prospect, Harper was expected to be a good major league player. But being called up in April and thriving from the start was not predicted by many. The former number one overall pick immediately showed he belonged and finished the season a favorite for the National League Rookie of the Year award. He had perhaps the best season ever for a teenage position player and could reach another level as soon as next season.

RP Craig Stammen – 6-1 – 2.34 ERA – 87 SO – 1.200 WHIP – 88.1 IP

Stammen had trouble as a starting pitcher for the Nationals in 2009 and 2010 and was cast to the minors last season to find his way. He came up last September to make a few relief appearances and must have shown the Nats something. In 2012 he became their primary long relief man and quickly found success. Through the season’s first half Stammen held a 1.74 ERA through 32 games. He seems to have finally found his niche and in 2012 he showed he can be quite valuable on a good major league team.

There were also a few Nationals players that established themselves as major league players and deserve at least honorable mention:

RP Christian Garcia – 13 G - 2.13 ERA – 15 SO – 0.789 WHIP - 12.2 IP

After two Tommy John surgeries and eight years in the minors, Garcia made his major league debut with the Nationals in 2012. He had pitched well at Double-A and Triple-A in the Nats system and the club decided to give him a chance with September call-ups. Garcia was excellent as a reliever and showed Davey Johnson enough to decide to convert him to a starter this offseason.

UT Tyler Moore - .263/.327/.513 – 10 HR – 29 RBI – 20 R 

Nationals fans had heard the name of Tyler Moore as the slugger hit 31 homers in each of his previous minor league seasons. After a slew of injuries to their outfield, the Nats called him up in late April to make his major league debut. He was a reliable pinch-hitter for much of the season, adding power off the bench in key situations. And his one year of experience ended up paying off big in Game 1 of the NLDS as Moore hit the go-ahead RBI in St. Louis. Moore could be the Nats’ future starting first baseman and is at the very least a legitimate major league player.

UT Steve Lombardozzi - .273/.317/.354 – 3 HR – 27 RBI – 40 R

Lombardozzi also joined the Nationals because of injuries and ended up playing in 126 games. He started 112 of those games including 43 at second base. When Ian Desmond went down with an oblique injury, Lombardozzi started at second when Danny Espinosa moved to short. The 24-year-old Maryland-native was reliable both on offense and defense and could compete for the starting job at second base next season.

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What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

It was just a few weeks ago that Joe Ross' postseason availability was in question, and if he could return in time, whether he would pitch out of the Nationals' bullpen and or as a starter wasn't clear. Manager Dusty Baker wondered aloud if he would get his young right-hander back, even as Stephen Strasburg dealt with elbow injuries.

The progress Ross has made in a short period of time since is remarkable and after his 90-pitch outing on Thursday afternoon against the Diamondbacks, the 23-year-old looks and feels ready for the playoffs, and not just to pitch in relief, either.

"I'm hoping I get the opportunity to start, but that's up to them," Ross said. "But I'll take any opportunity I get to pitch and go out there and compete. I just want to help the team in any way I can."

Ross wasn't great on Thursday in his third start back from the disabled list. He only made it four innings, as his pitch count soared early. But in giving up just one run, he's now pitched 9 2/3 innings in three games back. During that stretch he's allowed three runs and struck out 14.

[RELATED: Wilson Ramos hopes to be back with Nationals]

It has been a process of baby steps for the Nats starter, a slow progression back from right shoulder inflammation, an injury rehab that featured a setback in late July. Now, though, he is essentially back to normal, just in time for the NL Division Series which begins next week.

"I feel good. I felt really good today. I felt really good last start. I guess it's just a point of executing pitches," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind really on whether I can go out and compete."

Baker mentioned that Ross could pitch in releif early in the NLDS against the Dodgers. That could keep him available for a start later on, if it's kept short like a normal bullpen session.

But one has to wonder if Ross has improved his case enough to pitch Game 3 of that series, given Gio Gonzalez' recent struggles. The lefty has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 23 innings going back five starts.

Regardless, Ross has certainly come a long way in just three MLB outings.

"He looks ready," second baseman Wilmer Difo said through an interpreter.

With all the negative injury news the Nationals have received in recent days, between Wilson Ramos' season-ending injury and Strasburg essentially ruled out for the NLDS, having Ross fully back in the mix is a nice change of fortune for the NL East champs.

[RELATED: Matt Belisle sounds like safe bet for Nats playoff roster]

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Wilson Ramos knows his knee injury could mean the end of Nationals' tenure

Wilson Ramos knows his knee injury could mean the end of Nationals' tenure

Wilson Ramos won't be on the field for the Washington Nationals when the team takes on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L. Divisional Series next week.

The 2016 N.L. All-Star catcher will undergo surgery to repair the ACL he tore in his right knee on Monday night against the Diamondbacks

Ramos has been arguably the Nationals' most constant offensive threat this season, and had positioned himself as the team's backstop for the foreseeable future.

But the injury changed everything.

Not just because the surgery and rehab will stretch well into Spring Training, but because the 29-year-old Ramos will become a free agent at the end of the season. On top of that, a second ACL injury (He tore it in 2012 as well) means that taking the field everyday as a catcher may not be a viable option for him much longer.

"Unfortunately, this injury happened so close to the end and it may affect whether I’m able to stay with a National League team or not," Ramos told reporters prior to the Nationals' 5-3 win over the Diamondbacks on Thursday afternoon.

"But if it’s up to me, I definitely would like to keep playing for the Nationals and play as long as I can."

Ramos is a solid defensive catcher, but his biggest strength is at the plate. Being able to be a part of a lineup everyday is where he is most valuable, and that may mean playing in the American League, where he can serve as the designated hitter and fill in as catcher.

But this doesn't mean Ramos is done as a member of the Nationals, just that he's aware his time could be coming to an end.