Its inevitable. At some point in the 2012 season the Nats are going to need a player to come up from Triple A and give them a week, 2 weeks, a month of solid play in place of an injured player. In past years it has been a cavalcade of scrapheap vets and far-too-young boarderline prospects. Hopefully that will not be the case in 2012. I want to take a look at 1 player from each group on the field (SP, RP, IF, OF) who could be the first up from Syracuse in this situation.
Infield - I am going to go ahead and predict that Steve Lombardozzi doesn't make the 25 man roster out of spring training. It's not a matter of talent, I just think that the Nats brass feel he needs regular at-bats and time in the field. So if Ian Desmond or Danny Espinosa go down with a nagging hammy or twisted ankle, look for Lombardozzi to get the call and split time with Mark Derosa at 2B/SS.
Outfield - Eury Perez. He is already on the 40 man roster and he is different than every outfielder the Nats currently have at or near the Major League level. He is beyond rangy, and he is quick footed. An outfield of Morse, Werth, Ankiel and Cameron could use a quick outfielder should one of them go down. He could also be first up if Adam LaRoche gets hurt (again) and we see a repeat of Morse at first.
Relief - I have a feeling that Ryan Mattheus is going to get left out in the cold (literally) after Spring Training and will be headed for Syracuse...in April. That makes him my choice for most likely to join the Pen. He is a talented relief pitcher and will definitely pitch some key innings for the Nats in 2012. It is also very possible that Davey's one right one left long man approach proves ineffective early on and Mattheus is called on to be an extra short reliever.
Starter - The hardest one to predict. I think Stras, Zim, Gio and Wang are safe. Its Lannan v Detwiler. Hard choice to make. Lannan has been loyal and the closest thing to a safe bet the Nats have had the last 3 years, he deserves something in return. But doing that would basically be bailing out on a 1st round left hander who has shown flashes of greatness. I lean towards Lannan because I'm sentimental and I love his make-up, especially compared to Ross, who's confidence seems to be made of candy-glass. My pick, Cory Van Allen. He has been with the organization for a while (2005) and has made slow and steady progress. Maya is not an option and with Peacock and Milone gone, the bulk of the Nats' SP prospects are low level.
A team can sign, trade for and expect growth from any number of players, but many times a season is made or broken by the influx of talent and energy an emergency call-up provides. Are the Nats in a better position than previous years? The loss of Peacock and Milone wasn't ideal in regards to minor league depth, but there are still bullets in that gun. However the Nats are not in a position to survive multiple injuries at similar positions in 2012, not that it is entirely possible to plan for that sort of contingency.
Bottom line: the Nats can deal with an injury or two in the infield and in the bullpen, one in the outfield, but any starter going down for any serious length of time could spell disaster for the season.