I like to think every year there is one guy with some level of major league experience on each team that does a lot better than you'd expect, and one guy that does a lot worse (with no injury explanation). Last year it pretty much worked out this way. While everyone else pretty much matched expectations, Nyjer Morgan crashed and burned and Livan had a out of nowhere successful season.
Looking back over the years it doesn't quite work one and one, someone crashing and someone soaring but it's not too far off.
2009: CRASH: None. SOAR : None, really. Hardly anyone did anything special. Willingham and Dunn had career years but nothing crazy. Morgan was crazy good for the Nats but in a limited time frame.
2008: CRASH : Austin Kearns. Paul LoDuca before he was gone, though the at bats might have been too limited to count. SOAR : Ronnie Belliard. (Maybe Odalis Perez considering he was league average after being terrible the two previous seasons and he was out of baseball after this)
2007: CRASH: Felipe Lopez (even though he wasn't good - it was a surprise he was THAT bad) SOAR : Dmitri Young (looked like he was fading out, came back with his 2nd best season ever)
2006: CRASH : really no one, Jose Guillen was terrible but injuries explain some of that. SOAR: Alfonso Soriano.
2005: CRASH : Cristian Guzman. (it took an awesome September to keep the guy from having a historically bad season. I hate the player but he was never this terrible). SOAR : Brian Schneider (Believe it or not - he never came anywhere close to this merely average year playing full-time) John Patterson, probably. He'd had enough innings in there to make you think he'd never come quite together as he did this year.
Two points become obvious.
It's hard to get players in either of the categories. For SOAR, I just think it's a matter of luck. You can't luck into two guys with sort of well defined expectations dramatically outperforming them. You're better off hoping for one and a bunch of more mild improvements. For CRASH, I think it's luck, too. But also a matter of playing time. If you're that terrible you just don't get up. Like Wil Cordero in 2005. Oh he was bad before but he was crazy wretched in 2005. So the Nats just eventually got rid of him.
If the Nats tended to have higher highs than lower lows why have they been so bad? Simple. They've had a lot of mediocre to bad players meeting expectations. This is especially true for starting pitching. A lot of never-wases and never will bes have pitched for the Nats in the past 6 years.
OK so what this gets down to I guess is if you could pick one player on the Nats to CRASH and one to SOAR, which two would it be?
For CRASH, I desperately DON'T want it to be Jayson Werth. I couldn't take 5 years of "I can't believe he got THAT money" (I expect that talk in the last 2 years of the deal regardless). I'm going to go with... well there aren't many choices, are there? I guess Adam LaRoche, but it's a half-hearted guess.
For SOAR, I really want it to be Zimm because it would be totally awesome to cover a team with the unarguable best player in baseball. Don't think it will be though. I'll go with John Lannan. Something about his performance at the end of last year I really like. Though I could see an argument for him being a CRASH too.