The Nationals are a team on the upswing. In the past two years, they have won at least 10 more games than they did in the previous season. If that trend continues in 2012, it will put Washington at 90 wins and in the thick of the National League playoff hunt.
A young nucleus of arms and bats have many fans in Washington excited about the future, and opportunity knocks for them to earn recognition. Relief pitchers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, second baseman Danny Espinosa and first baseman Michael Morse are all nominated for this year's GIBBY Awards.
In addition, pitcher John Lannan's sprawling glove scoop to force out the Phillies' Ryan Howard at home plate in an Aug. 13 game is one of nine up for Play of the Year.
Major League Baseball's A-listers will take home GIBBYs trophies -- the ultimate honors of baseball's awards season -- based on votes by you the fans at MLB.com, media, front-office personnel and MLB alumni.
The 2011 GIBBYs feature nominees in 19 categories.
Individual honors will go to the top everyday player, starting pitcher, closer, setup man, rookie, breakout player, comeback player, defensive player, wow factor, manager, executive and postseason performer.
GIBBY trophies also will be awarded for the year's best play, moment, performance, oddity, walk-off, fan moment and postseason moment from MLB.com's Must C highlight reels.
Fan voting ends Dec. 4, and you can vote up to 25 times per category. Winners will be announced Dec. 16 from 9-11 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.com.
Morse, 29, who led the Nationals in home runs, RBIs and batting average, is nominated for Breakout Player. He tripled the number of doubles he had in 2010 and more than doubled his home run and RBI totals while putting up a slash line of .303/.360/.550.
Among qualifying first basemen, Morse finished second in the NL in batting (.303) behind reigning Most Valuable Player Joey Votto. He finished in the top five for doubles (36), homers (31), RBIs (95) and at-bats per home run (16.8).
Espinosa, 24, may have seen his power numbers dip in September, but he avoided the proverbial rookie wall with a slash line of .274/.371/.429 during the final month of the season. The Top Rookie nominee did most of his damage against baseball's best pitching staff. He hit .313/.392/.688 with seven home runs and 15 RBIs in 18 games against the Phillies, including two homers off Cliff Lee in a 10-2 victory on May 31 at Nationals Park.
His 21 home runs tied Atlanta's Freddie Freeman for most among NL rookies, and his 66 RBIs ranked second to Freeman's 76.
Clippard, 26, finished with the lowest ERA (1.83) for an NL pitcher with a minimum of 80 innings pitched. The Top Setup Man nominee also led the league in opponents batting average (.162), on-base percentage (.228) and WHIP (0.84) under the same criteria.
Storen, the 24-year-old candidate for Top Closer, finished tied for fourth in the NL with 43 saves. He allowed 23 earned runs over 75 1/3 innings of work with 74 strikeouts and 20 walks.
These four, along with starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and outfielder Jayson Werth, could help form one of baseball's better teams in 2012. Considering the Cardinals won 90 games and found themselves in the World Series, another step forward by the Nationals next season could turn out to be a giant leap.
Nate Mink is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.