© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

09/18/06 7:08 PM ET

Mailbag: Can Soriano go 50-50?

Beat writer Bill Ladson answers National fans' questions

With the Nationals in their sixth month of the 2006 season, a lot of baseball fans want to know about the team and its chances of getting better in the National League East.

Here are some answers to your questions. Keep those e-mails coming. Thanks a bunch.

What do you think of Alfonso Soriano's chances of being the first player to hit 45 homers and swipe 45 bases or even become a 50-50 guy in baseball history?
-- Avi R., Montreal

I think he will reach 45-45, because he needs only five stolen bases. I think it's going to be impossible for him to reach 50-50. With 13 games to go, it's not a far fetch to see him hit five more home runs, but I don't see him getting the 10 stolen bases needed unless manager Frank Robinson allows him to steal at will.

What would you do in the offseason with the Brandon Harper/Robert Fick situation? It would be a shame to lose Fick, who can do so much with the bat, play several positions and keep the clubhouse loose. Harper has shown a lot in a short time, but at his age, his future is now. How would you solve it?
-- Joe T., Silver Spring, Md.

That's a tough question. On paper, it would appear that Harper has the edge simply because he is a right-handed hitter who has done a good job. What hurts Fick is that he is a left-handed hitter, and when Brian Schneider needs a break and there's a left-hander on the mound, one would prefer to have a right-handed hitter such as Harper.

How is John Patterson's arm progressing?
-- Sue V., Washington, D.C.

"The Big Nasty" is doing extremely well. I don't expect him to pitch any time the rest of the season, but I expect him to be the ace of the staff and lead the young pitching staff to a better season in 2007.

What is going on with the Rookie of the Year Award? Is Ryan Zimmerman so ahead of the class that sports writers have no one else to compare him to? Has a rookie ever gotten 100 RBIs in a season?
-- David D., Washington, D.C.

A month ago, I would have said that it was a no-brainer that Zimmerman was the National League Rookie of the Year. But now, with the Marlins in the Wild Card race, one would have to say that Josh Johnson, Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez are going to give Zimmerman a tough time to win the Rookie of the Year Award. If I had a vote, it would still go to Zimmerman, but I think one of the Marlins will win it.

To answer your other question, there have been four rookies with 100 RBIs since 1988. They are Hideki Matsui, Albert Pujols, Carlos Beltran and Mike Piazza.

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What is Saul Rivera's future with the Nationals?
-- Asher, K., Birmingham, Ala.

I have to believe that Rivera has a good future with the Nationals out of the bullpen. He has done a good job as a long, middle and short man.

What's the Nationals' center field situation look like next year?
-- Josh B., Richmond, Va.

It's too early to tell. I'm not going to say Nook Logan is the guy, because one doesn't know if Jim Bowden will get a center fielder during the offseason or if Logan is the answer. Logan is an excellent defensive center fielder, but he still has a lot to learn with the bat.

Why are there so many walks given up by Nationals pitchers this season? Is it because they literally can't hit the strike zone?
-- Laura B., Fairfax

Talking to pitching coach Randy St. Claire, it's not physical. It's mental, more than anything else.

Do you think Zimmerman has benefited from the instruction provided by Mitchell Page? Is there any chance that Mitchell will turn him into another Pujols?
-- Katie A., Fairfax Station, Va.

It's funny you should ask that question. All season, Page has compared Zimmerman's work ethic to Pujols' work ethic. Page has also called Zimmerman a smart hitter who makes adjustments. To answer your question, yes, I believe Zimmerman will turn out to be another Pujols with the bat in the future.

What do you think are the important lessons learned from this season, and how can they be implemented in the offseason and in '07?
-- Michael L., Washington, D.C.

One lesson learned is you can never have enough pitching, so the Nationals have to get some during the offseason. They could possibly get the pitching from their Minor League system. The team needs leadership, so a couple of leaders have to be acquired.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.