Sep. 23, 2016
Washington Nationals Preview
With the fourth team in the National League East, I will be discussing the Washington Nationals, a team who is all-in this season on a World Series. While some moves may still be made in the bullpen, this team is set everywhere else, and looks to at least be the favorite in the NL East. After acquiring OF Adam Eaton from the White Sox, the farm system has lost a lot of luster and the future no longer looks as bright as it once did. MVP outfielder Bryce Harper has two years left before he hits free agency, so the pressure is on the Nationals.
PROJECTED ROTATION: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross
Even with having Cy Young winner Max Scherzer in the rotation last season, this group was quietly one of the best in all of baseball. As far as ERA and starts goes, Tanner Roark had just as good of a season as the Cy Young winner, and Joe Ross had a very good season as well. Stephen Strasburg is the guy that everybody pays attention to, but he doesn't seem to have that all-world capability that a lot of experts once thought he had. He's a good pitcher, but I don't think he's great by any stretch. Gio Gonzalez was serviceable and is a nice piece to finish off this rotation. AJ Cole and recently signed Jeremy Guthrie are the main contenders for the rotation.
BULLPEN: Shawn Kelley, Brandon Treinen, Sammy Solis, Oliver Perez, Trevor Gott, Koda Glover, Joe Nathan
The Nationals don't have a bona fide closer yet, but they did recently add former closer Joe Nathan on as a non-roster invitee. Shawn Kelley and Brandon Treinen had the best seasons of the remaining arms, and if they fail in their attempts to trade for a closer on another team, look for them and possibly Joe Nathan to battle for the job. Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez are serviceable as well, and Trevor Gott got off to a good start before injuries took his season away. Koda Glover had the most appearances of the remaining pitchers. Rafael Martin, Matt Grace and non-roster invitee Matt Albers are other contenders for a job.
CATCHERS: Derek Norris, Jose Lobaton
Not many teams have ever had five catchers on the 40-man roster, but that's exactly what the Nationals have right now. And none of them are starter quality at the moment. Derek Norris has shown flashes in the past, but if he performs like he did with San Diego last season, look for the Nationals to try and upgrade there as well. Jose Lobaton is a lifetime backup, and should get plenty of time this season as well. Pedro Severino and Spencer Kieboom are young catchers who are likely to start in Triple-A.
INFIELDERS: Trea Turner, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Drew, Clint Robinson
The middle of the infield is one of the many strengths in Washington, and when Trea Turner and Daniel Murphy are among league leaders in batting average, it's easy to see why. Turner was up there for rookie of the year, and Murphy was for MVP. At the corner infield spots, you have Anthony Rendon who had a nice bounce back year last year, and the longtime National Ryan Zimmerman at first base. Zimmerman struggled last year, and the Nationals need him to have a resurgent 2017 campaign. After re-signing Stephen Drew, the Nationals essentially ended the discussion on who the backup infielders would be, and Clint Robinson will join him to back up first base and the corner outfield spots.
OUTFIELDERS: Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Jayson Werth, Michael Taylor, Chris Heisey
Bryce Harper had a down year along with Zimmerman, but he is still in his mid-20's and has an MVP to his name already. Adam Eaton was brought in for a major haul from the Chicago White Sox, so him having a great season is very important to the Nationals. Jayson Werth has lived up to his lofty contract he signed several years ago in my opinion, at least for most seasons. Michael Taylor is a solid backup, and has starting experience. Chris Heisey is a pinch-hit home run threat, so he gets the fifth spot.
LINEUP: Eaton (CF), Turner (SS), Murphy (2B), Harper (RF), Werth (LF), Rendon (3B), Zimmerman (1B), Norris (C)
If everybody plays up to their potential, this is the best team in the East by far and can contend with the Cubs for a spot in the World Series. It's hard to imagine Daniel Murphy having the same kind of season he had last year, but I see him and Harper "swapping" statistics in the 2017 campaign, and a rise from Ryan Zimmerman. The rotation is set, and the bullpen just needs another late inning reliever, and knowing how the Nationals operate, it likely will be a closer. I'm going with 93 wins for this team and first place in the East.