The Washington Nationals might have the best player in the league on their team in Bryce Harper, who solidifies an already pretty good lineup around him. They also have a top 5 pitching roation in MLB anchored by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
With both of those things said, the Nats still didn't make it to the playoffs last year after being outplayed down the stretch by the division rival New York Mets. It appears that they have the talent on paper, but perhaps it will take the hiring of Dusty Baker to get everyone on the same page.
Daniel Murphy, Ben Revere, Yusmero Petit, Shawn Kelley, Sean Burnett, Oliver Perez, Stephen Drew, Trevor Gott, Zack Cox, Chris Heisey, Aaron Laffey, Mike Brady, Nick Masset, Jon Velasquez
Jordan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Drew Storen, Denard Span, Yunel Escobar, Doug Fister, Casey Janssen, Craig Stammen, Matt Thornton, Dan Uggla
Biggest Strength - Starting Pitching
This pitching staff is intimidating and should expect to be amongst the best pitching staffs in the league. The Nats have two legitimate aces in Max Scherzer, who was one of the best in baseball last season, and Stephen Strasburg who had an excellent second half. Those two might be the best 1-2 punch in the league when they are firing on all cylinders and of course if Strasburg is healthy.
There are many other guys to like on this staff as well. Gio Gonzalez can be a star at times, and even when he isn't star status, he is consistently a guy you can rely on. The final two spots will be occupied by guys who we're not completely used to seeing starting games for the Nats, but should be very good back end of the rotation guys.
First of all, Joe Ross will definitely get one of those spots. He is the brother of Tyson Ross, the best player on the Padres, and he had a very successful partial season last year in the bigs. He should be expected to be a mid-front of the rotation guy for years to come.
After that, there's a good chance Tanner Roark will be next up to start games again for Washington. Despite his success starting games for Washington, he has sort of been pushed into a reliever role due to events outside of his control such as the Scherzer signing.
There's an outside chace that Yusmeiro Petit could get a shot at the rotation, but it's expected that he will take the Roark role of last season as the long reliever in the bullpen and emergency spot starter.
It's worth noting that there are also a couple of guys just about ready to make their leap to the big leagues in the farm system right now. If and when they are needed AJ Cole and Austin Voth both look like they will be fine options to start games in the MLB, Voth probably being the better option of the two.
Biggest Weakness - Team Chemistry
It's obvious that something isn't clicking right when you see Jonathan Papelbon attempting to strangle your franchise player Bryce Harper in the dugout. On paper, the Nationals have looked like they should be deep playoff contenders each of the past several seasons, but they haven't been able to put it together.
Because of this issue, it's possible that the most important part of the Nats off-season was bringing in a new manager in Dusty Baker. If the team is able to stay healthy and click as a unit, the sky is the limit for Washington.
Something to keep an eye on - Jayson Werth
Jayson Werth is coming in to 2016 with a lot to prove. He has been a very productive player during his long career, however, last year he had a pretty bad season statistically. After consistently putting up year after year of being about 40% better than league average offensively, he was awful in 2015 by his standards with a 87 wRC+ (100 is league average).
Now that Werth is 36 years old, many might think that this big drop in production is overdue, but since he was so consistently productive so long, it feels like he has a chance to be productive again for a few years if he stays healthy. If he's not, the Nats have Michael Taylor looming already at the big league level, and future star Victor Robles in their farm system waiting to take over.
Projected Lineup - Lefties* - Switch Hitters^
- Ben Revere* - CF
- Anthony Rendon - 3B
- Bryce Harper* - RF
- Ryan Zimmerman - 1B
- Daniel Murphy* - 2B
- Jayson Werth - LF
- Wilson Ramos - C
- Danny Espinosa^ - SS
Jose Lobaton^, Tyler Moore, Clint Robinson*, Stephen Drew*, Michael Taylor
Projected Rotation - Lefties*
- Max Scherzer
- Gio Gonzalez*
- Stephen Strasburg
- Tanner Roark
- Joe Ross
Jonathan Papelbon - Closer, Shawn Kelley, Trevor Gott, Oliver Perez*, Blake Treinen, Felipe Rivero*, Yusmeiro Petit
Starting season on DL
Fantasy Bargain - Joe Ross
Ross is still a bit under the radar, so he is falling a little too far in drafts. If you look at his track record, it's easy to see that he should be expected to perform well consistently in the big leagues. In 76.2 innings in the MLB last season, Ross struck out over 8 batters per 9 innings and pitched to a 3.64 ERA. Based on perephrials and his minor league track record, this isn't too far from what to expect from him in the long run.
Overrated Fantasy Option - Ryan Zimmerman
On top of being an injury prone player, and losing eligibility at thrid base where he might have actually been valuable this season, Zimmerman appears to be trending in the wrong direction. Although he isn't alarmingly old yet at the age of 31, Zimmerman has had an OPS south of .800 for two straight years now.
This is not what you need out of a firstbaseman. He's probably worth owning as a utility player late in a draft, but you will be disappointed if you expect him to be your starting first baseman and hit 30 homers because he's only done that once in his career and it was in 2009.
This Nats team is hard to predict. Many have been very wrong about predicting their success in recent years. Now that they have had an off-season where they didn't add much, but lost the likes of Jordan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Drew Storen and Denard Span it's hard to say that they will get better.
You can't exactly expect more out of the top performers Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer, because they were both already at the top or near the top of the line in their respective specialty.
Add to that the fact that the Mets have arrived with a team that looks even better than they did last year. Overall, it would be easy to see Washington finish near where they did last season with 83 wins and a second place finish in the NL East.