Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Washington Nationals 2019 season preview

Anthony Rendon


           The Washington Nationals lost a free agent this offseason that would break the record for biggest contract in MLB history. But, now without Bryce Harper, they are actually a better team. They added to their pitching, improved their catching and now have a very good and young outfield. The Nats could easily win the division.

           Offseason additions: LHP Patrick Corbin, C Yan Gomes, C Kurt Suzuki, 2B Brian Dozier, LHP Tony Sipp, RHP Anibal Sanchez, RHP Kyle Barraclough, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, LHP Vidal Nuno, RHP Henderson Alvarez

            Offseason subtractions: RF Bryce Harper, RHP Tanner Roark, C Matt Wieters, RHP Greg Holland, 1B Mark Reynolds, C Pedro Severino

             Rotation
The Nationals have one of the best rotations in the league, despite trading Tanner Roark to Cincinnati. Max Scherzer is arguably the best pitcher in baseball, with a 2.53 ERA and 300 strikeouts in 220.2 innings, finishing second in NL Cy Young voting. Stephen Strasburg was again hurt, and posted a 3.74 ERA in 20 starts. The team signed Patrick Corbin to a six year deal. Corbin had a 3.15 ERA with 246 strikeouts in 200 innings for Arizona last season. Anibal Sanchez comes from Atlanta after having his best season since 2013, with a 2.83 ERA in 136.2 innings. Jeremy Hellickson was strong in 91 innings for the Nats last season.

             Bullpen
Sean Doolittle converted 25 saves, but also had a 1.60 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 45 innings. The Nats are hoping for a healthy Doolittle. Matt Grace had a 2.87 ERA in nearly 60 innings in a breakout 2018. Justin Miller also had a breakout campaign. Kyle Barraclough has a career 11.5 K/9 rate. Trevor Rosenthal, the former Cardinals closer, is returning from Tommy John surgery. Tony Sipp had a 1.86 ERA for Houston last season. Jimmy Cordero and Wander Suero get the final two spots.

              Catching
The Nats had a measly catching trio of Matt Wieters and a mix of Pedro Severino and Spencer Kieboom. Wieters and Severino are gone, and Kieboom will be the AAA starter. The Nats signed Kurt Suzuki and traded for Yan Gomes to fill the hole. Combined, they hit 28 home runs in 2018.

               Infield
Entering free agency, Anthony Rendon is looking to improve on his really good 2018. He hit 24 home runs with a .308 batting average and .909 OPS. He is also a good fielder. Trea Turner stole 43 bases and hit 19 home runs. Ryan Zimmerman's home run total dropped by 23 to 13, and his batting average fell back to earth. Brian Dozier had his worst offensive season in 2018, but was signed to play second. He has 30 home run power.

                 Outfield
At age 19, Juan Soto was called up. He finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting, hitting 22 home runs with a .923 OPS. He even hit a major league home run before his MLB debut. Victor Robles, the Nationals' top prospect, is the center fielder. Adam Eaton hit .301 in 95 games last year. He'll move over to right field.

                   Bench
Whoever isn't starting from the Gomes/Suzuki tandem will backup the other. Howie Kendrick can play second base and corner outfield, but he'll start the season injured. Matt Adams can hit 20 home runs as a bench player. Wilmer Difo is a speedy backup infielder. Michael Taylor, last year's center fielder, will move to the 4th outfielder role.

                     Lineup
SS Trea Turner
3B Anthony Rendon
LF Juan Soto
1B Ryan Zimmerman
2B Brian Dozier
CF Victor Robles
C Yan Gomes
RF Adam Eaton

                      Rotation
Max Scherzer (R)
Stephen Strasburg (R)
Patrick Corbin (L)
Anibal Sanchez (R)
Jeremy Hellickson (R)

                       Bullpen
Sean Doolittle (L)
Matt Grace (L)
Tony Sipp (L)
Kyle Barraclough (R)
Justin Miller (R)
Trevor Rosenthal (R)
Jimmy Cordero (R)
Wander Suero (R)

                        Bench
C Kurt Suzuki
INF Wilmer Difo
OF Michael Taylor
1B Matt Adams

                        Additional Information
Ballpark: Nationals Park
Manager: Dave Martinez
GM: Mike Rizzo
World Series Championships: 0
2018 record: 82-80

                         Steal of the Decade
As part of a three team deal with the Rays and Padres, the Nats sent outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to the Rays, and the Padres gave Washington Trea Turner. While Souza has had injury issues and was traded to Arizona, Turner has hit .289 with 122 stolen bases since 2016. Turner is a key part of the Nationals' success.

                          Prediction
The Nationals are a good team. But, in a strong division, nothing is guaranteed. They'll have to fight for a playoff spot.

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