Sunday, April 5, 2015

Taking A Look at the East: Washington Nationals

Finishing strong with the perceived divisional favorite. While I imagine their chances to fail are about as high, it's no doubting that on paper, few teams compare with the Nationals.

Washington Nationals
Additions: Trea Turner (eventually), Dan Uggla, Yunel Escobar, Max Scherzer, Reed Johnson, Matt den Dekker
Subtractions: Adam LaRoche, Rafael Soriano, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ross Detwiler, Steven Souza, Tyler Clippard, Jerry Blevins
Rock-Solid Win Prediction: 98-64

A good deal of turnover won't change that the core largely remains the same. Obviously, the addition of Scherzer stands out as the rest are expected to max out as complimentary players (aside from Turner, of course). Scherzer's contract was a ridiculous mess and might hint at a Nationals front office that foresees the inevitable change. With only Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman locked up beyond 2017, the time to start churning out titles is now. They have four significant free agents hitting the market next year and their payroll as already jumped about $20M in back-to-back-to-back years. How much higher can it go?

In the mean time, it's difficult to spot a weakness on this team. Defensively, you can ask reasonable questions, but that seems like more nit-picking at this point. I do wonder how much the Nats need Bryce Harper to finally ascend to the numbers that back up the hype to really become a player in October. Picking up Scherzer is less about this upcoming year and more about 2016 when Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister both hit free agency. Losing both Clippard and Blevins from last year's team might hurt them, though they have reinforcements. Like I said, the Nats look like they are head-and-shoulders above the NL East. Barring a surprising under-performance, which shouldn't be too difficult to imagine (these are the Nats after all), the Nats should clinch the East a week or two into September.

Sadly, the Nats are still churning out some solid prospects as well. When Turner is eventually added to the system, he will slot in nicely to their Top 5, adding more high-end talent to their system. Lucas Giolito looks like a gamble that will pay off well and Michael Taylor is expected to land in the majors this year. The Nationals aren't going anywhere and when the Braves finally round back into form, it will be the Nats they must topple.

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