30 in 30: Washington Nationals

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So, you lost Bryce Harper to a division rival in the Philadelphia Phillies. Now what? Well, you’re in luck because with your addition of Patrick Corbin, you have one of, if not the, scariest pitching rotations in the league. Bryce Harper leaving your lineup does hurt a lot, but it’s not the end of the world for this team.

Let’s get the Bryce Harper loss out of the way. The six-time All-star and 2015 National League MVP was the face of the franchise, possibly the league, if it weren’t for Mike Trout or Mookie Betts. Harper hit .249/.393./496 with an 18.7 walk percentage. He also hit 34 home runs and had a wRC+ of 135. The only downside was his strikeout percentage of 24.3%.

While that was a great season by most standards, his best season was in 2015, his MVP year. He hit .330/460/.649 with a 19 walk percentage. His strikeout percentage was still high, 20%, but it can be overlooked due to his production at the plate. He had a career high in home runs with 42, and his wRC+ was 197, which is insane compared to the league average of 100.

Bryce Harper also helped defensively with his 98.3 fielding percentage in his time in the outfield in Washington. He left this offseason to accept a 13-year, $330 million deal that will keep him in Philadelphia as long as he wants. Losing him hurt, but, again, not the end of the world.

The Washington Nationals are still in good shape mainly because of their pitching. Their starting rotation looks to be lights out. The leader of the rotation is the 300 strikeout man Max Scherzer. Scherzer has a 2.53 ERA and an 81.3 left on base percentage. He also had 12.24 strikeouts per nine innings, which helped him get 300 strikeouts in only 220.2 innings.

The three-time Cy Young winner, two in the National League and one in the American League, was just beat out for his third Cy Young in three years by Jacob deGrom’s masterful season, that featured a 1.70 ERA and 269 strikeouts in 217 innings.

Steven Strasburg is has been in Washington, since 2010, the longest in this rotation. The 29-year old only started 22 games. He was lackluster in comparison to the rest of the rotation as he posted a 3.75 ERA, 75.7 left on base percentage, and a 10.80 strikeout per nine innings. The downside was his home run per flyball rate of 15.7%. Strasburg wasn’t amazing, but he wasn’t awful. He served as a good leader and a solid arm in the rotation. That is my expectation for him this year; he won’t be the best pitcher talent-wise, but he should serve as a good leader for this long season.

The additions to the rotation are Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez. Corbin came from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Sanchez came from the division rival Atlanta Braves. Corbin, last season, was really good posting a 3.15 ERA, a 30.8 strikeout percentage, and 11.09 strikeouts per nine innings. He also had a 74.7 left on base percentage, which could be better. Patrick Corbin is 29-years old, so he is brought in as the Nationals are under a ‘win now’ mentality.

Anibal Sanchez had a resurgent season in 2018. He struggled with the Detroit Tigers as he posted an average of 4.65 ERA in his five years there. He posted a 2.83 ERA and a 79.4 left on base percentage. This is a huge bounce-back season for him, but he did have his struggles. He had 2.77 walks per nine innings and 11.2 home run per flyball percentage. Washington is hoping that he can keep his recent success up as he adds another good arm in the rotation.

The rotation isn’t the only thing that is a star on this team. 20-year old Juan Soto is the perfect replacement for Bryce Harper. Soto hit .292/.406./517 with a 16 walk percentage. He also struck out 20 percent of the time, but that is expected from a player so young. Most teams will take the strikeout percentage for the production at the plate, including 22 home runs and a wRC+ of 146. If his play holds up, he could be better than Bryce Harper, in the eyes of Nationals fans at least, and will compete with Bryce Harper and the rest of the National League’s stars for the MVP.

Shortstop Trea Turner will also lead this lineup for not only now, but for the future as well. Last season, Turner hit .271/.344/.416 and a 9.3 walk percentage. He also stole 43 bases and had a career high in home runs with 19. His wRC+ is a 105 and that’s pretty good as he played all 162 games last season. First baseman Ryan Zimmerman will be playing his 14th season for the Washington Nationals. He has been a staple for this team as long as he’s been there. He is still really productive as he hit .264/.337/.486 with a walk rate of 9.3%. He will provide leadership for this young team.

The farm system is also looking good. They have the number four prospect in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect list, outfielder Victor Robles. In his 21 games in the majors, he hit .288/.348/.525 and a walk percentage of 6.3%. He also had a wRC+ of 131 and a fairly low strikeout percentage, 18.2%. He could take Bryce Harper’s spot in the outfield if he develops like the Nationals think he will. The 25th prospect is shortstop Carter Kieboom, who might be moved to either third base or second base due to Trea Turner. Kieboom played for the AA affiliate Harrisburg Senators, and he had a good season. Hitting for .288/.348/.395 and a .324 BABIP, batting average on balls in play. He strikeouts 21.6% of the time, which could be brought down, but it’s expected from the 21-year old prospect.

The Washington Nationals went 82-80 last season, which got them second place in the NL East. I expect them to be competitive in a very competitive division. The Atlanta Braves made the playoffs last year and if their youth, especially Ronald Acuna Jr., can perform like they did last year, they can end up back.

The Philadelphia Phillies acquired Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto in the offseason. Andrew McCutchen will also provide veteran leadership for this lineup. If Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta can lead the rotation, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

The New York Mets surprisingly going all in this season. They got veterans Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, and Todd Frazier. Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard will lead the rotation that isn’t what is was a few years ago. They can compete with everyone else, but they have the least amount of room for error. The Miami Marlins are just there for the ride, I don’t expect them to do anything in terms of competing.

Team Projection: 85-77

Team MVP: Max Scherzer

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