30/30 BRKDWN – Washington Nationals


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The 2021 MLB season will be here before we know it. Pitchers are catchers reported on time, Spring Training is underway and we might have a full 162 game season with fans — hopefully. Between now and the start of Opening Day, we plan to BRKDWN each team’s offseason reviews and what to look forward to this upcoming season. Next, the Washington Nationals.

Key Additions:

Josh Bell (Trade)

Kyle Schwarber (Free Agent)

Alex Avila (Free Agent)

Jon Lester (Free Agent)

Brad Hand (Free Agent)

Luis Avilan (Free Agent)

Key Subtractions:

Sean Doolittle (Free Agent)

Asdrubal Cabrera (Free Agent)

Adam Eaton (Free Agent)

Anibal Sanchez (Free Agent)

Howie Kendrick (Retirement)

2020 Look Back

26-34 .433 W% 5th in NL East, Missed playoffs

Runs: Trea Turner (46)

Home Runs: Juan Soto (13)

Avg: Juan Soto (.351)

Slg: Juan Soto (.695)

ERA: Max Scherzer (3.74)

K’s: Max Scherzer (92)

WHIP: Wander Suero (1.27)

Projected 2021 Season

It’s not often you see a team win the championship and then miss the playoffs the next season, however that’s exactly what the 2020 Washington Nationals did. Time is not on the Nationals side heading into the 2021 campaign. In fact, GM Mike Rizzo doubled down on his veteran core by adding a pair of former Cubs, Josh Bell, and Brad Hand. It’s clear that management still believes in this team. With a ring in 2019, and a 2020 season where nothing went right, there is a solid chance that the nationals team heading into this season is a lot closer to the 2019 club than most seem to believe.

2021 Betting Odds (Via Bet365)

World Series: +3000 | NL Pennant: +1600 | Division: +575

Projected Lineup

CF – Robles

RF – Juan Soto

SS – Trea Turner

1B – Josh Bell

LF – Kyle Schwarber

3B – Starlin Castro

C – Yan Gomes

2B – Josh Harrison

Projected Rotation

RHP – Max Scherzer

LHP – Patrick Corbin

RHP – Stephan Strasburg

LHP – Jon Lester

RHP – Joe Ross

Offense

293 Runs (10th), 66 Home Runs (21st), .264 Team AVG. (4th), .433 SLG (11th)

The production from this lineup in 2020 was less than ideal, only three qualified batters hit above league average. With that weak of an offense, it makes sense to put the best hitters at the top of the lineup. Turner and Soto will be in those positions. The additions of Bell and Schwarber should provide much-needed slugging to this lineup in hopes to drive in Turner and Soto with greater frequency.

Pitching:

Team ERA: 5.09 (26th), 508K’s (20th), 1.52 Team WHIP (29th), .271 Opp. Avg (27th)

There were few alterations made to the pitching staff from last year’s squad. Most changes in personnel were filling holes of those who left like Anibal Sanchez and Sean Doolittle. Which have been replaced with Jon Lester and Brad Hand respectively. The 5th spot in the rotation is up for grabs but Joe Ross should complete the rotation. One of the main questions will be how the duo of Scherzer and Strasburg hold up. Max Scherzer saw a drop in dominance last year and with over 2300 innings of work in his career, it would be hard to see him rebound back to form. Strasburg made just two starts last year before undergoing wrist surgery, which is always a concern for pitchers.

Top 10 Prospects (Via MLB.com)

  1. Cade Cavalli RHP ETA: 2022 (99th Overall)
  2. Jackson Rutledge RHP ETA: 2022
  3. Cole Henry RHP ETA: 2023
  4. Yasel Antuna SS/3B ETA: 2022
  5. Andry Lara RHP ETA: 2024
  6. Jeremy De La Rosa OF ETA: 2023
  7. Armando Cruz SS ETA: 2025
  8. Time Cate LHP: 2021
  9. Mason Denaburg OF ETA: 2023
  10. Matt Cronin LHP ETA 2021

The Nationals farm system ranks near the bottom of the league. Fan’s will agree that giving up lots of the system for a championship was all worth it. Heading into 2021, they only have one prospect, Cade Cavalli on the MLB Top100 list. Most of the list consists of pitching, and is especially heavy on right-handers near the top. Too much pitching is never a bad thing, as pitchers can develop just as quickly as they can fade out. Both Cade Cavalli and Jackson Rutledge are recent first round picks and should transition nicely to the rotation once the veterans currently occupying those spots move on. Overall, it isn’t a great pool, and will probably become more depleted this season if the Nats buy, but the World Series ring was all worth it.

Move that need to happen

Soto win the MVP

The only National who seems to have time on his side, the 22-year-old has already received MVP consideration in each of the last two years. Entering his third full season, the undeniable talent has a shot at bringing home the MVP award this season. The Nationals will definitely need him to be in that consideration if they have any hope of making a deep run again. For reference, other undeniable talents who have won MVP in their age-22 season include Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. There’s a chance Soto can join them.

Bring in another impact bat

The additions of Bell and Schwarber should be fantastic buys. However they do not fix the one issue of this lineup. On-base guys at the top of the lineup. Manager Dave Martinez probably isn’t fond of having no one past Turner and Soto to get on base. Bringing in someone who has a high On-Base Percentage later in the summer would be the best thing for the organization, if of course they are in a position to buy, and not last in the division like last year.

Final Thoughts

A lot of people expected the Nationals to compete for the NL East crown last season. Perhaps they would have if the starting pitching had not failed them. Buying low on Bell and Schwarber will pay off if they can provide productive bats. If those two and the starting rotation return to expectations then the Nationals are a lot closer to competing than their 2020 record would suggest. However, in a very competitive NL East, it might take more than what’s currently there to win.