Cleat Geeks

NL East 3rd Place Prediction-Washington Nationals

nats2

This is where it gets interesting. To me; the Nationals, Marlins and Mets will be in the playoff mix in September. So what about the Nationals? Why am I predicting them to finish 3rd? Don’t get me wrong. I believe this team is still good and their disappointing 2015 season had a lot to do with injuries, down years for multiple players and poor leadership. I just think the Marlins have the ingredients to be a surprise team in the National League this season. Plus, the departure of Adam LaRoche after 2014 and now Denard Span after 2015 will continue to hurt Washington. But the Washington Nationals do have the second best, if not the best, player in baseball: Bryce Harper. He put up a season for the ages. Harper garnered his first out of what is projected to be many MVP’s. In his fourth MLB season, Bryce Harper silences many critics and showed what he could dowhen playing at least 150 games. He led the majors in home runs (42), runs scored (118), OBP (460), SLG (.649) and OPS (1.109). He also put up 99 RBI and was walked 124 times. Yes, he was that good. In fact, his season was one of the best offensive seasons since Barry Bonds’ playing days.

maxscherzer

Then there’s ace pitcher Max Scherzer. Entering year two of his mega $210 million deal, Scherzer is looking to improve on a solid season in which he had a couple of ups and downs. He went 14-12 with an ERA of 2.79, a 0.92 WHIP and 10.9 K/9 in 228 innings. Scherzer tossed not one but two no-hitters in 2015. The second one came on the last weekend of the season with the Nats out of contention and just days after the infamous dugout scuffle between Harper and closer Jonathan Papelbon. Matt Williams was let go as manager after the season. Many have pointed towards his inability to keep the players motivated as one of the main reasons the 2015 season was a disaster. In to replace him is baseball lifer Dusty Baker. This will be Dusty’s fourth team and first since 2013 when he was at the helm of the Cincinnati Reds.

dusty

Good ol’ Dusty is just what this team full of stars needs. He has always managed playoff-capable teams and knows how to bring egos together. It’s just a shame that he wasn’t shown more love this off-season by the many teams who were looking for a new skipper. Heck, he wasn’t even the Nationals’ first choice. The Nationals interviewed Bud Black, told him they wanted him and then offered a low ball offer of a one year deal at $1.5 million. Huh? Yes, it’s been a strange off-season for the Nats.

murphy

Even more embarrassing is all of the swing and misses in the free agent market this winter by the Nationals. Jordan Zimmermann, one of their best pitchers, became a free agent and signed with the Detroit Tigers. They also lost shortstop Ian Desmond. Then, looking to continue to go for it in 2016, the Nationals made offers to and got turned down by Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and Yoenis Cespedes. They did pry the left handed hitting playoff hero Daniel Murphy away from the NL pennant winning New York Mets. Murphy had a terrific season and a historic postseason in which he homered in six consecutive games. Murphy joins a lineup that includes Brycer Harper, Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmermann. It will be interesting to see what kind of effect Jordan Zimmermann’s departure will have on the starting rotation. The rest of the staff behind Max Scherzer includes Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Strasburg is still a key to this team. Let’s just see if he finally doesn’t leave the game early with an injury every other start.

 

*2016 Projected Lineup

CF Ben Revere  .306/.336/.358

3B Anthony Rendon  .280/.350/.416

RF Bryce Harper  .313/.429/.580                 harperhustle

1B Ryan Zimmermann  .256/.321/.449

2B Daniel Murphy  .290/.333/.429

LF Jayson Werth  .268/.357/.434

SS Danny Espinosa  .232/.295/.383

C Wilson Ramos  .245/.279/.387

*2015 BA/OBP/SLG

2016 Projected Rotation

Max Scherzerscherzerhug

Stephen Strasburg

Gio Gonzalez

Joe Ross

Tanner Roark

2016 Projected Bullpen

Jonathan PapelbonPHILS15-A

Blake Treinen

Shawn Kelley

Felipe Rivero

Trevor Gott

Oliver Perez

natscelebrateFinal Word: Nothing can really surprise me with this team anymore. If Dusty Baker brings out the best of these players and they stay healthy, then maybe the Nationals can dethrone the New York Mets and their immortal pitching staff. If not, then this is just an overrated team that will finish in second place or even in third place behind the Miami Marlins. The division is not completely out of reach. However, they are going to need to stay in contention and actually make some smart moves during the season to be able to make the playoffs in spite of the powerhouses in the NL like the Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, Dodgers and Pirates.

 

 

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