Washington Nationals 2018 Season Preview

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WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 25: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals bats against the Atlanta Braves during a Grapefruit League spring training game at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 25, 2018 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Washington won 9-3. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Washington Nationals finished with 97 wins last season. That was good for second-best in the NL and 20 games ahead of the second place Miami Marlins. They also won the division in 2016 with 95 wins. To say this Nationals team is good would be an understatement. They are great. They also need to win – soon. While they have dominated their division the past couple years, the success hasn’t translated to the postseason. They were unable to get past the division series in either year. This year could be different.

Washington Nationals 2018 season Preview

The Nationals have a great blend of offense and pitching. They have stars all around the diamond. This is the season they need to truly go for it. They may be losing Bryce Harper, Danny Murphy, and Gio Gonzalez at the end of the season, and their bullpen is getting old. The Lerner family, who owns the Nationals, have money to spend, so don’t expect a rebuild anytime soon. They want to win and are willing to pay for players that could bring them a championship. Let’s take a look at arguably the best team in the National League.

The Lineup

We all know how talented Harper is. He was the MVP in 2015 and had a great year last season, despite playing only 111 games, with an OPS of 1.008. He is in a contract year and will be looking to break records with his new deal. Oh, and he’s only 25 years old. The prime years are coming. All he needs to do is stay healthy. Murphy can hit as well. Since joining the Nationals in 2016, he has slashed .334/.386/.567. He also led the league in doubles both season, and in slugging in 2016. He is also in the last year of his contract and, while he will be 33 in April and is better suited for first base at this point of his career, he will certainly want to hit the market proving he can handle the lumber.

Trea Turner is a rising star in this league, and man can he run. Over the past two years, he has 79 stolen bases in just 171 games. He also has a .304 batting average in his short career and should only get better. He turns 25 in June. The Nationals also have Anthony Rendon. He has become a solid player for them and also is just hitting his prime. Since an injury-plagued 2015, Rendon has put up very good numbers the past two seasons. Last year was his breakout. He slashed .301/.403/.533 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI. He was also one of only five players to walk more than he struck out (84 walks to 82 strikeouts), joining the likes of Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Justin Turner, and Anthony Rizzo. With Adam Eaton back and Ryan Zimmerman hoping to continue his healthy ways, the Nats are poised to have easily the best lineup in the NL East.

The Staff

With Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg at the top of the rotation the Nats have arguably the best 1-2 punch in the league. The rest of their starting staff looks pretty decent also. In seven of the last eight seasons, Gonzalez has thrown 175 innings. He is a solid number three starter. With a career ERA of 3.64 and almost a K per inning, he is easily better than most teams’ third guy. Tanner Roark should be the fourth starter. While he had an off-year last season, his underlying metrics suggest a bounce back, especially if he can limit the homers. The Nationals have also been rumored to be in the mix for Jake Arrieta. If they manage to land him, they will have the best top three starters in baseball.

The bullpen is filled with veteran arms. Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle figure to battle it out for the closer role. Brandon Kintzler also has closer experience, but is probably better suited for a setup job. Shawn Kelley and Joaquin Benoit round out the bullpen and should offer quality innings. The Nats should be able to mix and match since their guys all have experience in various roles.

This Season and What’s Next

This is the year for the Washington Nationals to make their move. They are probably losing Harper, Murphy, and Gonzalez after this season. While they have a couple guys coming, like future star Victor Robles, they are ready to win now. Signing Jake Arrieta, or even Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb, would set them up to dominate October. The Nationals haven’t been able to get past the NLDS the last two years. They need to change that and take advantage of the talent they have this year. They will win the division, but without making another move either soon or at the trading deadline, the Nats may be in for another early exit from the playoffs.

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