1. Washington Nationals
The Nationals’ bullpen has seen a couple of changes after the great regular season they had last season. Rafael Soriano is a free agent as we are now in February and Tyler Clippard is now in Oakland after the Yunel Escobar trade. The Janssen signing makes sense for the Nats because it gives them a reliever that has setup experience as well as closer experience in case Drew Storen struggles.
While Storen’s postseason failures are well documented, the 27-year old still had a 1.12 ERA during the regular season with a 2.71 FIP. The strikeout rate went down to 7.3 K’s per nine innings, but the walk rate decreased from 2.8 to 1.8. When he was the closer for Matt Williams in the second half of the season, he was 11-for-12 in save chances and had a 1.03 ERA.
A middle reliever I am keeping my eye on for Washington this season is Aaron Barrett. The 27-year old got his chance to pitch in the postseason a year ago, walking two batters in two appearances. During the regular season, Barrett went 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA and gave up one lone home run. The righty ended his season on a great note in September, giving up no earned runs in ten appearances.
Matt Williams will look to mix and match with the middle relief with pitchers like Matt Thornton and Craig Stammen. Plus, watch out for Tanner Roark as a potential X-factor out of this bullpen, even though it will most likely be in long relief.
This season, Fangraphs projects the Nats at #22 on their bullpen list with lefty Matt Thornton having the lowest FIP of any reliever, 3.11. However, that list was made before the Janssen acquisition. If Storen can handle being the everyday closer for a full season, this is a Washington Nationals’ pen that can continue the success it had last year and maybe more.