Sep 26, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielderBryce Harper
(34) has Gatorade dumped on him by Washington Nationals second basemanAnthony Rendon
(6) after knocking in the winning run against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park. The Washington Nationals won 2-1. Mandatory Credit:Brad Mills
-USA TODAY Sports
1) Health, health and more health
We can go on and on about why the Nationals failed to live up to expectations last season, but there’s no doubt that injuries played a major role in the team’s struggles all season long.
Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and Denard Span — all of whom were supposed to be crucial parts of the lineup last season — missed significant time on the disabled list in 2015. The offense was only kept somewhat afloat by Bryce Harper, who managed to stay healthy all season long for the first time since 2012 and turned in one of the best seasons by any player in recent memory.
The offense wasn’t the only part of the team affected by injuries last season. Stephen Strasburg missed significant time on the disabled list. Aaron Barrett was injured a couple of times before ultimately seeing his season end prematurely due to Tommy John surgery. Drew Storen also saw his season end early after he punched a locker in frustration and broke his hand.
While injuries weren’t the sole cause of the team’s demise last season, they certainly played a significant role. And if the Nationals want to turn things around next season, they’ll need everyone to stay healthy.
Specifically, the Nationals absolutely need Harper to stay healthy. At just 23 years old and coming off an MVP season, Harper will be a crucial part of the lineup and the heart and soul of the Nationals next season — they simply cannot afford to see him miss any significant time on the disabled list.
The Nationals will also need healthy seasons from Zimmerman and Werth. Both veterans have proven that they can help the team win when they’re in the lineup, and help the team lose when they’re not. The 2015 season was a lost year for both Zimmerman and Werth. Hopefully for the Nationals, both players will stay healthy and play a key role next season.
With Jordan Zimmermann gone, the Nationals will also need the starting rotation to stay healthy — particularly Stephen Strasburg. With Max Scherzer leading the way, the Nationals need Strasburg to be as good as we’ve ever seen him in 2016 to ensure a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. The right-hander will be playing his last season before entering free agency next winter, so it’s in his best interest to stay healthy as well.
Of course, all of this is much easier said than done. Baseball is an unpredictable game, and unexpected and largely unpreventable injuries happen all the time. But after seeing the affect that injuries had on the Nationals last season, there’s no doubt that staying healthy in 2016 is the number one thing on the Nationals’ holiday wish list.
Next: 2. A Closer