Washington Nationals: Five X-Factors For The 2017 Season

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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Washington Nationals
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Gio Gonzalez

At first glance, the Washington Nationals has a strong trio at the top of the rotation in Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Tanner Roark. It’s already one of the best rotations in the National League and it’s scary to think it can only get better if Gonzalez steps up.

Last spring training, Gonzalez had more walks than strikeouts and had a rough year after a great month of April. This spring, the left-hander has shorter hair and has pitched much better.

In six starts, he has a 29.5 ERA, has struck out 14 batters in 21.1 innings, and opponents are hitting .189. He did struggle yesterday against the Houston Astros when he gave up four runs in five innings, including a pair of home runs.

Now, Gonzalez has made 30+ starts in four of his five seasons with the Washington Nationals. However, he hasn’t won more than 11 games since he won 21 games back in 2012.

As always, the big issue for Gonzalez is going to be can he stay consistent throughout the season and give the Nats six innings on a routine basis? If he can, it only makes the rotation that much better.

With Gonzalez being the only left-hander in the rotation, they need him to have success and it was a good thing that the team decided to pick up his option for this season. If you read into some of Gonzalez’s comments this spring, it sounds like he may have found his confidence again. Here’s what he said after his start against the Braves on March 21:

"“I had to work through certain situations, which is good,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a good sign, I’ll continue to stay positive and stay confident and believe in your stuff.” (h/t Jamal Collier, MLB.com)"

If that confidence lasts throughout the season, expect Gonzalez to have one of his better seasons in D.C. this year.