Frank Ellis’ Prediction
Projected Record 93-69
Finish- NL East Champs (Losing in the NLCS)
In many ways, the Washington Nationals are heading into a make or break season. D.C. is finally a baseball town and fans as you know won’t be happy with just being in the playoffs.
I believe that the Nats will finally make it past the first round of the playoffs and take fans through one of the most entertaining seasons ever to happen in the capital. There are three main reasons that this team is going to be very entertaining, the team itself, a rivalry, and finally the outcome.
Besides the likely regression of Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner, the players that were on the Nats in 2016 will do mostly the same job. Bryce Harper will see a little change and have more home runs (32), less stolen bases (<15), and a better batting average somewhere in the .280s.
Adam Eaton will find his spot toward the top of the lineup come mid-June and the bench will be even more effective than they were last year. What holds this batting order together is health. Although Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman won’t be stars, their consistency will help the club remain strong. Matt Wieters will likely run into some small health struggles, but will play in about 115 games, which is great for him.
You may be thinking how are the Nats going to repeat with regression from their two big bats and more of the same from the rest of the club? The answer is pitching and great pitching at that.
Strasburg won’t reach that wonderful 200 inning mark, but he will be in the 180-inning range. We will see a fully healthy Joe Ross for a full season and he will look like he did in his first year with the club.
Gio Gonzalez will finally live up the expectations everyone in D.C. had for him after his first year with the team. Tanner Roark will build off of his WBC performance and finally be recognized as the star he is. Finally, Max Scherzer will once again post 200 innings and 200 strikeouts.
The pitching is going to be what makes this team back-to-back NL East champs.
Quick side note: The bullpen will be the best bullpen the Nats have ever had to go along with the great pitching narrative.
The Nats and the Mets will be the best rivalry in baseball. They don’t have the history that the Red Sox and Yankees have, but it will be hard to find two teams as skilled as they are and that play each other so often. Add in a little Twitter feud or two and the teams/fans will be hyped for every game.
The Nationals will finally get past the first round of the playoffs defeating the Chicago Cubs (believe it or not) in the NLDS. The Cubs just wont have the starting pitching to handle the Nats. Unfortunately they will end up losing in the NLCS to the hated Dodgers.
Once again the season will end in sadness for the team and the fans, but a chance deep in the playoffs will be great to see.