The Washington Nationals enter the 2018 season as prohibitive favorites in the NL East and one of a handful of teams expected to compete for the World Series.
In the last year-and-a-half, more and more teams have punted on winning in the hopes of “earning” a high draft pick the following summer. Not the Washington Nationals.
In the National League alone, Miami, Atlanta, and Cincinnati have already given up on 2018. San Diego and Philadelphia have some young pieces in place, but the respective signings of Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana are nowhere near enough to propel them into the Wild Card race. Pittsburgh traded two of its franchise centerpieces, and New York is just a grab bag of mostly average players.
That leaves just eight contenders for five NL playoff spots. Washington, Los Angeles, and Chicago are the big dogs atop the mountain. Further down the ladder are 2017 Wild Card teams looking to take the next step (Arizona and Colorado), veteran teams looking to rebound (St. Louis and San Francisco), and a developing group attempting to join the fray (Milwaukee).
And that’s it. I don’t see anyone else realistically pushing for a playoff spot after the All-Star break. While you can feasibly talk yourself into at least 10 American League squads, the playoff picture in the NL is much clearer. While that may make for a somewhat lackluster regular season, it does allow us to break down the expected playoff race before the season even begins.
We’ll run through each key roster component for every preseason NL contender, and analyze where the Nationals stand in relation to their National League brethren.