Fangraphs does not love the Nationals starters heading into 2018. The projection system estimates both Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg will take small steps back with ERA’s in the low-threes. Further, down the rotation, it hands Gio Gonzalez a 4.07 ERA and Tanner Roark a 4.28 mark. (For what it’s worth, Fangraphs projects A.J. Cole for a 4.88 ERA).
I expect the Nationals’ staff to largely top those marks. It seems reasonable to expect Scherzer and Strasburg to compete for the NL Cy Young award once again. And while Gonzalez will likely take a sizable step back from his unsustainable numbers last year, I believe Roark will revert to his pre-2017 numbers. But if one or two starters go down, it doesn’t look like the Nats will have the starting pitching depth to make up for it.
At the top of the NL, the Cubs and Dodgers certainly have a deeper crop of arms, but they are not without their flaws. Unlike the Nats and Dodgers, Chicago does not have that one top-of-the-line ace. Jon Lester is at best a number two arm at this point in his career, Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks are steady, but unintimidating presences, and Yu Darvish has elite stretches, but does not always possess the consistency.
L.A. supports Clayton Kershaw with a talented core through the rest of the rotation, though there are legitimate injury questions with Rich Hill, Alex Wood, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Kershaw has also missed a considerable amount of time during each of the past two seasons. They are certainly a strong group on Opening Day, but its anyone’s guess who is still standing by October.