A look at what the Washington National’s 26 man roster can look like come March 26.
Spring Training is in full swing and full of storylines. For the Nationals, position battles for third base, the fifth starter, and bench spots rage on. At the halfway mark of Spring Training, here is our prediction for the Nationals opening day 26 man roster.
The Nationals return the best pitching staff in the league, led by three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, and 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. Patrick Corbin had an excellent 2019 season, that was overshadowed by his teammates. Anibal Sanchez started off 2019 slow due to injury, before his vintage self showed up.
As it stands now, the fifth spot in the rotation is Joe Ross’s to lose. He has had an impressive Spring, be it in a small sample size. In five innings he’s given up no runs, one hit, a walk, and struck out two. Health has been the biggest issue with Ross, and he looks to be back to 100%.
The longtime face of the franchise re-signed on a one year deal to continue his legacy. He will be joined by slugger Eric Thames to form a powerful tandem. Thames will get the start against righties, while Zimmerman will get the nod when a lefty is on the mound. This makes sense as last season against righties, Thames hit .254, with 23 of his 25 homers, and had an OPS of .877. Zimmerman roasted lefties last year to a batting average of .357, and an OPS of .966. This platoon will allow Zimmerman to rest and not risk his body falling apart. Howie Kendrick can also fill in at first if either goes down with an injury.
Projected: Starlin Castro, Howie Kendrick
Washington signed Castro in the off-season to a two-year contract while also re-signing Howie Kendrick to a one year deal. These short term contracts will help lock down second until the Nats top prospects of Luis Garica and Carter Kieboom are ready to take over. Platooning Kendrick and Castro will allow the former to stay rested
Projected: Trea Turner
This was a no brainer. Turner has the position locked down for the foreseeable future. Don’t be surprised if the 27-year-old hit’s third next year in the lineup. Juan Soto will need protection in the lineup, and Turner has sneaky pop. Now that his hand is fully healthy, look to Turner once again being a demon on the basepaths.
Projected: Asdrubal Cabrera
Carter Kieboom should start the season in the minors in order to improve his defense at third. After all, he is a natural shortstop attempting to learn a new position from scratch. Cabrera had a career resurgence last season after joining the Nats in August. In 38 games with the Nats, he hit .323, with six bombs, and 40 RBI’s. While it is unlikely he continues that level of success, he will be a reliable option. Cabrera was brought back to help bridge the gap at third till Kieboom is ready. Expect the veteran to hold it down until Kieboom gets called up.
The 2019 tandem returns. Suzuki will catch the majority of the rotation, while Gomes will be Corbin’s primary catcher. Expect Gomes to have to bounce back offensively.
Washington’s outfield is set as the entire group from 2019 returns. Michael A. Taylor currently has the nod for the fourth spot but, will be on a short leash. He was inconsistent last season, which led to him being demoted to the minors. However, he shined in the playoffs and stepped up when Robles missed time with an injury. Speaking of the Robles, he had his ups and downs in 2019. He was inconsistent at the plate but, was one of the best defensive center fielders in the league. According to FanGraphs, he led all qualified Centerfielders in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and outfield assists (12). Soto needs no introduction and will be leaned on to carry the offense.
I choose Stevenson over adding another infielder or third catcher. The 25-year-old is having an impressive Spring. In 16 at-bats, he is hitting .313, with three RBI’s, and has an OPS of .825. Stevenson adds extra rest for the starters and is a great pinch-runner. His offense has been steadily improving and he deserves an opportunity to prove he belongs.
I predicted the Nats would run with eight relievers over an additional bench bat. Austin Voth gets the nod as the long reliever over Erick Fedde, due to the fact Fedde still has a minor-league option. In order to send Voth to the minors, he would have to make it through waivers. It is highly unlikely that this would happen.
Doolittle, Harris, and Hudson are the backbone of the bullpen. They will be handling the seventh, eighth, and ninth inning. With Hudson back, and Harris joining the club, there will be less pressure on Doolittle to carry the bullpen.
Rainey, Suero, Elias, and Strickland will be responsible for bridging the gap from the starter to the back-end of the bullpen. Rainey has the highest upside of the bunch. If he can lower his walks, then he will be another reliable option for manager Dave Martinez.