These three are the most likely to bounce back for the Nationals in 2020
The Washington Nationals capped off the 2019 season by winning the franchise’s first-ever World Series title. As most know, the team tumbled to a dreadful 19-31 start before turning everything around. Anthony Rendon rose from one of the most underrated players in the game to an MVP candidate. Juan Soto avoided a sophomore slump, while the pitching staff was led by the heralded big three. While many players had terrific 2019 seasons, a handful of players underperformed. Here is a list of three players that should be bounce-back candidates for 2020.
Victor Robles entered 2019 with high expectations as he was ranked the number four baseball prospect by MLB Pipeline. Some had even predicted him to win NL Rookie of the Year. Defensively, Robles had a terrific season, as he led all centerfielders in DRS and outfield assists. He was nominated for a gold glove, which he lost to Lorenzo Cain.
Offensively he failed to live up to his potential. Robles had hit .300 in his minor league career and had a great Spring training entering the 2019 season. However, he struggled in his rookie season as he finished the season hitting .258, with 20 homers, 79 RBI’s, and an OPS of .639. The 22-year-old struck out 140 times, while only drawing 35 walks. Robles will need to improve at the plate and become more consistent.
Yan Gomes was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Indians in November of 2018. He was set to platoon with Kurt Suzuki behind the plate which would be a huge step up from the Nationals 2018 catchers. Unfortunately, Gomes was quickly replaced by Suzuki as the primary catcher. He formed a battery with Corbin and became his primary catcher and was also used whenever Suzuki needed a breather.
Gomes, who is known for his defense took a step back in that category, posting his lowest frame rate (FRM) since 2015. He did throw out 43% of runners that tested him and had a DRS of five. However, this was a down year for the Veteran. Offensively, he looked lost at the plate as he hit .223, with 12 homers, 43 RBI’s, and an OPS of .704.
A reason to believe he can bounce back is Gomes started to wake up at the end of the season and this carried over to the playoffs/. When Suzuki was hurt in the playoffs, Gome stepped up. In the NLCS, he hit .429, with an OPS of 1.071. Now that he has a full season in D.C. under his belt, expect Gomes to improve moving forward.
In 2018, Sean Doolittle entered the conversation as the best reliever in baseball. He had just posted a 1.60 ERA, with 60 strikeouts while going 25 of 26 in save opportunities. At the start of the 2019 season, Doolittle picked up where he left off, as through April he had a 1.35 ERA. While Doolittle was lights out, the rest of the bullpen was a dumpster fire. The bullpen failed to hold a lead, which led to the closer being overused. Doolittle was being called to pitch multiple innings at a time, which he wasn’t used to. In turn, Doolittle’s body began to wear down and by August he was placed on the IL.
The 33-year-old posted his lowest K/9 since his injury-plagued 2015 season. Opponents set career-highs against him in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, and OPS. From 2012-2018 Doolittle had yet to finish a season with an ERA above a 3.95. In 2019 Doolittle finished with an ERA of 4.05.
The Nationals closer benefited from the trip to the IL and looked like his old self in the playoffs. During the team’s World Series run, Doolittle pitched 10.1 innings and posted a 1.74 ERA. With the season delayed, expect Doolittle to be back to 100% whenever the season finally starts.