Nationals: MLB.com’s Latest Power Rankings Raise Concerns
By Max Rayman
MLB.com ranked the Washington Nationals 22nd in their first MLB Power Rankings of the season. This goes to show, Mike Rizzo and company still have plenty to do before the season starts.
99.99% of the time, I take power rankings with a grain of salt. They are just another person’s opinion and someone is always going to be upset at the outcome. The other day, MLB.com released their first MLB Power Rankings and despite having my guard up, I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. Washington was ranked 22nd, which caught me off guard. Despite the Washington Nationals having multiple deficiencies, a core of Max Scherzer, Josh Bell, Trea Turner, Stephen Strasburg, Juan Soto, and Patrick Corbin would allow any team to contend. But this wasn’t the most troubling sign of the team’s low ranking.
What baffled me is that Washington was ranked last out of all of the teams in the NL East. Atlanta was ranked fourth overall, the Mets eighth, Philadelphia 14th, and Miami 17th. This brings up two issues for Washington. First, the NL East as a whole is drastically improving and starting to pull away from the Nationals.
Atlanta is the team to beat in the division and will be competing all season long with the San Diego Padres for the title of second-best team in the NL. They’ve won the NL East three years in a row and are looking to make it four straight. After adding Charlie Morton to an up and coming rotation, the Braves have the firepower to make some serious noise. They deserved their ranking.
New York, Philadelphia, and Miami on the other hand are all in similar situations to the Washington Nationals; teams with talent, but overrun with areas of need. Of the other three teams, New York is in the best position to cover their holes. Steve Cohen recently bought the Mets and has indicated he is willing to spend in order to win. He already signed reliever Trevor May and catcher James McCann, but that is just the beginning. The Mets have been rumored to be the front runner for George Springer. Don’t be surprised if they also attempt to go after Trevor Bauer. Despite all of the positives, their lineup is still lacking. Behind Jacob deGrom, the rotation has plenty of concern. Until they make a major move, Washington still has the edge over their rival.
Miami is a very intriguing team. No longer the doormat they once were, they reached the playoffs in 2020 for the first time since 2003. Miami has a promising pitching staff and a stacked farm system. The future is bright for Miami, but despite this, putting them ahead of Washington is puzzling, to say the least. The offense is full of journeyman and aging veterans, who fizzled against the Braves in the playoffs. Miami is still at least a year away from being a real threat to the division. For the time being, Washington still has the superior star power that will keep them ahead for now.
Philadelphia at 14 was the biggest surprise, to put it nicely. They are the most incomplete team in the NL East, with holes littered across the roster. They had one of the worst bullpens in 2020, and haven’t done much to fix the issue. Offensively, the Phillies lineup has continued to fall flat, with one of their biggest bats, J.T. Realmuto now a free agent. The front office hired Dave Dombrowski to right the ship, but that alone shouldn’t have this team so high. Bryce Harper can only do so much and with the front office crying broke, no one really knows what direction this team is heading. Putting them not only above Washington but at 14 is a joke.
MLB.com ranking all four teams above Washington raises the second concern. The Nationals roster is too incomplete to seriously compete. Despite trading for Josh Bell, Washington still needs at least two more bats to vastly improve offensive production. The once-vaunted starting rotation lacks depth and a fourth starter is needed. Starlin Castro’s return helps, but second base and third base are covered in question marks. The bullpen is on the right path but could use another reliever or two. With all of these holes, it comes as no surprise that the Nationals are seen by many to finish towards the bottom of the NL East.
Despite all of the team’s shortcomings, there is still reason to be optimistic. Juan Soto has emerged as a top five-hitter in the game and is still vastly improving. Trea Turner finally broke out in 2020 and finally found a way to hit for power and average. The bullpen has a new closer candidate in Tanner Rainey. The young flamethrower lowered his walk rate and was dominant, seen by his 2.66 ERA. The starting rotation fell apart last year but will be back at close to full strength. Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Max Scherzer will all have a full Spring Training, which will allow them to work themselves back into shape. Add Mike Rizzo as the team’s architect and the Nationals will quickly prove the doubters wrong.