Who should be the Nationals Opening Day Starter?

The Nationals have not had a true ace in their rotation since the departure of Max Scherzer via trade, leaving the spot for Opening Day starter up to best pitcher available. After Patrick Corbin got the nod the past couple seasons despite subpar performance, who should get the nod this season?

Sep 11, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Washington Nationals pitching coach Jim Hickey (48)
Sep 11, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Washington Nationals pitching coach Jim Hickey (48) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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The Dark Horse

MacKenzie Gore

MacKenzie Gore
Los Angeles Dodgers v Washington Nationals / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

MacKenzie Gore is a fascinating debate for the title of Opening Day starter. Of any pitcher in the rotation, or arguably even the bullpen included, Gore has the best stuff of anyone on the Nationals. Gore is pure firepower and electricity, which is awesome to see when it is controlled but not so much when it runs out of control.

Nevertheless, Gore has quickly emerged as a fan favorite for a team that historically has built itself on top tier pitching talent. Gore undeniably falls into that category, but certainly still has a ways to go before he cements himself as an ace or into the elite tier of MLB pitchers.

That being said, the "best" pitcher is subjective and an argument for Gore being the best is a strong one. There were several games last season where Gore absolutely dominated the game the way that only an MLB ace can truly do. In Spring Training, it seems Gore has been utilizing his powerful fastball higher in the zone than last season, leading to better results and more strikeouts. If that is a sign of things to come, then Gore could be poised for a breakout campaign.

Ultimately, I think Gore is more in a "wait and see" position and the Nationals won't give him the ball on Opening Day just yet. However, I do think there is a possibility that as the season progresses, we see Gore emerge as the number 2 and perhaps even the number 1 starter in the rotation.