2020 NL East Team Previews: Washington Nationals

Coming off a franchise-first World Series the Washington Nationals saw a great deal of turnover, losing franchise cornerstone 3rd baseman Anthony Rendon among others to free agency. The team signed several sketchy part-time solutions for third while hoping that Rookie hotshot Carter Kieboom will eventually fill the job. Steven Strasburg was re-signed to a borderline insane contract and the team looks to have the best starting pitching in the league.Washington Nationals

  • 2019 record 93-69, 2nd NL East, World Series Champions
  • Manager: Dave Martinez
  • General Manager: Mike Rizzo
  • 873 runs scored 724 runs allowed

Washington Nationals Depth Chart: Infield

The hole Rendon leaves in the lineup is noticeable here as so far the team brass maintain that Cabrera and Kendrick and Castro will serve at both 2nd and 3rd to start the year. Kieboom is a terrific prospect at just 22 years old. He played 2nd and short in the minors but will be tasked with eventually replacing Rendon at 3rd. He has a quick bat and a cannon arm but somewhat limited range and “hard” hands.

Eric Thames comes off a surprising rebound year in Milwaukee where he always hit for a good average but added back the power last season. Nobody expects this to continue but he should be OK as a platoon partner with franchise legend Ryan Zimmerman.

No one knows who will man 2nd on the regular as the club’s trio of past-their-prime acquisitions all have significant warts. I’m betting on Castro to take the job. Trea Turner is a born Brave’s killer who if healthy is one of the better shortstops in the league. He had offseason finger surgery to his throwing hand so watch for that as spring moves along.

Washington Nationals Depth Chart:  Outfield

When Eaton is right this is the best unit in the national League. Fortunately for Braves fandom, Eaton has been mostly injured since joining the team. The leg injuries have robbed him of plus defensive ability and much of his base stealing speed but he remains a quality bat with excellent on-base skills.

Soto and Robles are the Notionals version of Ozzie and Ronald and I wish they were Braves. Scouts say Robles is still getting his feet wet in regards to power but that the potential is there for him to be a 30-homer guy perhaps as early as this year. Soto is an on-base machine with power. I say, “Just wait for Pache!” while drooling.

Taylor had a big babip-driven season a couple years ago but is just a 5th outfielder while Kendrick plays all over to keep his bat in the lineup.

Washington Nationals Depth Chart: Catchers

While they are getting up in years the tandem provides decent pop with occasionally brutal fielding. Gomes is a good framer: Suzuki is not. Something named “Raudy Read” is up next at AAA and is about average for being a backup at the position.

Washington Nationals Depth Chart: Starting Pitching

The heart of the team. When Scherzer is right the team can beat anybody, anywhere, just ask the Astros. Strasburg had his long-awaited breakout last year and we shall see what effect a career-high 245.1 innings have, if any. Corbin did everything they asked and more and is the best #3 starter in baseball. Anibal is likely teaming up with Asdrubal Cabrera to take some elephants over the Alps and is also trying to stop time in its tracks. I still root for him. Joe Ross had a cr*ptastic season one year removed from arm surgery. He was very good before, although last year’s velocity drop is concerning. Fedde is a former 1st round pick who has never missed enough bats. Crowe is a former hotshot prospect who has undergone a longer than expected path to the majors as his strikeouts have largely evaporated. He gets a lot of grounders which is not a good thing when we project the team’s infield defense.

Washington Nationals Depth Chart: Bullpen

Flame on! Washington had one of the worst bullpens in the game in 2018 and through the first half of 2019. Bringing in Hudson and Elias and recalling Suero and Voth from AAA got them all the way up to “dreadful” on the season. In the postseason it was Hudson and Corbin and pray for rain or an earthquake or something. Doolittle probably reclaims the closer role from hudson with free agent signee Harris and Rainey as the set-up guys. I expect some churn on this list before the season begins.

Washington Nationals Prediction Time

I see a team that has very little depth should the stars get injured or perform poorly. Based on peak expectations I get an 89 win team but I cannot see everybody achieving 90th percentile so 85 is a reasonable guess. For a team I dislike they sure have a lot of players I really like.

Thanks for reading the 2020 NL East Preview on the Washington Nationals. If you enjoyed this piece, you might enjoy reading the Miami Marlins preview.

Long Live Braves Journal!

15 thoughts on “2020 NL East Team Previews: Washington Nationals”

  1. JC’d

    From Jonathan F:

    Today is the last day to enter the Spring Training Contest. Rules are here: https://bravesjournal.us/2020/02/07/spring-training-contest/ and you should put your entries as comments there (unless I missed an entry in a later comment.) Note that unless Riley, Freeman, Alonso, or Ozuna hits the first dinger, we won’t even get to the first tiebreaker. And anyone else other than Acuna, Albies, D’Arnaud, Duvall, Flowers, Inciarte, Jackson, Markakis, Pache, or Swanson would be an automatic win (at the moment) for the lucky entrant.

  2. Your penultimate paragraph sums my feelings about the Nats. They have players I wish were Braves, but I hope the team falls flat.

    Thanks, Snowshine.

  3. Ok, well that would be really funny.

  4. At the end of the day, this is down to Manfred. Just like Roger Goodell, he’s developing a track record of unpredictable and arbitrary punishments, which leave a lot of teams feeling dissatisfied, airing their grievances in the press, and openly implying that since the league didn’t punish the Astros sufficiently, the pitchers are going to have to take matters into their own hands. After over a decade of harsh punishments for headhunting and fighting, which has largely eliminated the old backstreet brawl side of the game, Manfred is presiding over a simmering disaster. Rob, I know you think poorly of Tony Clark, but Manfred is just as bad.

  5. Some other prediction program (forgot which one) had the Braves 3rd at about 90 wins and the gNats winning 103. I can’t believe that’s possible. The prediction above seems much more reasonable. I have to believe that the Braves improved the bullpen vastly more than the gNats and that Riley/Camargo will be better than Kieboom in his rookie season. Even without Hamels to begin (note: we didn’t have Keuchel until June), the gap between the two has to have widened. The Braves are still a 95 win team no matter what any predictions say. The gNats cannot possibly be more than a 89 win team.

    I also think we still have more plug-and-play coming. Maybe it’s not Duvall or Riley this year but Pache and Davidson (or Bryse or Wright but Davidson is the lefty). All of Riley and Camargo and Ender will be better this year than they were last year. Even the bullpen pieces we added last year will be better this year especially O’Day. The Braves are much better than anyone thinks.

  6. Where do the Astros fit in among the game’s biggest scandals? Anything comparable Manfred could use as a baseline for punishment?

    Edit: Is there any precedent in baseball history for any kind of punishment apart from fines, suspensions, or draft picks?

  7. I’m sorry to everyone but Bull Durham is definitely the best baseball movie ever. Any movie that talks about the Church of Baseball and prominently features Max Patkin has the one and only legitimate claim to being the best baseball movie.

  8. @11

    Rusty, coincidentally we now have a major kerfuffle going on in European soccer with one of the top 3 clubs just being banned from its major international competition for 2 years for evading its Financial Fair Play(FFP) rule. With middle eastern ownership – and oil revenues- it had easily found ways to slide around these past few years the axiom that each club must operate on – is you cannot spend more than you earn. Fair, simple, but now that it has been implemented for the first time they cannot take part in the 2021/2 seasons. At the club level within their own country they can but the consequences the international ban will have on the contracts of their star players are profound.

    https://www.theguardian.com/football/2020/feb/16/champions-league-ban-manchester-city-butterfly

    To end on another rather more creative note, British club rugby has had a salary cap for several years. But one club always seemed able to attract the top FA players. Why we wondered? Separate contracts between the rich owner and his top guns where a new small business was formed, jointly owned between the two of them, funded and entirely run by Mr. Bigs boys, all profits to you know who.

    Well, now they have been caught and guess what. Automatically relegated to the MINOR leagues for 2 years by way of a 35 point reduction in the league table. Large fine, publicly shamed which still counts for something over there. And then there’s this.

    Bloodgate. Rugby rules allow for a player to be removed and then returned to the game if he has received a bloody injury. Coaches came to realize they could take advantage of this to achieve a more flexible control over who is in the game at any one time which is otherwise strictly controlled. Voila, bottles of a blood like substance were to be found in the trainer’s bag and were SO convincing to us innocents who had no idea what was going on. Until, inevitably, one team got greedy.

    So, Rusty, we all cheat apparently, always have. But, beware, Houston, Manchester City, Saracens – the penalties, outside of baseball anyway, are getting stringent. Fair play – wouldn’t that be nice.

  9. Financial Fair Play
    you cannot make more in any one day
    than you can show us you earned on the pitch
    so why did you try to, you grasping son of a bitch.

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