Photo courtesy of talknats.com
By Rob Schardt
Can the defending NL East Champs repeat once more? The Nationals again are built for a deep run into the postseason. With players such as Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer, it will be a challenge for an NL East team to threaten them for the division title. The Nationals continue to have the same problem every year and that is the team having trouble winning a playoff series since the time Harper was called up to the big leagues. It seems to be the same story in predicting how the Nats will do every year because of how deep and strong the team is, but when the postseason comes around, they struggle. The team is more than built to make a World Series run and I would not be surprised if they make it out of the first round this year. With new manager Dave Martinez at the helm, all eyes are now watching, as he succeeds Dusty Baker.
With pitchers that include some of baseball’s best like “Mad Max” Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg, it is hard to imagine the Nats struggling. This upcoming season may be the last for Bryce Harper in the nation’s capital, as he will hit the free agent market following the conclusion of this season. The top two guys in the National’s rotation are complemented by Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, A.J Cole, Jeremy Hellickson and Joe Ross. For the team to once more be successful, guys like Gonzalez, and Roark must pitch like they did this past season. In 2017, Ryan Zimmerman earned his first all-star appearance since 2009, batting .303 with 36 home runs and 108 RBI’s while looking like an MVP candidate. If Zimmerman can repeat this effort this lineup is terrifying. If the Nationals can also have a healthy Bryce Harper, I believe he will be the National League MVP, but this is always the biggest question mark.
Last season, the Nats also saw Adam Eaton go down with a season ending injury, which did not help their cause, as Eaton is a terrific all-around player. The team also added a lot of depth in acquiring Matt Adams, Howie Kendrick and Miguel Montero, and these players will definitely contribute. I do not think Michael Taylor is their answer in center field and I believe top prospect Victor Robles will quickly take over that spot. Obviously with other contributors such as Trea Turner, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon, it is hard to name a lineup that can compete with this one from top to bottom. The bullpen is another strong suit for the squad with Sean Doolittle as the closer and relievers such as Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley and Joaquin Benoit. I believe the Nationals will finish in 1st place in the NL East, finishing with a 96-66 record. The Nats once more are locked and loaded and ready to make another deep postseason run, but could it be the last with Bryce Harper?
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