Ashkan Motamedi Nationals season preview
Earlier in the year I did a blog on the Nationals moving on without Bryce Harper and it happened with him signing with the Philles. Opening day is near and the Nationals look to rebound off their down year with a now tough NL East loaded with talent it will not be easy to take back with the division. However the Nationals have improved even without Bryce Harper with an opening day lineup looking like this after Dave Martinez announced that Adam Eaton would lead off and Victor Robles hitting 9th with Michael A Taylor starting the season on the DL.
It is a solid lineup on paper also a mix of veteran and young guys with speed at the top and bottom and not only that you have all-star hitting 8th which is never a bad thing. There is not a super star in that lineup but it has people who are consistent can get on base produce runs and work counts. Victor Robles will excel in the 9th spot getting on base for the top of the lineup.
. Ryan Zimmerman needs to hit well that 5th spot with Juan Soto and Rendon in front of him there will be traffic on the bases. Zimmerman has struggled in the past with the bases loaded so hopefully this time around he will be produce. Also getting Yan Gomes finally upgrades the catcher position since Wilson Ramos left getting an all star who can hit .260 above is huge. Brian Dozier was a .300 hitter RBI producer before he got hurt had a good stint with the Dodgers has the keys to 2B and the defense at 2B also approves. The trend now in MLB some managers is to have the pitcher bat 8th and the Nationals pitchers can hit. The bench will look something like this when healthy
OF Michael A Taylor (DL)
2B Howie Kendrick
1B Matt Adams
SS Wilmer Difo
C Kurt Suzuki
This is one of the better benches in MLB when healthy all capable of starting or have starting experience. Michael A Taylor is inconsistent past couple of seasons hitting wise and tends to strike out a lot but has once again produce a solid spring training before getting hurt. The Nationals will count on him to platoon with Victor Robles when he returns. Howie Kendrick is a .300 hitter who can start on other teams and started for the injured Daniel Murphy last year until he tore his Achilles in May against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He went full go in spring training before tweaking the injury again and will start the season on the DL. He will be counted on to come into runner on base AB to produce and give days off to Dozier at second base when he returns. Matt Adams returns after being traded last season and will look to continue his strong performance last year platooning with Ryan Zimmerman once again. Wilmer Difo is the weak link of the bench started a lot of games at second base last year with injuries to Kendrick and Murphy. He did not produce as well as the Nationals wanted him so they went out got Dozier offseason knocking Difo to the bench. He will still play a big role this year. Kurt Suzuki was a consistent hitter for the Atlanta Braves started most of the games at catcher. He hit well against the NL East played good behind the plate helping the Braves win the division but got more money to return to the Nationals to backup Yan Gomes. He brings a veteran presence to the Nationals clubhouse and will look to replicate 2018 performance.
That brings us to the starting rotation which is top 5 in MLB can argue it might be the best rotation in baseball the backbone of this ballclub but went through a change from last year
1 Max Scherzer
2 Stephen Strasburg
3 Patrick Corbin
4 Anabal Sanchez
5 Jeremy Hellickson
I do not even need to explain Max Scherzer he is the best pitcher in baseball and a multiple Cy young winner he will once again lead this rotation. Strasburg had a down year last year after a stellar 2017 campaign but that was due to health and fatigue if he can stay healthy he is a weapon in the Nationals starting rotation. Patrick Corbin is the new guy who was among the league leaders in strikeouts last season and was an All-Star last season something the Nationals need to put guys with two strikes away. Anabal Sanchez is also a new guy and well always did well facing the Nationals stats wise does not stand out outside the 2.83 ERA but is a solid pitcher to have 4th in your rotation. Jeremy Hellickson returns from last year posted solid numbers only however being able to go through the lineup twice before turning it over to the bullpen meaning either five to seven innings at most putting pressure on the bullpen.
The bullpen is solid on paper but needs to be execute behind All Star closer Sean Doolittle and the acquisition of former closer Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough manning 7th and 8th inning both hard throwers. Justin Miller returns after a solid 7-1 3.61 ERA in 52 innings pitched. Matt Grace will be the long reliver in the bullpen going multiple innings health is a question mark but still had 59 innings pitched with a 2.87 ERA. Koda Glover who is not healthy right now and Wander Suero will fight for spots in the bullpen along with upcoming Austen Williams who has had a solid spring.
Overall this is a playoff roster if healthy and I think this year could be the year the Nationals rid of their demons and win a playoff series in the first year post Bryce Harper era.