2017 was another disappointing ending to a promising year for the Nationals; losing in the NLDS to the Chicago Cubs. A familiar sight for Nationals fans, as the team has not made it to the NLCS in their 4 playoff appearances, first coming in 2012. After their disappointing loss in Game 5, at home, the “DC Sports Curse” was ignited, as no Washington sports franchise has appeared in a championship game/series in now over 26 years. But this year, 2018, the curse will be no more. I’ll give Nationals fans reasons for hope heading into the 2018 season.
Reliable Starting Rotation
The Nationals starting rotation has always been their strength and this year is no different. The Nationals recently made some roster moves which all but finalized their 25-man, Opening Day roster. Their 5-man starting rotation will be Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, and AJ Cole. Heading their rotation are arguably 2 of the 3 best pitchers in the National League in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and their 3rd starter, Gio Gonzalez, finished 5th in the NL in ERA and had 15 wins. With Tanner Roark primed and ready to return to his magnificent 2016 ways; the only question that comes up is their shuffle for who their 5th starter is. After losing in the Jake Arrieta sweepstakes to the Philadelphia Phillies, questions came up on who they would choose as their 5th starter. AJ Cole has had mixed results in his 22 career starts, but showed some promise and finished last season with a 3.81 ERA in 11 starts. With one of the best lineups in all of baseball behind him, his inexperience and lack of consistency is not a major concern at all.
Coming into the 2017 season the big question with the Nationals was their bullpen. However, midseason they traded and acquired 3 relievers, with significant closing experience in; Brandon Kintzler from the Twins, and Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from the Athletics. Since Doolittle is a lefty, the three of them can matchup against any hitters late in the ballgame. Kintzler came to the Nationals with an amazing 28 saves, but Doolittle took on bulk of the closer responsibilities with 21 saves for the Nationals. The fantastic moves GM Mike Rizzo made last season has turned one of the Nationals glaring weaknesses to one of their biggest strengths. Washington is one of few teams in baseball that can say they have the amount of depth they have at the closer spot. Look for the Nationals to have one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball in 2018.
The bench of the Nationals was definitely tested last year, and passed with flying colors. With outfielders Adam Eaton and Jayson Werth out a lot of the season last year, Brian Goodwin and Michael A. Taylor had to step in and play major roles, and they delivered. Taylor had a great 2017 campaign and earned himself a starting centerfield spot and Goodwin solidified himself as a reliable 4th outfielder. Also the team added utility man Howie Kendrick from the Phillies; former 2nd baseman standout came and had a fantastic end to his 2017 campaign, finishing with a .315 BA. Also with Trea Turner injured with a broken wrist, Wilmer Difo came in and played satisfactory shortstop and 2nd base. On top of all of that, the Nationals added 1st baseman Matt Adams. He had a resurgent stint with the Braves hitting 19 HRs, and 58 RBIs in only 100 games. Oh, and don’t forget about Victor Robles, arguably the best position player prospect in all of baseball. He is primed to tear up AAA ball and I am predicting a Robles sighting in mid-July barring any injuries.
Top 5 Lineup in Baseball
I don’t think they’ll be able to compete with the power the Yankees have accumulated with the addition of Giancarlo Stanton to Aaron Judge. But with Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper joining Michael A. Taylor in the outfield; an outstanding infield of Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Daniel Murphy, and Ryan Zimmerman; and veteran depth of Matt Weiters and Miguel Montero behind the plate, this lineup is primed to dominate. Ryan Zimmerman had a brilliant 2017 which picked up some slack for all of the injuries they faced, so pressure will be taken off of him. And with Adam Eaton and Trea Turner hitting 1-2, I think they are the deadliest leadoff combination in the league. Of course they’ll have Harper hit third, arguably the best hitter in baseball. With the combination of power, contact, and speed 1 through 8; I think this lineup will lead the league in runs.
I predict the Nationals will ultimately break the so called “DC Sports Curse” and defeat the New York Yankees in 5 Games in the World Series. Have hope Nationals fans, this is your year!