Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the Washington Nationals.
The Nationals are coming off of three straight winning seasons, including a first-place finish in the National League East last year, and look to continue their winning ways in 2015 following an offseason in which they made a few trades and signed a free-agent pitcher to a big contract.
The Nationals finished in the top five in the NL in some key offensive categories last year — including batting average, home runs, RBI and OPS — but much of the power production left this winter when 1B Adam LaRoche signed with the White Sox, taking with him his 29 HR and 92 RBI from 2014. On the pitching side, the Nationals’ staff led the NL in ERA (3.03), nearly a quarter of a run better than the second-place Padres. The Nats’ rotation featured three pitchers who finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting last year.
Looking ahead at the coming season, the already good pitching staff should get even better with the signing of SP Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract in January. The 2013 AL Cy Young winner joins a formidable rotation that already includes Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and former Tigers teammate Doug Fister. The offense looks to be led by OFs Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. The team should get an offensive boost at second base with Yunel Escobar — acquired in a trade for RP Tyler Clippard — taking over the starting job from Danny Espinosa, who moves to No. 2 on the depth chart
The Nationals were the best team in the NL East last season and they should retain that position this season, especially after the acquisitions of Scherzer and Escobar, who are improvements at their respective positions. The Nats are not only the best team in the East — easily winning the division — but they may even be the best team in the National League.