N.L. East Prediction: Washington Nationals
There’s a three-headed ssssssnake in Washington. Is the combo of Soto,Strasburg and Scherzer enough to take a bite out of the National League East?
There are some guys that are so good you stop what you’re doing and watch. The Washington Nationals have three of those guys. Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer mow people down in violent fashion. And there are few players who create the sound at contact that Soto does when he connects. But who else is there on this team to put them in the conversation for the National League East title?
As much as we love the thought of Strasburg (Nearly 1700 strikeouts in about 240 games) and what he brings to each start, the fact is he’s given the Nationals only one full season in the last six years and he gave them only two starts in 2020. It’s almost a guarantee that he’s going to miss 10 starts. Patrick Corbin has an ERA under four in 200 starts and will likely get the call. He’ll give you a decent season. Sometimes it’ll be really good. Sometimes it’ll be on the meh side of things. Erick Fedde’s ERA has improved every year sensei disastrous rookie year and saw him gather more than a run anything. But his strikeouts to walk ratio is terrible and he doesn’t strike out enough guys to be walking a bunch of guys. He’s 28 and now would be a good time to have a career year. He was decent in the fifth starter role last year with an ERA of 4.25. Joe Ross has some starting experience but he walks too many guys and gives up too many hits. He gets killed middle in and low. He’d do much better to pitch up in the zone inside with the fastball and low and away with the breaking stuff. And of course there’s Scherzer. When baseball people talk about a picture who “carves“ they’re talking about a guy like Scherzer who has such incredible movement on all of his pitches. The fastball tails up and in the curve ball drop straight down the slider swoops out of the strike zone. Man is he fun to watch. It still boggles my mind that the Detroit Tigers got rid of both him and Justin Verlander. What’s the plan up there again?
In the bullpen, Kyle Finnegan (3.10), ERA Brad Hand (3.65 ERA) and Daniel Hudson (3.90 ERA) make up a good core. But there are parts that are suspect. Luis Avilan comes over from the Mets. He was really good with Atlanta and the Dodgers but has scuffled the last couple of years. At 29, you hope Kyle McGowin is ready, but so far he’s shown now reason to believe. I won’t even tell you what his ERA is but it’s ugly.
At the plate Trea Turner Is the perfect leadoff batter. He hits for average and steals 35 to 40 bases each year. It would be nice if he walked more. You could do worse than Victor Robles or Starlin Castro hitting in the nine hole in your lineup. Ryan Zimmerman has had a couple of seasons in which I thought he was washed up but he’s managed to rebound. The secret to his success is getting pitchers to bring the ball up. If an employer is calling a low strike, Zimmerman is in for a long afternoon. He still more than adequate protection for Juan Soto it would be nice if the Nationals could bat Zimmerman third and have someone else protect Soto. Josh Bell isn’t any upgrade over Zimmerman and really struggled last year (.226 average). Yan Gomes can give you 15 to 20 home runs which isn’t bad out of the sixth spot in the order but his job is to make the pitching staff comfortable. That’s also the job of the other catcher on the nationals: Jonathan Lucroy. Washington without a doubt has the best catching tandem in the east with two All-Stars available to catch. The Dodgers and Giants are right there too.
Outfielder Kyle Schwarber could be that guy if he can return to form that saw him hit .250 with 36 home runs two seasons ago. He’s a good enough hitter but when he swings for the fences with two strikes only bad things can happen. It’s one thing to sit on a pitch and swing like crazy and miss it and another to swing like crazy at something you can’t possibly do anything with. A short two strike approach would certainly serve him well. He’s got so much power he could still hit it out of the ballpark with a shorter swing. Robles could hit in the two spot. He’s solid and can steal a base. He also has 25-30 home run power assuming his home run total so far was not unduly artificially inflated by major-league baseball‘s home run ball. Jordy Mercer here’s a nice extra infielder to have in your rotation.
Of all those guys who might be the one to protect Soto in the lineup? The answer is none of them Yadiel Hernandez hit 33 home runs in his last season in AAA. He also hit .323 and had a respectable 5k/3BB ratio. If he’s anything like Soto those are a couple of monsters at the corner outfield positions.
They need at least one really good starter. Who doesn’t? But if they can find somebody in their minor-league system and bring him up this is a team that’s pretty good in all areas of the game and that’s what you need come playoff time. Are they going to win 100 games? No. But they should win enough to make the playoffs and scare somebody to death especially if Strasburg is off the injured list.