March 31, 2017

Washington Nationals: 2017 MLB season preview

In their 11 seasons since moving from Montreal, the Washington Nationals have slowly been built into a force. After finishing in last place in five of their first six seasons in the nationals capital, the Nationals have finished first or second in the NL East in five straight seasons. Playoff success, however, has been hard to come by. The Nationals have yet to make it out of the first round.

Ownership has not been shy about spending whatever it takes to build a winner. The farm system has also produced a steady stream of talent on par with the Expos system of the early 1990s that was the best in baseball. It also doesn’t hurt that the Nationals were able to draft Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in back-to-back years.

The Nationals are getting into now-or-never territory with their current core of players. Harper has only two more years until free agency, and it appears unlikely that Washington will be able to ante up the $400 million (or more) he will command on the open market. This is a tea that is built to win now and expects to win now, and they must be taken seriously as World Series contenders.

Led by two-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, the Nationals have one of the best rotations in baseball. In his first two years with Washington, Mad Max has gone 34-19 with a 2.88 ERA. He has struck out 11.0 per nine and has thrown two no-hitters while also spinning a 20-strikeout game. Of the three pitchers who have signed for over $200 million as free agents the past few offseasons — Scherzer, David Price, and Zack Greinke — the Nationals appear to have made the safest investment Wholesale uniforms.

As if Scherzer’s potential to throw a no-hitter in any given start wasn’t enough, the Nationals also have another ace in Stephen Strasburg and one of the most underrated starters in the game, Tanner Roark. Strasburg is working his way back from his annual injury, an elbow strain that ended his 2016 season in September. The injury should not affect him this season, which is good news for the Nationals because Strasburg is entering the first year of a $175 million contract. He went 15-4 last year before being shut down, and is 69-41 with a 3.17 ERA and 10.6 K/9 for his career. Assuming Strasburg has no health scares in 2017, he is a very solid number two to Scherzer.

Tanner Roark was the odd man out after the Nationals signed Max Scherzer before the 2015 season. He struggled with his swingman role, but after Jordan Zimmermann left in free agency, Roark was back in the rotation. In his two full years as a starter, the 30-year-old right-hander is 31-20 with a 2.84 ERA. He does not have overwhelming stuff, but Roark has excellent command and executes his pitches well.

Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross will round out the rotation for the Nationals. Gonzalez is entering his age-31 season, and is on the downward arc of his career. Ross is one of the better young starters in baseball, but gets overlooked in a division that features Noah Syndergaard. In his first 35 games in the big leagues, Ross is 12-10 with a 3.52 ERA. He has outstanding command, and is very poised for a 23-year-old hurler. If he can stay healthy for a full year, Ross could easily be a 15-game winner.

The Nationals don’t have much depth beyond their top-five starters, and if there is a major injury, they may seriously regret giving up Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez for Adam Eaton. A.J. Cole is likely the next man up if anyone goes down for an extended period of time.

The Nationals somehow took a lineup that scored 763 runs last year and made it significantly better this winter. They traded away Danny Espinosa and Ben Revere, opening the door for 162 games of Trea Turner. That’s a very good thing. To replace Revere, the Nationals traded for Adam Eaton of the Chicago White Sox, a 20-20 threat. Did they pay through the nose for Eaton? Sure did. Is he a better investment than Dexter Fowler? Probably.

Seeing what Turner can do over a full season in the big leagues is going to be exciting. In only 73 games last year, he was worth 3.5 bWAR. That projects out to MVP levels over 162 games. Turner batted .3442/.370/.567 with 13 home runs, 40 RBI, and 33 steals. He was a terror on the bases, and his power was much better than expected. Turner could be the best leadoff hitter in baseball by the time this year is over.

Pairing Eaton with Turner in the two-hole will give the Nationals the most dynamic one-two punch in the league. Giving up the prospects was a major blow to the team’s depth, but Eaton and Turner could easily combine for 50 home runs and 75 stolen bases this year. Defensively, Eaton may see his value fall a little bit in center field, compared to right, but he is still a quality defender. The Nationals will not regret the high price they paid to get this underrated star.

Hitting behind Turner and Eaton will be Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper. Manager Dusty Baker could potentially insert Anthony Rendon or Jayson Werth into his top four to break up the string of lefties that could make for a matchup nightmare in the latter innings of a ballgame. There are few three-four combinations in the league better than Murphy and Harper. No one could cheap nfl jerseys have predicted that Murphy would be able to sustain his postseason success over the course of a full season, but his 2016 campaign was near-MVP level. He is one of the best contact hitters in baseball, and has found another level with the power stroke. There is no way Harper will be as bad in 2017 as he was for long stretches of 2017.

The aforementioned Rendon and Werth will provide solid production wherever they end up hitting in the lineup. Rendon bounced back nicely last season after struggling with injuries in 2015. Werth’s average has been down the past two seasons, but his on-base skills remain solid. If healthy, he should approach 25 home runs. One Nationals player who really needs a healthy year is Ryan Zimmerman. The original face of the franchise has not been healthy for three years, and batted just .218/.272/.370 last year.

Washington waited out the free-agent process and grabbed Matt Wieters on a pillow contract. He is a four-time All-Star. Though his bat has never lived up to they hype, Wieters is a solid replacement for Wilson Ramos. In this lineup and park, he could hit 20 home runs. The Nationals also have quality depth backing up their starters with Adam Lind, Stephen Drew, and Micahel A. Taylor.

It’s not for lack of effort that the Nationals enter 2017 without an established closer on their roster. The front office tried in vain to sign Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen, and Aroldis Chapman this offseason, but all three signed elsewhere. Not having an elite closer would be a problem for some contenders, but the Nationals have a very deep bullpen.

Shawn Kelley or Blake Treinen should get first crack at closing. Kelley is coming off a very good season. He struck out 80 in only 58.0 innings. Kelley has good control for a reliever, but can be plagued by the longball at times. Treinen has an outstanding fastball, but can suffer through bouts of wildness.

The Nationals have quality depth up and down the rest of their bullpen. Rookie Koda Glover rushed through the farm system, and has outstanding stuff. Glover could be a closer-in-waiting in Washington. Signing veteran Joe Blanton was smart move. Oliver Perez is still one of the best left-handed specialists in the game.

Overall, this will be a solid bullpen for the Nationals. Finding someone who can handle the pressure of getting the last three outs could prove to be the team’s Achilles heel, but there are good options for Dusty Baker to try out. The Nationals are still recovering from the Jonathan Papelbon-Drew Storen debacle, but should get by just fine this year while waiting for someone to emerge as the closer.

Dusty Baker is the perfect manager for the Washington Nationals. He is the antithesis to ultra-conservative Mat Williams. Baker has always been a players-first manager, and the clubhouse had a completely different feel in his first year on the job. Injuries played a big part in Williams losing his job, but his style rubbed many of the players (especially Bryce Harper) the wrong way.

Baker does not have a reputation as a master strategist, and he’s not really here for the analytics. There is, however, a reason teams with championship aspirations keep hiring him. Baker is one of the best in the business at knowing which buttons to press to get the most out of his players. Handed a veteran team loaded with All-Stars, there wasn’t much Baker could do to mess it up. He lets his players do their job, and the results speak for themselves. His toughest task this year will be figuring out his ninth-inning situation.

There isn’t much that can derail the Nationals in the regular season. They have one of the deepest and most dynamic lineups in the National League. Their rotation is topped by a two-time Cy Young winner, and the bullpen has plenty of veteran depth. Their division is still weak, and health questions will continue to plague the New York Mets young starters.

The biggest health questions on the team surround Stephen Strasburg. In seven years in the big leagues, he has surpassed 200 innings only once. Strasburg has also missed starts in every year but one. Suffice to say, it was a big gamble by the Nationals to give him a long-term deal.

The flexor strain that shut down Strasburg last year cheap NFL jerseys could be just that — a one-time deal. It is reasonable, however, to worry that it could point to bigger problems down the road. There have always been questions about Strasburg’s mechanics. When he has been able to take the hill, the former top overall pick has been very good. The Nationals need a full season out of Strasburg, and they need him to pitch deep into the playoffs.

On paper, the Nationals appear to have the best shot in the National League to take down the Chicago Cubs. Their lineup is loaded, and their rotation has great depth. The bullpen could take some time to sort itself out, but same goes for the Cubs. The Nats also have a manager with postseason experience.

Washington won 95 games last year with Bryce Harper batting close to .200 for most of the season. They also gave 601 plate appearances to Danny Espinosa who batted .209 and 375 to Ben Revere who finished his season with an OPS of .560.

Replacing those two with a full year of Trea Turner and Adam Eaton while expecting a bounceback season from Harper should have the rest of the National League shaking in their boots. If this isn’t the year the Nationals win 100 games and get out of the first round of the playoffs, then it may be time to write the franchise off for good.

Posted by: Washington Nationals at 06:27 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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Washington Nationals Opening Day 2017: Things to know before Opening Day

Opening Day is approaching. It’s crazy how time flies. It feels like just yesterday when the Washington Nationals were competing in the postseason.

To get you ready for the first game of the story, here are a few fun facts about the Nats on Opening Day.

The Nationals hold an under .500 record on Opening Day since 2005.

It’s true. The Nationals are 5-7 on Opening Day. But if you add the Montreal Expos 18-18 record into the equation, the ball club is 23-25.

Lately the Nationals have shown success during the first game of the season, winning three of its last four Opening Day games.

Ryan Zimmerman has started in 11 Opening Day games wholesale jerseys.

The Z-Man has started in every Opening Day game since 2006. Zimmerman is 10-40 with one home run and one RBI on Opening Day. His lone home run was a walk-off bomb against the Braves in 2008.

Stephen Strasburg is starting on Opening Day for the fourth time in his career.

Strasburg will surpass Livan Hernandez in most starts on Opening Day since 2005.

The two-time All-Star has recorded 18 strikeouts and given up 13 hits, while sporting a 2.43 ERA in 20 innings pitched on Opening Day.

Bryce Harper loves Opening Day!

If there is one day Bryce Harper likes to play on, it’s Opening Day. Harper is 6-15 with four home runs and four RBIs in four Opening Day appearances.

Last season, Harper hit a solo shot in the Nats 4-3 wholesale NFL jerseys victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Then you can’t forget the time when Harper crushed two home runs against the Miami Marlins at Nats Park. Can’t wait to see what Harper has in store this time around.

The Nationals will play the Florida/Miami Marlins on Opening Day for the sixth time.

The Nationals hold a 2-3 record against the Marlins on cheap NFL jerseys Opening Day. The team won the last matchup 2-0 in 2013. Strasburg gave up three hits in seven innings of work.

Posted by: Washington Nationals at 06:19 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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Washington Nationals officially name Blake Treinen closer

While reports last week suggested that hard-throwing 23-year-old reliever Koda Glover was the frontrunner for the Washington Nationals’ open closer job, Dusty Baker announced this morning that the Nats will actually turn to 28-year-old sinker-balling right-hander Blake Treinen cheap jerseys.

Baker told reporters earlier this week that there was an ongoing debate in the Nationals’ front office as they tried to decide which reliever to turn to after trying and ultimately failing to land a high-end closer via free agency or trade this winter.

GM Mike Rizzo explained in an MLB Network Radio interview last week that the Nats decided to choose from among their in-house options early this winter after missing out on their top targets.

Treinen is coming off a 2016 campaign in which he posted wholesale jerseys a 2.28 ERA, a 3.62 FIP, 31 walks (4.16 BB/9), 63 Ks (8.46 K/9) and a .220/.314/.333 line against in 67 innings.

Working with pitching coach Mike Maddux, the right-hander also managed to improve on his big weakness from previous seasons.

A year after left-handers put up a .336/.425/.509 line against him, Treinen held lefties to a .218/.348/.390 line in 2016.

Baker said early this winter that he was taking a cautious approach to deciding what role Treinen would fill in the ‘pen this year, though the righty was clearly in the running for the role.

"Is that fair to say that he’s a candidate for that situation or are we rushing him because you want to him evolve rather quickly?” Baker asked Wholesale Authentic Sports Jerseys.

"You want to evolve and not destroy him. I’ve seen guys’ confidence get destroyed too, and so I’m going to call upon my past and what I’ve seen.”

What Baker and the Nationals saw this Spring, with Treinen tossing 4 2⁄3 scoreless, striking out eight and holding opposing hitters to a .063 AVG, apparently convinced them that Treinen was ready for the gig.

Posted by: Washington Nationals at 06:06 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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