2021 Preview: Washington Nationals

Welcome to the final month before opening day! I hope you have been enjoying spring training as much as I have. Baseball is about 11 days away! I am overjoyed! March began the official Ball Boy Blog previews of all 30 teams. The previews feature all the Free Agent signings, trades, NRI, bold predictions, and some cool fun facts at the end! We are starting at the top of the 2020 ranks and working our way down from best to worst! Enjoy!

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NL Team: Washington Nationals(Nat's)

Last Year Record: 26-34 finished in 5th place in the NL East

Record x2.7: 70.2-91.8

Vegas Projected: Vegas is projected the Nat's to win 84.5 games. I think the 2019 champs will say otherwise in 2021. I am all in on the Nationals in 2021 as the 2nd best team in the NL East and have them winning 95 games. It is hard for me to deny the Nationals, who have a deep rotation, a great lineup, and just an overall great system.

Impact Departures:

OF Michael A. Taylor(FA), RHP Javy Guerra(FA), LHP Sam Freeman(FA), LHP Roenis Elias(FA), C Kurt Suzuki(FA), 1B Eric Thames(FA), RHP Anibal Sanchez(FA), LHP Sean Doolittle(FA), 2B Howie Kendrick(FA), 3B Asdrubal Cabrera(FA), OF Adam Eaton(FA), 2B Brock Holt(FA)


Key Arrivals

Free Agent Signings:

-C Alex Avila- Avila has been known for a low batting average but a high OBP. In 2020 he his .184/.355/.286 in 62PA. The power was down as he only hit 1HR but owns a .394 SLG% over 3527PA with 104HR

-RHRP Brad Hand- Hand, now 30yo, has been one of the best relievers in all of baseball the last five seasons, but over the last two seasons, he has a 2.78ERA over 107IP with 34.8%K-7.9%BB rates over that span. Hand instantly helps the Nationals pen that ranked 23rd in ERA in 2020.

-SP Jon Lester- Lesters, last two seasons in a Cubs uniform, weren't great as he posted a 4.64ERA over 232.2IP. He looks to be coming in as one of the best 4th options in a rotation in all of baseball.

-LF Kyle Schwarber- Schwarber, who has hit .234/.337/.492 with 94HR in 1606PA between 2017-19. 2020 was dismal for Schwarber, much like most of the Cub's offense as he only slashed .188/.308/.393 with 11HR over 224PA

-1B Ryan Zimmerman- With Zimmerman's back, he will platoon with Bell at 1B against LHP, with who he owns a career .311/.390/.527 compared to Bell's .232/.315/.410 slash against LHP. If the MLB and MLBPA agree on the universal DH in 2021, Zimmerman could get some extra At-Bats.

Traded:

1B Josh Bell- Bell fills a significant void for the Nats at 1B and a power bat to support Juan Soto in the middle of the order. The 28yo Bell struggled in 2020 to a .226/.305/.364 slash with a career-high 26.5% strikeout rate.

Claim:

RHP Rogelio Armenteros- The 26yo didn't pitch in 2020 due to having surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Armenteros made his MLB debut in 2019, pitching to a 4.00ERA with an 18-5 K-BB ratio over 18IP. He will compete with Erick Fedde, Joe Ross, and Austin Voth for the rotation's 4/5 spots.

KEY NRI:

RHP Jeremy Jeffress- The 11yr vet had a strong 2020 with the Cubs delivering a 1.54ERA, 54.4% groundball rate over 23.1IP, and just 1HR. NOTE: the team released Jeffress on 3/7 due to "personnel reasons," GM Mike Rizzo said in a statement.

LHP TJ McFarland, C Welington Castillo both have brief MLB experience.

SS Jordy Mercer- From 2013-18 as the Pirates everyday SS, he hit .257/.317/.383 in 2928PA. Mercer only appeared in 9MLB games between the Tigers and Yankees in 2020.

C/OF Blake Swihart- The almost 29yo has appeared in 234 MLB games and has a .243/.301/.355 slash over 696PA. Swihart could factor into the backup C role/OF role for the Nationals should he have a good showing in Spring Training.

OF Gerardo Parra- Dating back to 2019 when he hit .234/.293/.391 with 9HR, 8SB in 301PA. Over his career, he owns a .276/.323/.404 with 88HR, 96SB over 5183PA.

UTL Hernan Perez- Perez was an oft-used utility piece with the Brewers from 2015-19, tallying 1706 plate appearances and batting .258/.288/.400.

OF/3B Yasmany Tomas- one of the biggest international signing busts for the D-Backs. He was having played in only 4games in 2019 with 0H. It will be interesting to see if Tomas can finish out his career better than it started for the now 30yo

P Aaron Barrett- in his 70IP in the MLB, he owns a 3.47ERA with a 10.8K/9. Barrett had TJ during the 2014-15 season. He fractured his elbow towards the end of that rehab and returned to the MLB in 2019 and has only 4IP with 6ER.

IF Adrian Sanchez- Has played 90MLB games with Nat's between 2017-19. He slashed .263/.280/.331 over 166 PA. Sanchez is a utility IF, and the 30yo should get a decent look this spring.

IF/OF Brandon Snyder- The former 1st round pick has seen MLB action split over the last six seasons in which he has slashed .240/.276/.455. With Nat's AAA club in 2019, he had 31HR and held a career .773OPS over ten seasons at that level.

NRI-

LHP Luis Avilan, RHP Jefry Rodriguez, LHP Bryan Bonnell, RHP Jacob Condra-Bogan, RHP Tyler Eppler, RHP Paolo Espino, RHP Javy Guerra, LHP Gabe Klobosits, RHP Todd Peterson, C Jakson Reetz, INF Jackson Cluff, OF Carlos Tocci, OF Cody Wilson

MiLB Deal: RHRP Justin Miller

Tendered Contracts:

SP Joe Ross(Did not pitch in 2020. But the 27yo was meh in 2019 with a 5.48ERA/4.59FIP over 64IP with 57K. These numbers were between 9S and 27 total games.), OF Juan Soto, SS Trea Turner.

Selected Contracts:

INF Yasel Antuna, RHP Joan Adon. Both were in Nat's 60 man player pool for 2020; neither played, however.

Returning from IL:

RHP Aaron Barrett, INF Carter Kieboom, RHP Dakota Bacus, RHP Tanner Rainey, RHP James Bourque, C Tres Barrera(restricted list)

Prospect Watch in Camp

RHP Jackson Rutledge, RHP Cade Cavalli, RHP Cole Henry, LHP Tim Cate, LHP Matt Cronin, INF Drew Medoza- Each are top 10 organization prospects. C Israel Pineda, RHP Tyler Dyson, C Raudy Read are each in the top 30.

The Rookie I am watching for the Nationals is LHP Seth Romero. The 24yo Romero made his MLB debut in 2020, posting a -0.2WAR in 2.2IP with a 13.50ERA/7.69FIP. Give Romero a chance, and he may surprise all of us.

Fantasy Impact Players

Pitchers- Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson

Position- Josh Bell, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, Victor Robles, Juan Soto

Upcoming 2022 Free Agents:

The Nationals face an interesting off-season coming up. Max Scherzer, Brad Hand, Starlin Castro, Daniel Hudson, Jon Lester, Joe Ross, Yan Gomes, Josh Harrison, Ryan Zimmerman are free agents.

Storylines to follow

-Will we see a long-term extension for Juan Soto and Trea Turner to lock them up and lifetime Nationals?

-The Nationals are giving Joe Ross every opportunity to win the 5th starter job. Which he has looked good.

-Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jon Lester are each looking good in spring and nice and healthy.

-The NRI I am watching in camp this spring is C/OF Blake Swihart. I am interested in Swihart because of the prospect pedigree. He was a first-round pick of the Red Sox back in 2011. In his rookie season in 2015, he slashed .274/.319/.392 in 309PA. Compare that to 2019, where he slashed .163/.222/.304. The decline has been hard in recent season; however, the Nationals do something right with their hitters.

Bold Predictions

-The rebound is on for two former Cubs. LHP Jon Lester and LF Kyle Schwarber are both coming off awful seasons. Schwarber slashed .188/.308/.393 in 224PA. Lester had his moments in 2020, but he ended up in -0.2WAR, 5.16ERA/5.14FIP in 61IP. Neither have the same pressure coming into 2021, and the change of scenery could serve both incredibly well.

-The breakout is coming for Josh Bell. In my opinion, the former Pirate finds himself going from a bottom-5 team to a top-10 in the MLB. Bell doesn't have to carry the load anymore offensively; he has to play his part now. You got to remember just back in 2019, he was an All-Star and hit 37HR, 116RBI with a .277/.367/.569 slash. Bell may top all those numbers in 2021.

Fact Check:

While Jordan Zimmermann was a starting pitcher for the Washington Nationals, he set the team record for most career starts (178), innings pitched (1094), and wins (70). Also, he threw the first Washington Nationals'Nationals' no-hitter in 2014.

The way first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has dealt with injury problems in recent seasons makes it hard to believe that the Z-Man set a franchise record for most games played in a season as he played in all 162 games 2007 d. In that same year, Zimmerman had a .266 batting average, 24 home runs, and 91 RBIs.


Thanks for reading today, I am so grateful for your time reading, and I hope you enjoyed reviewing and previewing 2021 for the Washington Nationals. I also want to thank my partners over at Repp Sports for RAZE Energy. Thanks to this clean and sufficient energy, I can have the intense focus to deliver content to you guys consistently. Click here to save 15% right now with the code "BALL BOY" at check out.

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