2015 Washington Nationals Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
by Alan Matthews - 4/3/2015
Heavy is the head that wears the crown ... and entering the 2015 baseball season the Washington Nationals are clearly the team wearing the proverbial crown as the undisputed favorites to win the win the first World Series in franchise history.
However, a cautionary tale. In 2012, the Nationals led the majors with 98 wins and were considered favorites to win the Fall Classic entering the playoffs. That team had one of the biggest single-game collapses in big-league history in losing Game 5 of the NLDS at home to St. Louis. Still, the Nats were all "World Series or Bust" talk entering 2013, and most thought they were the team to beat. Instead, Washington finished 86-76 and missed the playoffs.
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The 2014 Nationals led the National League with 96 wins and won the NL East by a whopping 17 games, easily the largest margin in the majors. Everyone was pointing toward a Nationals-Dodgers showdown in the NLCS, only neither got there. The Nats were stunned in four games by wild-card San Francisco despite winning the one game that San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner started. The Washington pitching staff did its job, but in the three losses the Nats never topped two runs scored.
With some key players set for free agency after the 2015 season, this really could be an all-or-nothing season for the franchise. Washington opens the season Monday at home vs. the Mets.
Nationals 2015 Projected Lineup
The two main offensive losses from last season are slugging first baseman Adam LaRoche and second baseman Asbrubal Cabrera (an in-season addition). The Nats made no effort to bring either back.
I'm going to give you the projected lineup for when everyone is healthy, but that won't be the case to open the season as center fielder Denard Span (core muscle), third baseman Anthony Rendon (knee) and left fielder Jayson Werth (shoulder) all will begin the season on the DL -- so teams may want to beat the Nationals while they have the chance. Werth will be the first one back as Rendon and Span could each miss most if not all of April.
Span (.302, 37 RBIs) will leadoff when he's back, but Michael Taylor will man center field and the leadoff spot in the meantime. Span will become a free agent after the season. Rendon, probably the team's best offensive player last season, will hit second. He's a rising superstar, batting .287 with 21 homers and 83 RBIs in 2014. He won a Silver Slugger Award, produced a stellar 6.5 wins above replacement and finished fifth in the voting for NL MVP. Former Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar, acquired in trade this offseason, will take over third for now and then slide to second when Rendon is healthy.
Werth (.292, 16 Hrs, 82 RBIs) likely will hit third when back, and that could be as soon as next weekend. Some combination of Tyler Moore and Nate McLouth will fill in for Werth, and those guys will hit lower in the lineup. Former third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (.280, five HRs, 38 RBIs) moves to first full time because of a degenerative shoulder issue that hampers his throwing ability. He was limited to only 61 games last year and has trouble staying healthy. Maybe playing first helps that.
Right fielder Bryce Harper (.273, 13 HRs, 32 RBIs) also has had trouble staying healthy, but he was the one National who hit in that NLDS loss to the Giants. He massively bulked up this offseason and seems ready for a monster season, but everyone thought that in 2014 as well. Harper likely hits fifth when everyone healthy but probably third to open the season.
Shortstop Ian Desmond (.255, 24 HRs, 91 RBIs), who turned down around a $110 million extension and will test free agency, hits sixth. He'll be followed by catcher Wilson Ramos (.267, 11 HRs, 47 RBIs) and Escobar when he's playing second. For now that will be Danny Espinosa hitting ninth and at second.
Nationals 2015 Projected Rotation & Closer
Some are projecting this might be the best rotation in the majors since that 1972 Orioles team had four 20-game winners in Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, and Dave McNally. Since the mound was lowered in 1968, that Orioles rotation has the record for the lowest aggregate ERA at 2.58.
Washington led the majors with a 3.20 ERA from its rotation last season. So what did the team do? Added the best free-agent pitcher on the market and probably the AL's best the past two seasons in former Tigers Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to a $215 million deal. Why on earth would the Nats spend that kind of money where there was no need? Because Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister will be free agents after 2015 and Stephen Strasburg after 2016. The Nats expect to lose all three. I read an interesting story that Washington believes pitchers have only eight good years in their pitching arm following a Tommy John surgery, and that's why the team won't extend Zimmermann and Strasburg because both had one several years ago and would be approaching that threshold early in a new contract. Scherzer has never had TJS.
Scherzer (18-5, 3.15) honestly should only fare better in the weaker National League, and he gets the Opening Day start. He's followed by Strasburg (14-11, 3.14), Zimmermann (14-5, 2.66, Gio Gonzalez (10-10, 3.57), the only lefty among the group, and Fister (16-6, 2.41). Find me a weak spot there. All Tanner Roark did in 2014 was win 15 games with a 2.85 ERA, and he's bullpen-bound. I'm sure at least one of those five starters will get a "break" on the DL if need be and then Roark can step in.
Drew Storen (11 saves, 1.12 ERA) takes over as the full-time closer. The bullpen might be an issue with the losses of Clippard and Rafael Soriano and lingering shoulder tendinitis to new addition Casey Janssen. That could be one area the Nats target in trade this season.
Nationals Futures Odds & 2014 Trends
At Bovada , Washington is the +600 favorite to win the World Series, +300 favorite for the pennant, -400 favorite for NL East (biggest division favorite) and has an "over/under" wins total of 93.5, the highest in MLB (over -130 favorite). Harper is +2000 to lead the majors in homers and +1600 to win NL MVP. His totals: .285, 25.5 homers, 80.5 RBIs. Scherzer is +900 to win the Cy Young, Strasburg is +1000, Zimmerman +2000 and Fister +5000. The Nationals were 78-84 against the spread last season and 77-72-13 O/U. On the moneyline, they were +1062 units on the year.
Nationals 2015 Predictions
FanGraphs projects Washington to finish 93-69 and win the NL East by a mile. The Mets and Marlins are improving, but I'll be blown away if Washington doesn't win the division by double digits again. Go over the wins. Under on Harper average but over homers and RBIs. This is my pennant and World Series team even though the preseason favorite rarely does win it. Nats beat Mariners (if Blue Jays or Red Sox land Cole Hamels they are my AL winner) in the Fall Classic. This is the last of my season previews. Play Ball!
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