2019 Washington Nationals Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
The most satisfied man in baseball last year might have been a guy who technically wasn't even in baseball: Former Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker. In both 2016 & '17, Baker led the Nationals to at least 95 wins and an NL East title. However, five-game failures (losing Game 5 at home in both), in the NLDS each year caused Washington management to dump Baker for first-time manager Dave Martinez.
Washington slumped to 82-80, its worst mark since 2011. There was talk during the season that Martinez had lost the locker room, and he made some really questionable in-game decisions at times, but he kept his job. Certainly, few managers enter 2019 on a hotter seat.
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The Nats have still yet to get past the NLDS since moving to Washington despite arguably having the best team in the majors in a couple of those four seasons. Has the championship window closed with franchise icon Bryce Harper deciding he just couldn't live with $300 million over 10 years? I might argue the Nationals could be better in 2019 without Harper, who is now a Philadelphia Phillie.
Washington opens the regular season March 28 at home vs. the rival Mets.
Nationals Projected Lineup
Now, I'm not going to sit here and say it's a good thing to lose a 26-year-old potential future Hall of Famer in his prime for nothing. In 2015 in winning NL MVP honors, Harper had a season for the ages. But that year has proven to be an outlier where Harper had a WAR of 9.9. The past three years his WAR numbers: 1.5, 4.7 and last year 1.3. Harper hit a career-low .249 in 2018 with 34 homers, 100 RBIs and 169 strikeouts in 550 at-bats. Believe it or not, it was his first-ever 100-RBI season. The guy is frankly overrated and not worth the $35 million per season it would have taken Washington to bring him back.
Even without him, the Nats project to have one of the best offensive outfields in baseball in left fielder Juan Soto, mega-prospect Victor Robles in center and Adam Eaton in right. Soto was runner-up to Atlanta's Ronald Acuna Jr. for NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2018. All Soto did at age 19 (now 20) was hit .292 with 22 homers, 70 RBIs, a .406 OBP and 79 walks in just 414 at-bats. Soto's walks bested Hall of Famer Mel Ott for most walks by a teenager since 1900. The home run total was second-most home runs by a teenager in history, tied with Harper. The sky is the limit for Soto. Robles, who is currently 21, tore up the minors and hit .288 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 59 big-league at-bats. Eaton is also a great offensive player but his issue is health.
Washington took a one-year flier on former Twins and Dodgers second baseman Brian Dozier this offseason. He hit 21 dingers last year but just .215. During the 2016 and '17 seasons, Dozier finished in the Top 13 in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player award. He can't play defense, but neither could incumbent Daniel Murphy (traded to Cubs last August). The team also upgraded at catcher - Washington's backstops had a combined WAR of 0.5 last year - in trading for Indians All-Star Yan Gomes and signing free-agent Kurt Suzuki. Gomes posted a .762 OPS with a career-best 26 doubles, 16 home runs and 2.2 WAR, seventh best in MLB in 2018. Suzuki hit .271 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs, good for a WAR of 2.1. That's a great duo.
The projected lineup will be: OF Eaton, SS Trea Turner (a solid longer-shot MVP bet), 3B Anthony Rendon (poised for big season with free agency on tap), OF Soto, 1B Ryan Zimmerman, 2B Dozier, OF Robles, C Gomes/Suzuki. Strong!
Nationals 2019 Projected Rotation & Closer
As good as that lineup looks, the rotation has a chance to be the best in baseball. It's led by the incomparable Max Scherzer (18-7, 2.53). It looked as if he might win a third straight Cy Young last year and fourth overall, but he was passed down the stretch by the Mets' Jacob deGrom. All Scherzer did was lead all NL pitchers in strikeouts (300), strikeouts per nine innings (12.24), strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.88), WHIP (0.91) and innings (220 2/3). He also became just the fifth pitcher since 2001 to strike out 300 in a season.
Stephen Strasburg is fabulous when healthy, but at this point we have to assume he will spend at least one stint on the DL. He finished 10-7 with a 3.74 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 130 innings last year.
The Nats took some of the Harper money and signed the top free-agent pitcher on the market in former Arizona lefty Patrick Corbin. He got six years and $140 million. Corbin comes off his best season, going 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA and 246 strikeouts to just 48 walks. He made the NL All-Star team for a second time and finished fifth in the voting for the NL Cy Young Award.
The back end featured free-agent addition Anibal Sanchez, who had a terrific bounce-back season in 2018 for the Braves, and the solid Joe Ross.
All-Star lefty Sean Doolittle had some injury issues last year but returns, and Washington beefed up in front of him by trading for the Marlins' Kyle Barraclough and signing former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal. There's talk the team is also close to adding former Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel.
Nationals Futures Odds
At 5Dimes , Washington has a win total off 88.5, with the "over" a -120 favorite. The Nats are +100 to make the playoffs and -130 to miss. They are +300 to win the NL East, +900 for the pennant and +1600 to win the World Series.
Nationals 2019 Predictions
Wow, is the NL East going to be tough. The Braves are very good, the Phillies are loaded by adding Harper and others, and the Mets much better. Thus, it's a risk going over 88.5 wins on Washington, but I will (FanGraphs projects 90) and this is still my division champion even with Philadelphia's moves. I do think the Nats can win their first pennant. If they add Kimbrel, I say they do reach the World Series with good health.
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