The Washington Nationals enter the season with plenty of optimism, but this team is also looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2020 season. Last year was strange for every team but the Nationals did not have a strong showing.
The starting rotation should once again lead the way, and Juan Soto can carry the offense. Washington was aggressive in bringing in some new talent, and the Nationals could be a playoff contender this season.
The Washington Nationals dealt with a ton of adversity during the 2020 season and finished 26-34. Washington ended up in fourth place in the National League East and missed the playoffs one year after winning the World Series.
Max Scherzer and Soto carried the team, and they didn’t get enough help from the rest of the team. Injuries played a role in the disappointing 2020 campaign, and the Nationals struggled against teams in the National League East.
General Manager Mike Rizzo was determined to make some improvements to the club. There were some areas of need for the Nationals, but most of those were taken care of in the offseason.
Veteran Jon Lester was signed to a free-agent deal, and he should provide some pitching depth at the back of the rotation. Another former Cub, Kyle Schwarber, was brought in to play the outfield, and he will provide some power in the middle of the lineup.
The biggest offseason acquisition came on Christmas Eve when the Nationals acquired first baseman Josh Bell from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bell will play every day in Washington and could be in for a huge year.
The Washington Nationals didn’t lose any of their biggest stars in the offseason, but they do enter 2021 without some key veterans. Outfielder Adam Eaton was not given a new contract, and he went on to sign with the Chicago White Sox.
Backup catcher Kurt Suzuki is no longer with the team after he agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Suzuki had a terrific run with the Nationals, but Washington will be going with Alex Avila in that position instead.
Finally, prospect Carter Kieboom will begin the 2021 season in the Minor Leagues, and it’s unclear how long it will be before he makes it back up to the Major League team.
Washington Nationals Pitching
Max Scherzer is back as the ace for the Nationals starting rotation in 2021, and he struggled a bit during the 2020 season. Scherzer should be refreshed after throwing just 67 innings a season ago, and he could be in for a big season.
Stephen Strasburg was dealing with a wrist injury in 2020, but is expected to start the season healthy. Strasburg will need to return to form if Washington is going to make another playoff run.
Adding Lester should give the team more depth, but it’s unclear if he still has much left. Washington has a pitching staff that throws hard, and they will try to limit opposing hitters with fastballs.
The bullpen had some big issues a season ago, and that will be an area to watch as the 2021 season begins.
Soto led the Nationals with a .351 batting average and 13 home runs a season ago, and he could be in for another monster year in 2021. Schwarber will give the team more power as they hit just 66 home runs in 60 games in 2020.
Trea Turner will need to set the table for the Nationals, and he led the team with 78 hits last year. Washington has a team that puts the ball in play, but they hit just .248 as a team.
Pitching and defense is expected to carry the team in 2020, but the Nationals will have to find a way to become a better offensive team.
3 Key Players
Washington won the 2019 World Series due to having a complete team, but there are still some stars on this roster that need to step up. The Nationals will have a pair of MVP candidates in the everyday lineup and a perennial Cy Young contender leading the starting rotation.
Juan Soto probably would have won the 2020 NL MVP Award if the Nationals would have been a playoff contender. Soto put up some monster numbers a season ago, and he is one of the ten best players in baseball at this time.
Turner had 78 hits in just 69 games in 2020, and he is one of the best hitters in all of baseball. Now that the Nationals have added some power to the everyday lineup, Turner could end up leading the league in runs scored with another solid year at the plate.
Scherzer went just 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 2020, but fatigue likely played a factor. There is no doubt that Scherzer still has what it takes to be one of the top pitchers in baseball, and he could be in for a massive year in 2021.
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The Washington Nationals will play every team in the National League this season, and they will also play teams from the American League East. This means that the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, and of course, the Baltimore Orioles will be on the schedule.
The Washington Nationals are +2800 to win the World Series in 2021, making them a pretty big longshot. The odds to win the National League East Division have the Nationals at +650.
The over/under for 2021 wins for the Washington Nationals is set at 84.5. The Washington Nationals will need to go over that mark to win the division, but they could be a contender to earn a Wild Card spot this season.