Bryce Harper had his best season as a pro last year. He took home the National League MVP award and it was the first time since his rookie season that he stayed healthy enough to have 500+ at-bats. If he avoids running into outfield walls, this could be a yearly occurrence for the 23-year-old.
Can Dusty Baker push the Nationals to an NL East crown?
Here is the 2016 MLB season preview for the Washington Nationals.
2015 Win/Loss Record: 83-79
Key Additions: 2B Daniel Murphy, SS Stephen Drew, RP Matt Belisle, OF Ben Revere, RP Shawn Kelley, RP Oliver Perez, RP Yusmeiro Petit & OF Chris Heisey
Key Losses: SP Jordan Zimmermann, SS Ian Desmond, OF Denard Span, SP Doug Fister, RP Drew Storen, 3B Yunel Escobar, RP Matt Thornton, RP Casey Janssen, 1B Tyler Moore & 2B Dan Uggla
Interleague Schedule: AL Central
Projected Starters: Wilson Ramos, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, Danny Espinosa, Jayson Werth, Ben Revere & Bryce Harper
Projected Starting Rotation: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark & Joe Ross
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
Fantasy Sleeper: OF Michael Taylor – Taylor doesn’t currently have a spot in the starting outfield, but he should still hit double-digit home runs and steal double-digit bases. He was on fire during Spring Training and the upside is there for Taylor that isn’t there for Ben Revere. If an injury hits the Washington outfield, Taylor could put up significant numbers.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: 2B Trea Turner – Turner is starting the season in the minors, but once the Super Two deadline passes, he will get a call-up. He’s a plus defender and what he lacks in power at the plate, he makes up for it in average and will steal double-digit bases. Turner could turn into an All-Star middle infielder for the Nationals.
Team Analysis: That Nationals underachieved last season. They were supposed to run away with the NL East, but they never really put together a string of good games during the season. Bryce Harper was basically a one-man batting machine with the rest of the lineup being on and off all year.
The Nationals are expected to battle the Mets in the NL East with very little competition from the rest of the division. Both have excellent pitching, so I expect to see some awesome pitching duels between the teams this season.
Dusty Baker takes over as manager this season and he has a knack for getting results. He lead the Giants, Cubs and Reds into the postseason early in his tenures as manager. He’s one of the best managers for a team ready to play in October, but he has yet to win a World Series as a manager. The only thing I worry about is him riding his young pitchers a little too deep into games. I still partially blame him for the early flame outs from Mark Prior and Kerry Wood…so watch out Stephen Strasburg!
2016 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 86.5 (Prediction: UNDER)
2016 Projected Win/Loss Record: 85-77 (2nd in AL East)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.