2017 Team Preview: Washington Nationals

 

After winning the National League East in 2016 with a 95 and 67 record the Nationals were eliminated in five games by the Dodgers in the Division Series.  The Nats are again the favorites in the NL East and need to make a push for the title in the remaining years before Harper inevitably dons a Yankees uniform.  The Nats brought in Adam Eaton to fill out their outfield, but weren’t able to snag either Melancon or Jansen despite bids on both, leaving them with a question mark at closer.  They certainly paid a hefty price for Eaton in Lucas Giolito who some had pegged as the #1 pitching prospect in the sport, though that image tarnished quite a bit with Giolito sporting a 6.75 ERA over 21 innings.  That ERA wasn’t the result of bad luck, either, with a K-rate sitting at 4.64 and BB-rate at 5.06, Giolito really struggled.  If anyone can get the most from Giolito, though, it’s Don Cooper.  Matt Wieters also made the trip down the beltway from Baltimore, signing a 2 year $21- million deal that, to some, didn’t make the Nats any better.  The days of calling Wieters “Mauer with Power” are certainly behind us, but with the loss of Wilson Ramos, who had put together the best season of his career prior to injury, the move at least gives the Nats something to dream on.  Spearheaded by perhaps the best top-of-the lineup in baseball and one-two rotation punch in the league, the Nats should again push their win total over 90.  PECOTA has them at 87, but I think that’s low.

From a fantasy standpoint, I don’t think any team outside the Cubs has a more valuable set of players.  A first rounder in Harper, two seconds in Turner and Scherzer, to go along with Strasburg and Eaton in the top 100 and Rendon, Roark, and Ross rounding it out.  Like real baseball though, the depth isn’t there so healthy seasons from their stars is essential to their success and we’re talking Harper and Strasburg, so things could go south quickly.

Projected Lineup

  1. Adam Eaton
  2. Trea Turner
  3. Daniel Murphy
  4. Bryce Harper
  5. Anthony Rendon
  6. Jayson Werth
  7. Ryan Zimmerman
  8. Matt Wieters

Projected Rotation

  1. Max Scherzer
  2. Stephen Strasburg
  3. Tanner Roark
  4. Gio Gonzlalez
  5. Joe Ross

Closer: Blake Treinan / Shawn Kelley

Dark Horse: Joe Blanton

Absent the Mets’ pitchers staying healthy all year, I think the Nationals cruise to another NL East title.  The pitching depth is not there so an injury to Stras or Scherzer could change that.  Scherzer’s knuckle appears on the mend and not too much of an issue at this point, but it’s something to monitor.  Stras will miss time; the only question is how much at this point.  I don’t see any major call-ups here to monitor either as their top tier talent is a few years away.

Fantasy Outlook

Turner and Harper should be going off the board before the 15th picks in most drafts.  We covered both in the top-25 outfielders.  As to Harper:

“The consensus, with which I agree, is that Harper was hurt in ’16 on his way to putting up a disappointing, for him, .243/24/21/84/86 line.  His agent Scott Boras seemed to confirm this recently.  Given the hysteria that surrounded his down season that line doesn’t look that bad, no?  I mean 20/20 with 170 R/RBI.  Nothing to sneeze at, until you look back at ’15’s .286/.460!/.649! slash line with 42 home runs at 22 years old!  Daaamn.  Just damn.  I wouldn’t draft Harper expecting quite those numbers, but 30 to 35 home runs, 10-15 steals, and elite counting stats as a baseline is well worth a late first round pick.  Not too often can you find this much upside in the first round.  Then again, not many 22 year-olds put up a 1.109 OPS.”

As to Turner, I was a little gun-shy:

“Bottom line, Turner smells to me of Carlos Correa in ’15.  Great debut, followed by inflated expectations and unjustified disappointment.  In limited action, Turner impressed – to put it mildly – and looks to be a future star.  Thing is, Major League pitchers adjust and the major league season is loooong. I expect a few stumbles on the road to stardom, aside from the regression in the .388 BABIP and home runs in the single digits to low teens (he never hit 20 home runs in the minors, in total), along with 35 steals.  Young players are fun to watch and I follow the Nationals (I’m from Baltimore) so I am rooting for Turner. But I’m just not paying a second-round pick for him.  If he lives up to the hype, he’ll be an early first round pick next year.  Hope it happens.”

I think that Murphy is unfairly knocked because of his age and relative late break out.  All the guy did last year though is lead the National League in OPS, slashing .347/.390/.595 with 25 homers, 5 steals, 88 runs, and 104 RBIs all while striking out in under 10% of his plate appearances.  That’s a hell of a hitter.  I wouldn’t be happy or sad about taking Murphy in the third round, expecting a bit of regression in batting average with the power dropping to about 20 homers.  100 RBIs shouldn’t be a problem either with a full season of Turner and Eaton in front of him.  Not the sexiest pick, but he  looks to be about as solid as they get with a .300 – .320 average, 100+ RBIs and 90 runs with a handful of steals.  Not the most exciting pick, but the breakout was real and the lineup is stacked.

Wrote about Eaton in the top-50 outfielders:

“Eaton hit .287 in ’15 and .284 in ’16.  OBP went from .361 to .362.  Slugging percentage went from .431 to .428.  Homers stayed consistent at 14.  Steals went from 18 to 14.  He scored 98 and 91 and drove in 56 and 59.  That’s creepy consistency.  Only thing that changes is the scenery as Eaton will now, likely, hit in front of Turner, Murphy, and Harper.  I would like to see him in the two-hole, but he’s always been a leadoff hitter and Baker adapts to changes at a glacial rate.  He’s gonna score a lotta runs though.  .285/14/14/110/50 for ’17.”

Wieters is one of those catchers that will come off the board in the 10 to 15 range, which seems about right.  He is what he is at this point and don’t forget about the injury risk.  If you’re in a league where you are tempted to draft Zimmerman or Werth, you are in a league that is so deep you probably know more about fantasy baseball than I do.

As to the pitchers, Scherzer is the clear number two pitcher off the board to me.  Thor is great and all, but Scherzer’s been what he is now for 4 years now and that’s awesome and a second round talent.  I won’t be drafting him in the second round, but I am not hating on you if you do.  I am not that concerned about the knuckle … yet.

Some more debate starts with Strasburg.  For me, personally, when I am drafting, I draft pitchers with an eye on Ks.  That means I like guys like Archer and McCullers.  Strasburg fits that mold too with a 11.15 K/9 last year.  He was scorched for 9 runs in Colorado before being shut down, yet still managed a 3.60 ERA.  Not sure that he’ll ever sit below the 3.00 ERA mark, but I prefer his Ks and upside to someone like Cueto (in shallower leagues where you can rely on the waiver pool), who is going before Stras.  You don’t?  That’s fine.  There’s a lot of risk here, but there’s a lot of risk with every pitcher.  Hello David Price.  Hope for 150 elite innings and be happy with anything beyond.  I am interested to see if he pitches the whole year out of the stretch … on a real baseball note.

Ross is fine as a depth piece at the back-end of your rotation and should come in between 3.50 and 4.00 with the ERA, but I’d rather take a shot on someone like Robbie Ross and his 11+ K-rate who is going right around Ross.  Roark is going waaaay to high for me at pick 143 per fantasypros.com.  He’s not a sub-3 ERA pitcher and that’s what he’d need to be with a K-rate just above 7.  Pass.

As to the closer situation, there’s really no doubt that Kelley is the best reliever.  Quick tip.  Wanna find a good reliever.  Look at the BB-K%.  Here we have Kelley sandwiched between Chapman and Oh.  Yeah, he’s good.  Problem is the health and inability to pitch in back-to-back games, which according to Dusty Baker’s toothpick is necessary to close.  The edge in this race, then, goes to Treinan.  The best combination of skills and durability goes to Blanton though.  Something happens to Trienan after he gets the closing gig, keep an eye on Blanton.  In holds leagues, he should be a tier below the big guns.

Again, outside the Cubs and Dodgers, I think you’ve got one of the best teams in baseball.  Only problem is I have MLB.tv and they’re blacked out in my area.  Assholes.

Till next week and the Orioles.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 5th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #77 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we break down both Central divisions. We will discuss potential lineups, rotations, bullpens, and any minor league potential for each team along with a heavy fantasy spin.

Our guests this week are Hernan Batista, and Jesse Ellison. Jessie is the owner of Ellison Baseball Instruction in S.E. VA. You can visit his organization at ebicamps.com. Hernan is a frequent guest on our shows, and an experienced MLFB league member.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

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(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 12th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #78 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we break down both West divisions. We will discuss potential lineups, rotations, bullpens, and any minor league potential for each team along with a heavy fantasy spin.

Our guests this week are Kevin Bzdek and Kevin O’Hara. Kevin Bzdek is one of our newest additions to our baseball writing staff in 2017. His articles publish every Friday morning. Kevin O’Hara is a big dynasty baseball fan and a moderator for the fantasy baseball community on reddit.com.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”



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