Spring Previews 2020: Washington Nationals
** For the next couple of weeks, Moonshots and Mustard will bring you the top five things each team (and their fanbase) should know, be excited/worried about, look forward to or to dread **
Up first: The 2019 World Series Champion Washington Nationals
4. Juan Soto can finally go out for a beer with the rest of the team after a game now that he’s 21. Despite his young age, he’s already shaping up to be one of the best outfielders in the game. Speaking of him going out for beers, he should have gone out to celebrate the other day after his first moonshot of Spring Training. The crack of the bat was so beautifully loud and you knew that ball was not coming back. JUST LOOK AT THIS THING OF BEAUTY:
3. They have yet to lock in a replacement for Anthony Rendon.
For now, it looks to be the 22-year-old Carter
KaBOOM! Kieboom, but he could be replaced with veteran Astrubal Cabrera, Howie Kendrick, or Starlin Castro if the shift from short to third doesn’t go smoothly. And let’s be clear, Rendon was an integral part of the 2019 team and he was (is) amazing and his bat and his defense and his clubhouse presence will be sorely missed, but KaBOOM!, Castro, Kendrick, or Cabrera are all fine replacements that can all keep the hot corner from becoming a dumpster fire. Will any of them be on the same level as Rendon? Likely not, but the team won’t go to shit just because one of their best players left for warmer weather (and a ridiculous amount of cash).
2. Most of the old gang is back together.
The 2019 World Champions (see – it won’t get old) are notably missing just three of their core players: Baby Shark Gerardo Parra is in Japan, the aforementioned 3B Rendon is now in sunny Anaheim, and 2B Brian Dozier and his dance moves are in San Diego(’s minor league system for now). The rest of the infield will be mostly in tact with Trea Turner still at shortstop and Howie Kendrick and Ryan Zimmerman sharing duties at first with the newly signed Eric Thames. The core outfield group of Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and Adam Eaton are still out there patrolling the deepest parts of the park, just without Baby Shark. Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki are still at the backstop calling the games for the starting rotation that is still in tact. Which leads me to….
1. ….The starting rotation is still in tact.
Worth repeating? YES. Remember a few months ago when we got word that the World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg opted out of his contract? Some people were a bit worried that he’d be taking his talents to another city. But fears were quashed when it turns out he was just restructuring his deal into making gobs and gobs of money for the next seven years, and staying in Washington, D.C. until the end of days. So your ace is the guy that has been with the team for ten seasons, who has ALWAYS been ridiculously good (except in 2013 where he was *gasp!* average), fresh off of an NL leading 18 win season, 251 strikeouts, and a 3.32 ERA. Sweet!
But wait. Your number two is Max Scherzer, who happens to be a 3 time Cy Young winner who was also in the top three for CY voting in 2019. Scherzer and his eensy 2.92 ERA went 11 – 7 with 243 strikeouts. The same Max Scherzer who was lights out in the post season. Cool.
Oh but you know who else dominated in the post season? The number three guy, Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez also won 11 last season (lost 8) and had a 3.85 ERA through 30 games and 166 innings pitched. Number four is Patrick Corbin, who went 14 – 7 with a 3.25 ERA and 238 strikeouts. The number five spot is up for grabs, and honestly, they could put my grandma in there and still have a dominant rotation. (Though to be fair, she’s pretty badass herself.)
So there you have it, the top five things to pay attention to in D.C. for 2020. Stay tuned for more previews over the next couple of weeks heading into Opening Day.