A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE NATIONALS
The one thing that scares me about this team? Drew Storen could be a problem at closer. I wonder how he's going to bounce back from his blown save in Game 2 of the NLDS.... Even so, run, don't walk to Vegas and put some money on this team. The rotation is just ridiculous—it reminds me of that Orioles rotation with the four 20-game winners. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if their top four starters finished 1-2-3-4 in Cy Young voting. Gio Gonzalez is the No. 5 starter, and he may have the best curveball in the game.... Stephen Strasburg's key is going to be realizing that he can pitch 93 and once in a while get to 97, but only when he needs to.... Ryan Zimmerman's position change will help him considerably. He was making errors over at third because he would peek and see where the runner was, and he was a mess. His mind will be clear at first base, and it'll help him at the plate.... Anthony Rendon has hit the ground running—the game has never sped up for him. He doesn't have their power, but he reminds me of Manny Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera with his approach at the plate, how he never panics and is just so gifted.... People have Bryce Harper all wrong: It's not all ego with him, he's a great student of the game. He seems stronger physically, more flexible. He's driven to be great, and on the big stage in the playoffs last year, when no one else was hitting, he had unbelievably good at bats and some home runs that still haven't landed. It'll carry into this year.
The Nationals have put together the best team in baseball, with a roster that has star talent up front and depth in back. They can score runs and prevent them. Their one weakness may be in the outfield, where their reserve flycatchers are veteran Nate McLouth and rookie Michael Taylor. Washington needs a better fourth outfielder, given that Bryce Harper has yet to show durability, that Jayson Werth turns 36 in May, and that Denard Span will be unavailable to start the season following surgery on an abdominal muscle. Fortunately there are a number of teams that need to move outfielders just to manage roster crunches. The Nationals could trade for Shane Victorino from the Red Sox or Cameron Maybin from the Padres, for instance, and a willingness to take on a contract could mean not having to pay much in talent. Adding a fourth outfielder who can play center and hit would patch one of the only holes on this impressive team.
LEAGUE RANK 1
MANAGER MATT WILLIAMS 2ND SEASON WITH NATIONALS
2015 PROJECTED STATISTICS BY ROTOWIRE.COM
AL TIELEMANS/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (SCHERZER)
ANDY MARLIN/GETTY IMAGES (RENDON)