Publish date:

1 NATIONALS

Author:

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP WASHINGTON

If they're healthy, this is the best team in the league. But their window is closing fast.... Every time I see Trea Turner, I just can't believe they got him from San Diego and the best player they gave up was Steven Souza. Sure, Souza is a nice player, but Turner is a game-changer with his speed; a perennial All-Star.... It's clear that Bryce Harper wants to be the first $40 million guy. He's figured out controlled violence at the plate, but on the bases and in the outfield he puts himself in harm's way too often. They have to tell him to back off a bit because the only thing between him and that $40 million on the free-agent market might be health.... Your life depends on it, who do you want starting a game? It's Max Scherzer. I take him over Kershaw because he's been money in the postseason—and you can also lock him in for 200 innings. Stephen Strasburg is not far behind. His NLDS start against the Cubs last year could have been a turning point for him—going out there and seeing that you don't have to be at 110% to dominate.... The bullpen is deep—they have three guys who have closed elsewhere. But if there's a proven closer available at the deadline, they should make a move; you can't have enough relief help in October. Sean Doolittle is a shut-down reliever—but I also think he's best as a setup man.

THE PAYOFF PITCH

The Nationals' 2017 season ended too soon—again. Most critics, however, forget how shorthanded the team was by the end. Bryce Harper was playing on a bad knee. Max Scherzer had a strained hamstring. And the starting centerfielder was long gone. Adam Eaton was a godsend for the Nats last April, with a .393 OBP in 23 games. The team scored 144 runs in his 23 starts (6.3 per game). Eaton blew out his left knee running to first on April 28, and the offense was never quite the same (4.9 runs per game). Eaton is still working his way back from surgery, but he should be ready to take over from Jayson Werth in leftfield by Opening Day. Eaton's line-drive bat and plate discipline are just what is needed to take Washington's offense from good to great.

OVER / UNDER

92.5

They won 97 games in 2017, and in what could be the worst division in baseball, they're a strong bet to own the best record in the majors.

THE LINEUP

1. LEFTFIELD

Adam Eaton

.364 OBP/11 HR/14 SB

2. SHORTSTOP

Trea Turner

.338 OBP/16 HR/46 SB

3. RIGHTFIELD

Bryce Harper

.413 OBP/.577 SLG/35 HR

4. THIRD BASE

Anthony Rendon

.370 OBP/21 HR/9 SB

5. SECOND BASE

Daniel Murphy

.307 BA/17 HR/4 SB

FANTASY BREAKOUT

6. CENTERFIELD

Michael Taylor

.244 BA/17 HR/21 SB

A 20--20 threat with one of the league's top offenses around him, the 26-year-old could put up big numbers.

7. FIRST BASE

Ryan Zimmerman

.267 BA/.486 SLG/24 HR

8. CATCHER

Matt Wieters

.249 BA/10 HR/1 SB

THE STAFF

1. RH STARTER

Max Scherzer

15 W/3.39 ERA/11.2 KP9

2. RH STARTER

Stephen Strasburg

14 W/3.44 ERA/10.3 KP9

3. LH STARTER

Gio González

12 W/4.16 ERA/1.37 WHP

4. RH STARTER

Tanner Roark

11 W/4.32 ERA/1.37 WHP

CLOSER

Sean Doolittle

22 SV/3.32 ERA/10.9 K9

THE SKIPPER

Dave Martinez