Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals 2014 Season Preview


Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Recap of 2013

Record: 86-76, 2nd in NL East

The Nationals were a well-balanced team in 2013: 6th in runs scored and 6th in ERA.  However, they struggled against the best teams in the National League (7-24 against the division winners). Stephen Strasburg pitched the majority of the season (30 starts) and posted a 3.00 ERA.  The rest of the starters were solid and Bryce Harper continued to develop as a player.  In the end though it wasn’t enough as they finished 10 games behind the Braves and missed the playoffs.  It also was the final year under manager Davey Johnson who retired at the end of the season.

Key Additions

RHP Doug Fister, LHP Jerry Blevins, OF Nate McLouth

Key Departures

2B Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Fernando Abad, LHP Ian Krol, RHP Dan Haren

Payroll

Cot’s currently has the Nationals payroll at $129.5 million, 4th most in the National League.  OF Jayson Werth is owed $20.5 million, Ryan Zimmerman is owed $14 million, 1B Adam LaRoche $12 million, and closer Rafael Soriano $11 million.  While that payroll is far from low, it’s still far away from the Dodgers’ $216 million tab.

Player to Watch

Stephen Strasburg appears ready to have another full season ahead of him and he shouldn’t have to worry about an innings count. He pitched well last year. He was just unlucky for most of the year.  

His 8-9 record does not take into account his 3.00 ERA and WHIP of 1.049 (8th in the majors).  At 25 years of age, Strasburg should have plenty of baseball to play in his career. However, the biggest question mark regarding the righty is if he can stay healthy.  Pitching mechanics experts will claim that his delivery lends itself to frequent injury and Strasburg has already had one Tommy John surgery.  With that being said Mets’ ace Matt Harvey will miss this season due to Tommy John surgery and his delivery is praised by all experts.  Either way, Strasburg has the potential to be the best pitcher in baseball; he just needs a little help in 2014.

Must Improve Upon 2013

Adam LaRoche did not have a terrible season in 2013, he just didn’t have a great one.  The Nationals’ first baseman managed to hit 20 homers and knock in 62 runs, but his line of .237/.332/.403 were all below his career averages.  In 2012, he hit 33 homers and drove in 100 runs while posting a .510 slugging.  Granted, LaRoche is 34 years old and is entering his eleventh year in the league, but the Nationals could have used more production from him last season.  A hit here and a hit there could have plated several more runs and in turn produced several more wins for the Nats.  If LaRoche can put a year together like in 2012, the Nationals are going to be in great shape.

Regression Candidate

Jayson Werth had arguably his best overall season in 2013 and nearly made a case that he deserves his enormous salary. The right fielder hit a career-high .318, hit 25 homers and knocked in 82 runs.  His strikeout numbers were even lower, Nationals shouldn’t pencil in the same numbers for Werth this year.  He turns 35 in May and there seems to be something magical about that age for many players.  He can still contribute and he’s too expensive to trade off (owed $85 million through the 2017 season), but Werth will likely comes back towards earth in 2014.

X-Factor

Bryce Harper is the ignition for this offense and if he can play an entire season without injury, the Nationals will definitely be in better shape in late September.  Harper only played in 118 games in 2013 and hit .274 with 20 homers; so playing in 150+ games in ’14 would be reflected in his final output.  As Harper matures as a big-league player he has to potential to rival Mike Trout as the best player in the game, but as of now he is not close.

Biggest Question for 2014

Can the Nationals learn to beat the good teams in the league? Washington has a good mixture of young players and veteran guys and hopefully the older guys can teach the new generation how to win the games that matter most.  Anyone can beat the Marlins and Cubs, but those wins alone won’t get you into the playoffs.

Prediction:

90-72 (2nd in NL East)

Tags: Featured MLB Season Preview Washington Nationals