MLB prediction: 5 longshots who could contend in 2024

The Reds, Royals, Tigers, Nationals and Marlins all could make major gains next season.
Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. (7).
Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. (7). / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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4. Washington Nationals. It would take some doing for the Nats to seriously contend in 2024. Not only did they finish last in the NL East this past season, but they won only 71 games.

Still, the signs of improvement were plainly visible. Those 71 victories represented 16 more than the 55 victories of 2022. Do that again and Washington is at 87 wins and in the midst of post-season contention.

More importantly, the Nats are successfully nurturing young talent that could be ready to explode. Catcher Keibert Ruiz (24), shortstop C.J. Abrams (22), outfielders Stone Garrett and Lane Thomas, and pitchers Josiah Gray  (25) and Mackenzie Gore (24) all fit that description.

The Nats would basically need all those budding stars to mature, and then probably add one or two useful assets over the winter. But the Lerner family, which owns the team, has the cash and GM Mike Rizzo has the experience to identify those assets.

In combination, those facts make Washington an attractive sleeper bet in what are likely to be highly favorable winter book odds.