They’re not just the favorites to win the NL East, they’re the favorites to win the World Series.
Yea, they’re that good.
The Washington Nationals were the laughing stock of the division for many years, until they started drafting players like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
Last season was the first time that they had both players on the major league roster, and they did not disappoint.
Harper, only 19-years old at the time, arrived earlier than expected.
The reigning NL Rookie of the Year was constantly compared to fellow rookie phenom Mike Trout, but now he looks to build upon the momentum he established in his debut season.
He was able to generate just under 100 runs, and double digits in home runs and stole bases.
Harper has drawn comparisons to Josh Hamilton, which will make fantasy owners want to reach for this human-highlight reel.
The Nationals saw that suring up their pitching rotation worked in 2012, so why not do it this season?
They went out and acquired former Angels pitcher Dan Haren, after having a down season in Los Angeles.
Washington looked at the success that Gio Gonzalez had coming over to the National League, which is where Haren began his career with the Cardinals.
Haren, like Gonzalez, is a former A’s product that has the ability to pitch like an ace.
His acquisition makes their staff one of the most dangerous in the league.
It’s one thing to have a solid starting pitcher, but the Nationals struggled to lock down a stable closer in 2012.
Drew Storen suffered an early injury, forcing a closer-by-committee concept that mostly featured Tyler Clippard.
When former Yankees set up man Rafael Soriano hit the market, the Nationals were the first ones at his door.
He converted 42 saves in New York last season, after Mariano Rivera went down with a season-ending injury, the second highest total in his career.
Washington is hoping that he can be consistent and post another 40+ saves this season.
The Nationals are a young team that are good enough to be regarded as the best team in baseball, they have play-makers at almost every position, and will be one of the most popular teams to invest in during this year’s fantasy drafts.
Let’s see if they have what it takes to be the favorites in the the National League…
NATIONALS PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Denard Span CF Comes over in a trade with MIN, not a power threat, but can generate runs and stolen bases. Has the ability to be a .300 hitter, with the potential to steal 25 bases. The lack of power is what makes him a no.3 OF option.
2. Bryce Harper LF He’s a rising star in fantasy, drawing Josh Hamilton comparisons. He batted .270 in his first season, with 22 homers and 18 stolen bases. Harper has the ability to be a .300 hitter with 30+ home runs and 25+ stolen bases. There’s no such thing as reaching for him, with his type of upside.
3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B He came on very late in the season, primarily due to injuries, but ended up being one of the best second half players. He’s been a consistent .280-.300 hitter that can get 25+ home runs, and 90+ runs/rbi’s.
4. Adam LaRoche 1B He’s a .270-type of hitter, coming off of a career-high 33 home runs. He’s typically good for 25+ home runs, 70+ runs and 80+rbi’s. He’s not the flashiest name, but he’s a productive option that you can get later.
5. Jason Werth RF Started off having a great season, until he got injured. Werth was already trying to bounce back from his dismal debut season with the Nats, after signing that blockbuster deal, so take advantage of his draft position this year.
6. Ian Desmond SS Quietly had a great season, hitting .292, with 70+ runs/rbi’s, 25 home runs, and 21 stolen bases. It was quite the breakout season, in his fourth season. If he can prove to be consistent, he could be one of the biggest bargains going into this season.
7. Danny Espinosa 2B He has decent numbers, despite his .247 AVG. He’s never been someone to hit for a high average, which is why he’s on the hot seat. Don’t invest in him because he could be replaced by WSH’s top prospect Anthony Rendon.
8. Kurt Suzuki C Has barely hit .240 his past three seasons, a new environment isn’t going to rejuvenate that stat. He could be part of more runs and rbi’s in this upgrade offense, but that doesn’t make Suzuki a must-own option.
1. Gio Gonzalez Had a breakout season in his first year with the Nats at 21-8. He will be the ace of the staff this season, but that shift in the order shouldn’t affect his production. He can generate at least 200+ strikeouts, can pitch deep into games, and has great run support. Look for him to be one of the top 10 pitchers drafted.
2. Stephen Strasburg This will be the first year that he won’t be limited in any capacity, which will help him reclaim his role as the ace of this staff. You already know that he’s one of the best players in the league to own. He will be more valuable than Gonzalez, due to moving down in the order.
3. Jordan Zimmerman He’s coming off of a career-best 12-8 record and a 2.94 ERA. He can produce a decent number of strikeouts, he has favorable matchups in the third spot, and is durable enough to go deep into games. He’s an elite option amongst the second tier pitchers to draft.
4. Dan Haren He’s coming off one of his worst seasons of his careers. He can win double digit games, typically get around 200 strikeouts, and doesn’t normally run into too many injuries. He’s used to being the number 1 or 2 option in a rotation, so being the number 4 can only benefit his bounce-back campaign. Take advantage of his low draft position.
5. Ross Detwiler Doesn’t have a high strikeout total. Had a decent year in his first season as a starter. Could improve on his numbers, of 10-8 and a 3.40 ERA, but he’s nothing more than a second tier pitching option.
RP-Rafael Soriano Coming off his second best season as a closer, with 42. He was one of the top 3 closers in fantasy, back in 2010, and he should perform like one this year. Soriano is a top 5 closer on draft day.
The shortstop position is so hit or miss, but Ian Desmond is one name that could offer some value after all of the major players are off the board. He had every stat that you would be looking for: a .292 AVG, 25 home runs, 21 stolen bases, and 70+ runs/rbi’s. The only thing that keeps you from believing in Desmond is the fact that these numbers were a significant jump from what we come to expect from him. He was a .253 hitter, only generated at least 10 homers once, but did get close to those 70 markers. The only stat that was consistent was with his stolen base totals. He could be a top 5 short stop, primarily due to how slim the draft pool is, but don’t overlook him if he falls to you later in the draft.
The Nationals are on the rise, primarily due to their ability to make favorable deals for other teams’ aces. There’s no question that Jared Weaver is the ace of the Angels, but Dan Haren was an ace before joining their rotation. He comes over to Washington in hopes rejuvenating his career. Don’t be fooled by his 2012 totals, Haren has the ability to be a sleeper in this year’s fantasy drafts. He can strikeout around 200 batters, keep an ERA in the 3′s, and can pitch into the seventh inning. Haren will bounce back to being a 15+game winner because of these factors: he’s an ace that’s slated in the fourth spot, he’ll play against weaker competition, the National League forces pitchers to hit, which is almost always an easy out, and the Nationals provide great run support. Don’t overlook Haren in the mid-rounds of your draft.