Editor’s note: Baseball is back and Yahoo Sports is previewing all 30 teams over the next month. This year’s previews will focus on fantasy and reality, as our MLB news staff and our fantasy baseball crew come together to assess each team before opening day. Next up, the Washington Nationals.
There seems like a very obvious place to begin talking about the 2019 Washington Nationals — and, hey, how about that Brian Dozier signing?
The actual headline, of course, is Bryce Harper’s departure. While that might send other franchises into rebuilding mode, this was a hit the Nats were prepared to take. Their outfield remains talented and seemingly productive. Their starting pitching staff might be the best in baseball. Their fate, like most teams in the highly competitive NL East, will come down to how well they can stay healthy and find their mojo.
The emergence of Juan Soto last season makes Harper’s decision to leave much easier to digest. He’ll join Adam Eaton and top prospect Victor Robles in the outfield this year, (The Nats have Michael A. Taylor too, who is injured).
From a fantasy perspective, the Nats have a lot to like — whether we’re talking about Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin in the rotation or Soto, Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon in the lineup.
Every team would love to be in this good of shape when their franchise cornerstone flees in free agency. - Mike Oz
Nationals’ offseason grade
Well, they didn’t re-sign Harper, but besides that, the Nats’ offseason wasn’t too bad. They signed Corbin, which was a bit of a surprise, for $140 million. It added even more oomph to their rotation. They improved the bullpen, adding Kyle Barraclough in a trade and signing Trevor Rosenthal. Yan Gomes came over in a trade to be their new starting catcher and they signed Kurt Suzuki to back him up.
Veterans Brian Dozier, Matt Adams and Anibal Sanchez also signed with the Nats, and they’ll be needed in the tight NL East race.
Our grade: B — No Harper? Not a huge problem. The Nats still could wind up being the best team in the NL East. - Mike Oz
Washington’s projected lineup and pitching staff
Should fantasy owners chase Nats top prospect?
Victor Robles is far from a finished product, about two months shy of his 22nd birthday, and he has prospect clippings to the moon. Just recognize that his current ADP (he's going around Pick 132 in Yahoo drafts) is an expectant one. He only hit two home runs over his 52 games last year (covering three levels), and his OBP was actually higher than his slugging percentage. Even his base running could be cleaner, with 19 bags in 26 attempts. With Robles likely to start the year in the bottom third of the order, the likely price tag is too rich for my blood. - Scott Pianowski
Who is Washington's best comeback candidate for fantasy purposes?
Brian Dozier was a third-round pick last year, and a spare part by the end of the year (the Dodgers hardly used him in the postseason). But entering an age-32 season, it's probably too soon to write Dozier off. He's just a year removed from a useful 34-homer, 16-steal season, and his career average of .246 wouldn't be a kill shot in today's roto environment. Dozier looks like an upside chance worth taking around Yahoo ADP 140. - Scott Pianowski
Nationals prospect to watch
If there’s any positive to Bryce Harper leaving, it’s that the Nationals have Victor Robles ready to step in. Expecting anyone to replace Harper would be foolish. Robles doesn’t have nearly the same power upside. But he’s got blazing speed and should play excellent defense in center field. If not for an injury, he would have made it to the majors much earlier in 2018. Instead, the team called up Juan Soto. That worked out well. - Chris Cwik
Things that MUST go right for Washington
1. Stephen Strasburg stays healthy: The answer is 2014. The question is: What was the last year Stephen Strasburg stayed healthy for a full season? The soon-to-be 30-year-old right-hander was limited to 22 starts last season due to a variety of injuries, but hopes a ramped up offseason program will help hit 30 starts, at least, in 2019. The Nationals need exactly that. With the division continuing to improve, they will rely on Strasburg, Scherzer and new addition Patrick Corbin all to carry a heavy load.
2. No sophomore slump: Rookie of the Year runner-up Juan Soto put together a historic season after debuting at age 19. With Harper gone, the Nationals will continue relying on their new phenom to produce big numbers this season. As with any second year player, there's concern the league will adjust to Soto, leading to a sophomore slump. If those concerns are realized, it will put a dent in Washington's offensive outlook. If they aren't, Soto might be able to put the Nationals on his back.
3. Better luck: The Nationals undeniably underperformed in several areas last season, but they also had some terrible luck. Despite finishing with a +89 run differential, the Nationals were just 82-80. Their Pythagorean record (90-72) was eight games better than their actual record, which was the second unluckiest differential in the league. Their 18-24 record in one-run games didn't help matters. They'll need all of that to turn around in 2019. - Mark Townsend
If this team had a walk-up song, what would it be?
The mantra for the 2019 Nationals may well be found in this classic from A Tribe Called Quest — “Keep It Moving.” They don’t have time to worry about Bryce Harper or the past now, they just need to keep it moving, focus on the talented players they do have and the rest of their tough division. - Mike Oz
(Warning: NSFW language)