Nationals had a rough season last year, but the silver lining is that they did have the NL MVP Winner, MLB Poster Child Bryce Harper. The Nationals were predicted to make a big impact in baseball last season with the acquisition of Max Scherzer and their previous prospects Harper, Zimmermann, and Strasburg all getting another year of experience under their belt. Sports Illustrated actually picked the Nationals to win the NL Pennant but eventually lose to the Cleveland Indians in the World Series… neither team made the playoffs.
The Nationals are a very young team, and a very good one as well. The Cubs have been compared to the Nats due to their seemingly endless stream of uber-prospects reaching the MLB each year and improving. Now experts are saying that the Cubs are only going to get better year to year since the youth across their diamond will get much more proven. Names like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, and even a player they consider a veteran, Anthony Rizzo is only 26 years old. The Nationals have a lineup of youth like this with players like Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Michael Taylor and Jordan Zimmermann. Now adding veteran leadership with Scherzer, Jayson Werth and lifetime National Ryan Zimmerman. Why were the Cubs so much more successful than the Nationals last season? That answer, I couldn’t tell you, I truly believed that the Nationals would win over 90 games in 2015 but it didn’t happen and all of those Nationals players previously mentioned were watching those previously mentioned Cubs players make a NL Pennant run in October.
Obviously both the Nationals and Cubs are extremely talent at evaluating prospects and developing prospects. Even veterans in Washington like Ian Desmond, more on him later, and Ryan Zimmerman went through the Nationals and Expos organization throughout their careers. One of the most important parts along with developing talent is maintaining talent and the Nationals lost Jordan Zimmermann to the Tigers in free agency for a contract worth $110 million over five years. The Nationals also have Ian Desmond awaiting a new contract and I think that the Nats will let him walk as well. The Nationals can’t spend too much money with Bryce Harper’s free agency status nearing at the end of 2016. Bryce Harper will get the largest contract in MLB history, flirting with $400 million. And if the Nationals want to be the one to have him start in right field, they can’t risk not having enough money to pay the man. Harper is a once in a generation talent it seems and investing money in Zimmermann and Desmond might lower their budget on Harper. And the LAST thing I want is to see Harper wearing the pinstripes but to be perfectly honest, I think that it is inevitable.
The Nationals have top tier talent in their farm systems that are ready to replace these stars for much less money. Shortstop Trea Turner is the #11 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com and he is ready to take over Desmond’s spot if he departs. Pitcher AJ Cole looked shaky in his short 2015 stint but he isn’t the prospect slated to replace two-time All Star Jordan Zimmermann. N2K Sports’ #1 prospect and MLB.com’s #3 prospect in baseball, Lucas Giolito is ready to fill the shoes of Zimmermann.
I think that the Nationals were not basing their offseason off of re-signing Zimmermann since they had Giolito and Cole. Therefore, I don’t expect the Nats to re-sign Desmond either. The Nationals are going to build their roster similar to the 2015 Cubs and I think the 2016 Nationals will find much more success than the 2015 Nationals.
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