2017 Fantasy Recap: Washington Nationals
It wasn’t supposed to end the way it did on Thursday night. Even though they were facing the defending World Series champion, who remained one of the most dangerous teams in baseball, it wasn’t supposed to end so early. Even with a team that had a sputtering offense and a batting order ravaged by injuries, it wasn’t supposed to end so soon.
But after losing Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs, the season is now over for the Washington Nationals. Once again, they’ve been bounced from the postseason, and failed to make it out of the opening round of the playoffs.
This team had an absolutely lethal pitching staff, starting with the guy who got roughed up in the Game 5 loss: Max Scherzer. This season, Scherzer went 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA in 31 starts, his lowest total since 2010. In August, he missed two weeks with a neck injury, and in his second start back from the disabled list on Sept. 2, he was struck in the calf by a line drive. Considered a leading candidate to win his third Cy Young award, Scherzer led the National League in strikeouts (263) and WHIP (0.90), while helping Washington to its fourth division title in six seasons.
His tag team partner was dominating righty Stephen Strasburg, who could make a case for the Cy Young on his own, if he didn’t miss so much time due to injury. In 14 innings over two playoff games against the Cubs, Strasburg allowed six total hits and zero earned runs. He finished the season with a career-best 2.52 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, while tying his career high of 15 wins.
So what is the team supposed to do from here? Will they be players in the free-agent and trade markets, or do they go forth with mostly the same roster in place?
Without dipping into the free agent market, the Nationals can look forward to “adding” Adam Eaton into their lineup. The Nationals acquired Eaton in the offseason from the Chicago White Sox, but lost him in early May to a season-ending knee injury.
Eaton was a quiet superstar in Chicago, posting a 6.0 fWAR. A lot of that value comes on defense, but he was no slouch with the bat, hitting .284/.362/.428 with 14 home runs, 91 runs, 59 RBI and 14 steals. His on-base skills and speed should allow him to hit near the top of the Nationals’ lineup, which should allow him to once again challenge for 100 runs when he returns in 2018.
And, of course, there’s the specter of superstar Bryce Harper’s contract. Harper will be a free agent after the 2018 season, and it remains to be seen how insane his contract demands will be. He endured an injury-plagued couple of seasons, though he did finish 2017 with his second-highest batting average (.319) and slugging percentage (.413), despite playing in the second-lowest total games of his career (111). But he is still the most dangerous bat in the Nationals’ lineup, and their cornerstone player.