4. Washington Nationals
Projected Opening Day Rotation:
Max Scherzer is filthy. The 34-year-old pitched one of the best seasons of his career. Seeking a 4th Cy Young, Scherzer struck out a Ryan Express special: 300 batters. In addition to that milestone, his 8.8 WAR was 5th in baseball and 3rd among pitchers (right behind the actual Cy Young Award winner).
Fellow flamethrower Stephen Strasburg was a dominant force in the Nationals rotation, when healthy. In another injury-riddled season for Strasburg, he pitched to a 3.74 ERA and walked 38 batters over just 130 IP.
The Nationals significantly upgraded their pitching staff with two major splashes this offseason signing Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez. Corbin reached the 200 IP mark for just the second time in his career and made his first all-star team since 2013. While his strong season didn’t change the Diamondbacks fortunes, it opened the eyes of everyone across baseball and allowed him to ultimately ink a 6-year $140 million contract.
Perhaps an even greater surprise was the performance of Aníbal Sánchez in the 2018 season. At age 34, Sánchez pitched to a 2.83 ERA, the lowest mark for him in 5 seasons. While these signings patched up the holes left by the departure of free agent Gio González and the Tanner Roark trade to the Reds, there are still major questions in this rotation. While Scherzer and Corbin get set to anchor the top, one must worry about the health of Strasburg.
Health is always an issue; he is always dominant when on the mound, except for the fact that he made 4 separate trips to the disabled list in 2018. This should scare Nationals fans. The Sánchez signing helps but he is by no means an innings-eater. Sánchez only pitched at least 7 innings twice all of last season in 24 starts.
Henderson Alvarez will likely not see time in the majors and pitched the 2018 season in the Mexican League. Joe Ross has shown that he can be a productive major leaguer although he is coming off of injury as well. Ross has not pitched since 2018 and he will likely have an innings restriction in his first season back from Tommy John Surgery. Erick Fedde will compete for the 5th rotation spot.
The Nationals have the potential to be nasty; a lot of that is riding on the elbow of Strasburg. Sánchez has likely peaked and Ross is a major question mark. Too many questions in this potentially dominant rotation to be ranked higher than four.