The players who need to step up for the 2020 Washington Nationals

Repeating as a champion is the goal for 2020

For this 2020 Washington Nationals team, manager Dave Martinez will need some players to step up their game this season beyond the projections. With a +42.9 team WAR as Fangraphs has computed as of this date, that probably is not enough to win the NL East, but the Nats goal is to repeat as World Champs and like last year feel they can win by just getting into the dance. They have lofty goals and why not! Win it all and go home is a lot better than win or go home. Being the team that wins the last game of the year leads to parades, and that is a team goal.

“We’ve been at ‘go’ stage for about a month now,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “It’s a beautiful cycle, baseball is, where you finish one [season] and start another season. There’s no rest for the weary. We realize we have a target on our backs this year. Everybody’s trying to knock us off the mountain, and it’s my job to put together a roster that can compete with that and give our guys a chance to win another World Title.”

So how does this talented team win another World Series without Anthony Rendon some have asked? The same way this team won without Bryce Harper. The team has been reconfigured with a better bullpen and more depth than last year, and new players like Starlin Castro and Eric Thames have been added to the infield.

We won’t fool ourselves to say on paper that this team is better than the team that just won the World Series but if Castro can play like he did in the second half of last season, and Trea Turner plays to his potential like he did after he got enough reps when he returned from his broken fingers, and Victor Robles can put in a full season like his month of August — this team can hopefully exceed the projections.

“We’ve got versatility. Of course, you’re not going to replace or replicate Anthony Rendon, his numbers on the field, his presence in the clubhouse … But we’re going to be a different team,” Rizzo said. “I think we’re going to be a very competitive team and our goal hasn’t changed. We’re here to win a World Series. That’s our focus.”

Let’s quantify those numbers for Castro, Turner, and Robles. Starlin Castro‘s final two months of the season he slashed .310/.345/.593/.937.  Trea Turner‘s slash after May 26th was .306 /.363/.509/.871. Robles slashed .290/.374/.441/.815 while also playing Gold Glove defense in August. Some would say that is cherry-picking stats, but in the case of there are reasons to believe in the upside as Robles returns with a full-year of experience in the books plus a grueling postseason. Actually on Turner’s stats, those numbers are not much better than his full year slash, and he just needs to stay healthy. With Castro’s numbers, they are based on his change in mechanics. He widened his stance moving his front leg up a few inches and started to hit fewer groundballs and more balls in the air. The results were impressive and you see it in that slash.

This chart (below) from Fangraphs gives you an idea of WAR for each position player. Who else do you see could improve. Maybe it is Eric Thames who could improve that +0.5 projection or Michael A. Taylor above that 0.0. There is also the Nats top prospect, Carter Kieboom, who was projected as a starter three weeks ago and at a +2.4 WAR before Cabrera, Castro, and Thames were all added to the roster. Could the bulked up 22-year-old, who has added about 15 pounds of body weight and mostly muscle to his frame, become the third baseman of the future? Time will tell on that, and Kieboom could ultimately be the answer if he proves to be the star as some believe he can be.

Washington Nationals Fangraphs WAR projections for 2020

Juan Soto 672 .292 .406 .555 .399 40.1 0.1 -2.0 5.1
Trea Turner 665 .290 .353 .471 .347 10.0 5.0 -2.5 4.0
Adam Eaton 630 .282 .366 .433 .343 7.3 2.1 -1.3 2.1
Victor Robles 658 .262 .326 .422 .318 -7.1 1.3 3.6 2.0
Howie Kendrick 398 .307 .361 .484 .356 8.9 -1.1 0.3 1.7
Asdrubal Cabrera 518 .266 .334 .441 .328 -1.0 -2.3 0.3 1.5
Starlin Castro 539 .283 .324 .440 .322 -3.9 -0.9 -2.8 1.1
Yan Gomes 282 .237 .306 .411 .302 -6.8 -0.5 1.9 0.9
Carter Kieboom 231 .260 .335 .414 .320 -2.1 0.2 1.8 0.8
Kurt Suzuki 326 .267 .326 .460 .330 0.1 -1.0 -10.0 0.6
Eric Thames 485 .237 .330 .447 .327 -1.4 0.2 -1.7 0.5
Michael A. Taylor 145 .236 .296 .390 .291 -4.9 0.7 0.0 0.0
Tres Barrera 13 .242 .299 .369 .287 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Yadiel Hernandez 7 .265 .332 .430 .322 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Raudy Read 19 .242 .282 .397 .285 -0.7 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Adrian Sanchez 14 .260 .298 .365 .283 -0.6 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Jake Noll 14 .252 .290 .369 .281 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
Wilmer Difo 144 .246 .308 .352 .283 -5.9 0.3 0.2 0.0
Andrew Stevenson 80 .250 .304 .350 .283 -3.3 0.1 0.0 -0.1
Total 5840 .272 .344 .450 .336 27.5 4.2 -12.7 20.2

These numbers are there for you to analyze and then you can check back in after the season to compare the actual numbers to the Fangraphs projections. Is this the season that Juan Soto wins the MVP or maybe it will be Trea Turner’s time to play healthy all season and be that 25/25 man or maybe even more. We all know Trea can steal 25 bases but can he smash more than 25 homers? Don’t forget that Starlin Castro is a four-time All-Star, and he could put together an MVP campaign season. With Spring Training just about 30 days away, we will see what we have plus Rizzo could surprise us with another acquisition.

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