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BettorIQ’s MLB Preview: Washington Nationals

MLB

BettorIQ continues with its 2020 MLB betting previews. We will be breaking down all 30 teams from a betting perspective leading up to the start of the season.

Washington Nationals 
2019 Record: 93-69 
2019 Profits: +2.9 units 
2020 Win Total: 32.5
2020 Odds to Win NL East: +250
2020 Odds to Win NL Pennant: +800
2020 Odds to Win World Series:  +1800

Betting Positives: The Washington Nationals ran the gauntlet last postseason which culminated in a World Series title. Many familiar faces return including starters Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and outfielder, Juan Soto. The 21-year-old left-handed slugger has a chance to establish himself as one of the game’s brightest stars after hitting 34 home runs and registering a .401 OBP. Soto is joined by 23-year-old Victor Robles which form the foundation for the organization’s future. The Nationals will look to replace Anthony Rendon with two quality veteran additions in Starlin Castro and Eric Thames. Should the Nationals stay competitive early on and allow their starters a chance to be stretched out for the late season run, it’s not hard to see the team that finished 2019 with a 74-38 record not live to repeat considering the starting rotation group of Scherzer, Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez still projects as one of baseball’s best.  

Betting Negatives: Even with some inevitable regression after posting .319/.412/.598 and a WAR of 7.0, replacing Rendon’s production won’t be easy. The Nationals will turn to either veteran Asdrubal Cabrera or hand the third baseman job over to 22-year-old, Carter Kieboom. With the unusual circumstances surrounding the 2020 season, the Nationals have already had two players turn down the chance to play, as both veteran Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross are opting out of the season. Ross is the bigger loss of the pair, as he was potentially in line for a back-end rotation spot. With expanded rosters, any unforeseen losses can prove substantial for teams during a 60-game season. The need for added depth could prove taxing on an aging starting rotation as well. The Nationals bullpen is projected to be league average and will likely be counted on more than ever. In the rotation will be 35-year-old Max Scherzer, 36-year-old Anibal Sanchez and two other starters in Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg that threw well over 200 IP last season.  

Handicapper’s Take: The Nationals expended a ton of emotional and physical energy en route to last year’s title. They began the season 19-31, won the Wild Card 1-0, went five games against the Dodgers in the NLDS, and seven against the Astros in the World Series. And the obvious strength of the team, starting pitching, may not have time to really shine given the shortened nature of the season. They will also face a difficult schedule as they’ll take on the NL and AL East divisions; both of which are loaded with competitive teams. Starting pitching has typically been the dominant factor in how teams are priced in the betting markets and in some cases, it’s overcompensated for. Given this year’s format, it’s important when handicapping teams like the Nationals, who have a history of thriving with their rotation, to properly account for other factors, most notably the bullpen.