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Washington Nationals ranked eighth on Buster Olney's list of Top 10 MLB Rotations

ESPN.com's Buster Olney released his list of the Top 10 MLB rotations on Monday, which featured the Washington Nationals at no.8. Can Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg lead the Nats back to the top of the NL East in 2016?

H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Rizzo talked about the Washington Nationals' rotation at the Winter Meetings in Nashville in early December, telling reporters he was happy with the starting depth in the organization as it stood at that point with right-hander Max Scherzer, soon-to-be-free agent Stephen Strasburg, lefty Gio Gonzalez, journeyman Tanner Roark and second-year starter Joe Ross in the major league mix barring injuries or setbacks before Opening Day.

"We think that we have five qualified and quality starters that we match with anybody in the division," Rizzo said.

"One guy is pitching with two colored eyes. Another guy is pitching with his ears out there. And you've got the one lefty in there..." -Mike Maddux on Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, I think...

"We have the primary, secondary pitching depth that we have in the Taylor Jordans, the A.J. Coles," he continued, "... those prospect type of guys, and of course we have the second wave of prospects coming with [Lucas] Giolito, [Austin] Voth, [Reynaldo] Lopez and that group," some of whom, he said at another point this winter, could be ready to pitch in the majors as soon as mid-2016.

This past weekend, Rizzo, in spite of persistent rumors of interest in free agent pitchers like Wei-Yin Chen, who is reportedly seeking a 5-year/$100M-ish deal, reiterated that he liked the options available for the starting rotation.

"I like the rotation as it is," he said. "We have a very talented, quality starting rotation.

"We have a lot of depth. I like the roster as we are constructed right now. I don’t see any major needs that we haven’t addressed."

ESPN.com's Buster Olney ranked the Nationals' rotation as the 8th best in the majors on his yearly list of the Top 10 MLB rotations.

Though the Nats' starters, "... weren't as good as expected last year," Olney writes, "they still ranked among the MLB leaders in ERA and strikeouts," and with Scherzer back for the second year of his 7-year/$210M deal, "... they'll likely finish in the top 10 in both of those categories again in 2016."

Scherzer, 31, finished the 2015 campaign, which included a rough patch and a lot of home runs in the second half, at a career high 6.4 fWAR, with a 2.79 ERA, a 2.77 FIP, 34 walks (1.34 BB/9) and 276 Ks (10.86 K/9) in 33 starts and 228 ⅔ innings pitched, completing two no-hitters in his first season in D.C.

Olney says that it's Stephen Strasburg who's the "X factor" for the Nationals, however, coming off an up-and-down season for the '09 no.1 overall pick which ended with an impressive run... which followed his second DL stint of the season.

Strasburg, 27, finished his sixth major league season at 3.4 fWAR over 23 starts with a 3.46 ERA, a 2.82 FIP, 26 walks (1.84 BB/9) and 155 Ks (10.96 K/9) in 127 ⅓ innings pitched, over which he held hitters to a .233/.278/.375 line.

"I like the rotation as it is. We have a very talented, quality starting rotation. We have a lot of depth. I like the roster as we are constructed right now..."-Mike Rizzo on the Nationals' starting rotation

He can become a free agent after this season if the Nats don't sign him to an extension before then.

Olney, pointing to the right-hander's final ten starts of the year [ed. note - "He actually says, 'final 11 starts' but quotes the stats from the final ten."], which saw him put up a 1.90 ERA, a 2.09 FIP, eight walks (1.09 BB/9), 92 Ks (12.48 K/9) and a .179/.206/.306 line against in 66 ⅓ innings, suggests that if, "Strasburg continues on that sort of trajectory in 2016, he could make Washington's rotation one of the very best -- and make himself a whole lot of money."

What will Scherzer do in Year Two? Will Strasburg's seventh season in D.C. be his last with the Nationals?

Can Gio Gonzalez, as he said he wanted to last month, attack the strike zone and go after hitters?

How will Tanner Roark react to returning to the rotation after bouncing back and forth between starting and relieving last season... after a 15-win campaign in 2014?

Can Joe Ross build on his breakthrough season and fill out the rotation as a reliable fifth starter?

Will the Nats add a veteran arm to the mix before Spring Training to give themselves the veteran-y depth they have piled up elsewhere on the roster this winter?

Ahead of the Nationals on Olney's rankings of the Top 10 rotations in the majors? The Pirates (no.7), Dodgers (6), Giants (5), Cubs (4), Cardinals (3), Indians (2) and... the Mets (no.1).