The Nats returned to Nationals Park yesterday for their annual exhibition game, and they actually won. For context, the last seven years of exhibition games at Nationals Park:
In other words, a win happens twice every eight seasons. A sweep of exhibition games in the competitive era of Nationals baseball never occurred until yesterday. Bask in the glory of a guaranteed World Series win.
Here’s the news from N street:
Eight important questions and projections for the 2019 Nationals (The Athletic)
Michael A. Taylor and Howie Kendrick will start the year on the IL, as will Koda Glover — and from there, we don't know much more about Anthony Rendon's contract status (murky, though discussions seem like they're still ongoing), if Patrick Corbin will be worth it, if Ryan Zimmerman will hit like Ryan Zimmerman, if the defense will be better, if GM Mike Rizzo will spend at the deadline, and many more important questions.
Adam Eaton promises he won’t compromise playing style because of past injuries (WaPo)
Adam Eaton missed almost all of 2017. He missed from April to June last year. This year, he's posed to play a full season — but he won't take it any easier just because of his iffy history with injuries. Instead, he'll sprint out grounders and break up double plays, even at age 30. In Mike Rizzo's words, he'll be "playing with his hair on fire and diving all over the place... it's in his DNA."
At Nats Park, a reason to be giddy at the season about to come (WaPo)
Anthony Rendon? Still looks good. Anibal Sánchez? Still looks promising. But the story of this year is ages from being written, no matter how good Victor Robles and Juan Soto look together, no matter how concerning the team's bullpen seems, no matter how impressive Yan Gomes looks.
Patrick Corbin’s tale sits between myth and reality. The Nationals need him to bridge the gap. (WaPo)
Everyone remembers Patrick Corbin showing up and looking different. Partially because of his wicked fastball—was it 60, 70, 80 MPH?—partially because he was wearing different pants—were they sweatpants, shorts, or jeans?—and last year, that difference came through in a well-timed career year. All of which is to say: Mike Rizzo had to contend with a lot of differing views on this guy, a lot of weird numbers and stories, when he committed upwards of $140 million to Corbin. Something—mainly, his long-term projections—finally made sense.
ST Roundup (Sweetspot – Nationals Baseball)
Nobody had an insane spring this side of Austen Williams (and it didn't really matter), nor did anyone really struggle (except for the deep bench, but it didn't really matter). Most importantly: the players who were injured last year are by-and-large healthy.
Nationals OF Victor Robles, 21, gets his turn to turn heads (AP News)
Victor Robles has been the Nats' next big thing for the last three or four seasons — and after being leapfrogged by Juan Soto, Robles is finally ready to make an impression beyond his previous cups of coffee, to keep improving. (Also, he and Soto are such good friends that the whole clubhouse is loose because of them, says Davey Martinez.)
SI predicts Nats will miss playoffs, Bryce Harper’s Phillies will lose World Series (WaPo)
For what it's worth, the Nats haven't been projected to miss the playoffs since 2012 — and were featured in SI's World Series projection one way or another in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2018.
Adam Eaton, Trea Turner leading Nats’ lineup (MLB.com)
Turner can steal more bases, but Eaton will see more pitches at the top of the lineup — and when things turn over to Victor Robles, Turner will turn into a three-hitter of sorts, assuming both Robles and Eaton can get on.
Nationals ready to trade spring prep for meaningful games (MASN)
Davey Martinez said he hit a wall in Florida last week — but the clubhouse felt different there, and it feels different up in Washington, where the team will likely have their roster set by Wednesday.
These are baseball's top 10 bullpens (MLB.com)
The Nats have the fifth best ‘pen in baseball, apparently (imagine how good it would be with Craig Kimbrel!), where they can make some great puns with Tony Sipp, Kyle Barraclough, and Sean Doolittle.
Zimmerman: "I think we have a really good team" (MASN)
“Every year there’s a few spots, it seems like, and you always have a couple of surprises,” Zimmerman said as he prepared for Monday’s exhibition finale against the New York Yankees at Nats Park. “But yeah, I think we have a really good team. We have a very deep team that’s really good at a lot of things."
Media Circus: As Opening Day approaches, a roundtable of writers discuss the present and future of MLB (The Athletic)
Jon Morosi thinks the Nationals are the most undercovered story in baseball, what with their minor overhaul of the entire roster and a full season of Victor Robles/Juan Soto to come. Max Scherzer is also considered a legendary interview, apparently.
Rosenthal: Mets’ new bench coach Jim Riggleman is ‘not that guy’ despite three turns as an interim manager (The Athletic)
”If others in the game did not consider Riggleman a man of character, he might never have been forgiven for his controversial resignation as Nationals manager on June 23, 2011. Riggleman, who had been working on a series of one-year deals after taking over for Manny Acta in July 2009, was upset the Nationals would not discuss exercising his option for the 2012 season... and as Bud Black and Dusty Baker later would attest, not the last time the Nats would engage in a contract dispute with a potential or sitting manager.”
Rick Ankiel, Comeback King? - (Fangraphs)
"Baseball is a game of failure, forcing players to find, utilize, and ultimately rely on their strengths. It is hard to find someone who exemplifies that more than Rick Ankiel."