After a shortened pandemic 2020 Major League Baseball season, boy does it feel good to have a relatively-normal, full, 162-game season ahead of the Washington Nationals in 2021.
That means it’s time for us to wheel out our annual preseason predictions piece again.
Hopefully, this time it’s a lot easier for us to predict with the usual 162-game schedule rather than relying on us to do any form of math to divide by 162 and multiply by 60. Numbers are hard.
So, without further ado, here are the picks you can take to the bank that will all come true for the Nationals in 2021, probably, maybe...
- Patrick Reddington - Editor-in-chief, we eagerly await his bold prediction which will come true.
- Blake Finney - Final pre-arbitration season.
- Marty Niland - One of us has to be the optimist, right?
- Brett Barnett - Occasional enemy of the FBB comments.
Who will lead the team in HRs? How many?
- Patrick - Juan Soto, 37
- Blake - Josh Bell, 35
- Marty - Juan Soto, 50
- Brett - Juan Soto, 37
Unsurprisingly, there’s lots of love for Soto in our home run predictions after he led the team in long balls last season. Meanwhile, I went a slightly different direction with the Bell pick after his impressive spring showing where he displayed elite power at the plate.
Which pitcher will lead the team in Wins? How many?
- Patrick - Max Scherzer, 16
- Blake - Stephen Strasburg, 14
- Marty - Max Scherzer, 20
- Brett - Stephen Strasburg, 13
A bit of a split in the team here between the Nationals’ top two starters. Strasburg led the team in wins in 2019 and Scherzer did the same in 2020, so not much to go wrong on here. Marty did go a bit bolder than the rest of us with a 20-win campaign for Scherzer though.
Who will lead the team in SVs? How many?
- Patrick - Brad Hand, 25
- Blake - Brad Hand, 28
- Marty - Brad Hand, 35
- Brett - Brad Hand, 35
All of us picking Brad Hand probably shouldn’t be a huge shock to anyone as he looks set to be the team’s primary closer heading into the new season. There is a bit of variance though with a low of 25 and a high of 35, which might be worth watching if the Nats get creative at the end of games given Hand’s status as one of just two lefties in the bullpen.
How many games will Victor Robles hit leadoff this season?
- Patrick - 125
- Blake - 140
- Marty - 95
- Brett - 119
One of the hot topics of Spring Training was how the Nationals would set their batting order with a couple of key offensive additions. Robles being able to stay at the top of the order will be the key to all of that and all of us think he’ll be there for most of the season.
How many games will Carter Kieboom start this season? How many games will Luis García start this season?
- Patrick - Kieboom, 89; García, 50
- Blake - Kieboom, 81; García, 55
- Marty - Kieboom, 0; García, 25
- Brett - Kieboom 75, García, 40
The other hot topic this spring was the performance of Kieboom, or as it turned out, the lack thereof. Most of us think he’ll be back up for a decent portion of the season, however, Marty seems a little more down on him and think he’ll need to stick in the minors this year.
What will be the combined total OPS of Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber?
- Patrick - 1.630
- Blake - 1.688
- Marty - 1.760
- Brett - 1.550
Hey, more questions about the team’s offense! This time, it’s about the two biggest additions to the lineup. Again, we have a decent amount of variance in the team on this one, probably because both players would seem to be high-ceiling, high-floor players this year.
Rank these players in order of fWAR (highest to lowest): Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg
- Patrick - Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg
- Blake - Juan Soto, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner
- Marty - Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer
- Brett - Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer
And in something a little different, we have tried to rank ho the team’s top four players, who theoretically should be comfortably their four best players will finish the season in WAR from FanGraphs. All of us have Soto leading the way, though things get different after that as I think the pitchers will generally fare a bit better than Turner this year.
Will any Nationals win any awards at the end of the season? If so, who and what?
- Patrick - Juan Soto, NL batting title, again
- Blake - Juan Soto, Silver Slugger; Victor Robles, Gold Glove
- Marty - Juan Soto MVP, Max Scherzer Cy Young
- Brett - Victor Robles, Gold Glove
And in our final player predictions, it’s time to guess who could pick up an award or two at the end of the year. Plenty of Soto love again here with a mix of awards, a couple of Gold Glove predictions for a re-trimmed down Robles, and even a fourth Cy Young for Scherzer.
How many wins will the Nationals have?
- Patrick - 90
- Blake - 83
- Marty - 87
- Brett - 89
With a regular 162-game slate this season, it’s a lot easier for us to predict rather than last year’s 60-game sprint where plenty of variance can come into it We all seem to be in the same rough range of 80-90 where the Nationals will be good without being an elite team.
What will the final NL East standings be? (Wildcard marked with a *)
- Patrick - Braves, Nationals*, Mets, Phillies, Marlins
- Blake - Braves, Mets*, Nationals, Phillies, Marlins
- Marty - Nationals, Braves*, Mets, Phillies, Marlins
- Brett - Braves, Mets*, Nationals, Phillies, Marlins
It’s been a bit of a familiar tale the last few seasons, but it looks like we’re all expecting the NL East to be fiercely competitive again. The Braves, Mets, and Nationals seem to be our favorites to lead the way, in varying orders, ahead of the Phillies and Marlins. Kudos to Marty for predicting the Nats to win the division for the fifth time in ten seasons
How will the Nationals season end?
- Patrick - NLCS loss
- Blake - Fail to reach the playoffs
- Marty - NLCS loss
- Brett - Fail to reach the playoffs
Obviously, mine and Brett’s matching NL East standings predictions feed into this prediction with both of us having the Nats falling the wrong side of the Wild Card line. Patrick and Marty like their chances to advance again, but inevitably struggle to make it back to the Fall Classic. All this is missing is Will Kubzansky predicting an NLDS loss.
One bold prediction not covered by the above...
- Patrick - Stephen Strasburg will make 30 starts again.
- Blake - Carter Kieboom will finally figure it out at the major league level, after a midseason call-up, hitting above .280 and an OPS above .800
- Marty - The Nationals will make a move to beef up their lineup. My guess is a trade for Chicago Cubs’ 3B Kris Bryant, at least as a rental.
- Brett - Josh Bell hits 30 home runs.
All the pressure is on our bold prediction sage, Patrick, who has gotten three of his last four bold predictions spot on, so congrats to Strasburg on his 30 starts this season. Brett loosely stretches the meaning of bold by predicting Bell to hit 30 home runs, but we’ll allow it. I keep the faith in Kieboom, and Marty has the boldest of the lot predicting a big trade at the trade deadline, something Rizzo doesn’t usually make a habit of with the Nationals.
And there we have it for another year. We’ll be back to revisit how outstandingly great or wildly inaccurate they were in November. Let us know your thoughts and any predictions that you might have for the upcoming season in the comments.