The Washington Nationals had an impressive 2016 season. They dominated the NL East, finishing with a record of 95-67. The Nationals batters will surely propel Washington to one of the top teams in the National League. But if the club wants to make a serious, long-term run in October, the team will need to have a healthy and focused starting rotation. Here’s what the Washington Nationals 2017 projected rotation looks like.
- Max Scherzer
As the clear-cut ace of this team, Max Scherzer will have to set the tone each and every time he takes the mound. He enters 2017 looking to match his 20-win, Cy Young award-winning season. Last season, Scherzer pitched with an injury for two months. He had a stress fracture in his right ring finger. Despite facing the injury for a couple of months, he went on to finish with a 2.96 ERA over 228.1 innings pitched. He also recorded a career-high strikeout number, landing 284 Ks last year. If he can avoid injuries or setbacks, Max Scherzer could lead this Washington Nationals team well into October.
- Tanner Roark
Tanner Roark earned the No. 2 spot in September of last year. When Stephen Strasburg went down, Roark was the hero. He finished 2016 with a 16-10 record and a 2.83 ERA. In pitching a career-high 210 innings, Roark earned himself a 5.5 WAR. He has to build on that successful season. The team and the fans are looking to him to do great things again. The Washington Nationals have no clear, defined closer heading into the 2017 season, so Scherzer and Roark have to do everything in their power to go as many innings as possible. The bullpen has to be saved for use in the backend of the rotation.
- Stephen Strasburg
At the start of 2016, Stephen Strasburg looked like one of the best pitchers in the game of baseball. He started the season 13-0 in his first 17 starts. Over that timeframe, he had 138 Ks with a 2.51 ERA, all the while holding opposing hitters to a .195/.258/.307 slash line. It was spectacular. Strasburg began to struggle and ended up on the DL in August. Elbow soreness was plaguing him, and his downfall began. He was eventually diagnosed with a tendon tear in his right elbow. Strasburg is hoping to avoid injury issues in 2017, and the Washington Nationals are hoping to have him repeat his dominant performance from the beginning of 2016.
- Gio Gonzalez
Gio Gonzalez is solid at the back end of this Washington Nationals rotation. If injuries force him to pitch in the No. 3 slot, this team could be in trouble. Gonzalez was the only Nationals pitcher to with an ERA above 4.00 last year, coming in at 4.57. He tossed 177.1 innings, finishing with a WHIP at 1.342. Pitching prospect A.J. Cole could pan out for Washington and find himself deserving of a spot in the starting rotation. If that is the case, the Nationals may look to move Gonzalez at the trade deadline.
- Joe Ross
Shoulder inflammation spoiled 2016 for Joe Ross, but at 23 years old, there is plenty of bounce-back opportunity for him. He is solid option to finish the starting rotation, and could even find himself pitching at No. 4, should a pitching prospect begin to shine and Gonzalez gets traded. Over 19 games last season, Ross went 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA. He has entered Spring Training with the right frame of mind, looking to work out some of the kinks in his mechanics. Ross relies on the ground ball to get him through innings, and won’t look absolutely phenomenal in 2017. However, he is young and has the potential to be a reliable starter for the Washington Nationals.