2021 Fantasy Baseball: Washington Nationals Team Outlook - Rebounding After Disappointing 2020 Campaign

Get the inside scoop! 2021 fantasy baseball player profiles, team analysis and stat projections for Washington Nationals hitters and pitchers
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2021 Washington Nationals

After an outstanding World Series win in 2019, the Nationals slipped to fourth in the NL East with a missed playoff appearance. Washington has five trips to the postseason over the past nine seasons.

The step backward in the standings came via a sharp decline in ERA (5.09 – 25th). Washington finished 10th in runs scored (293) and 22nd in home runs (66).

The offseason's big move was a trade for 1B Josh Bell for SP Wil Crowe and SP Eddy Yean. The Nationals also signed OF Kyle Schwarber to improve the depth of their starting lineup. They added SP Jon Lester and CL Brad Hand plus C Alex Avila for catching depth.

The offseason's top losses were 3B Asdrubal Cabrera, RP Sean Doolittle, and OF Adam Eaton.

If OF Victor Robles and 3B Carter Kieboom prove to be the upside bats that the Nationals expect, Washington has a deep and explosive starting lineup. The structure of the offense will also get a bump if the NL adds the DH.

The bullpen doesn’t have elite difference-maker arms, but CL Brad Hand should be a better option in the ninth inning compared to their recent options.

The Nationals need to retool their starting rotation's backend and receive a healthy season from SP Stephen Strasburg. Washington still has three elite arms, which is a formula for a deep playoff run.

The NL East is going to be fun to watch as each team should be better in 2021. The Nationals have the right core to win the division, but they need more good innings from the secondary starters while not giving away games in seventh and eighth innings.

Washington Nationals left fielder Juan Soto has been cleared by the D.C. Health Department to rejoin his team after testing positive for COVID-19.

Starting Lineup

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1. SS Trea Turner

Turner was the most valuable hitter in fantasy baseball based on SIscore (5.09) in 2020. He led the National League in hits (78) and triples (4) while pushing his average hit rate (1.756) and contact batting average (.396) even higher.

Last year’s stats projected over 600 at-bats (Turner had 664 in 2018) came to 118 runs, 31 home runs, 106 RBI, and 31 stolen bases. The Nationals gave him 93.6 percent of his at-bats, hitting first or second in the batting order, making his output in RBIs more impressive.

His swing dominated left-handed pitching (.375 with four home runs and 12 RBI over 56 at-bats). Turner has a rising fly-ball rate (34.7) along with his HR/FB rate (17.4). He finished with the lowest strikeout rate (13.9 – 18.1 in his career) in his time in the majors.

Over the last three seasons, he hit .291 with 245 runs, 50 home runs, 171 RBI, and 90 steals over 1,418 at-bats.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Turner has a mid-first round ADP (8) while having one of the unique skill sets in fantasy baseball. I can’t see him repeating his RBI rate (23), but every other category has a high upside. We still haven’t seen the ceiling of Turner. In 2021, I expect an edge in batting average with 125 runs, 25 home runs, and 80 RBI while owning the speed to steal 60+ bases. I want to own a piece of Turner this year.

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2. OF Juan Soto

Despite missing the first eight games of 2020 with a Covid issue, Soto blasted his way to the National League lead in batting average (.351), on-base percentage (.490), and slugging percentage (.695).

Over his first 24 games, he hit .367 with 21 runs, 11 home runs, and 25 RBI over 90 at-bats. Soto turned in a quiet September (.328 with two home and 12 RBI), but he did pick up five steals.

With 550 at-bats, Soto was on pace for 139 runs, 46 home runs, 132 RBI, and 21 stolen bases. His approach was sensational (strikeout rate – 14.3 and walk rate – 20.9), setting the tone for an impact batting average and a ton of runs scored.

Even with a push in power, Soto didn’t shake his ground ball swing path (51.6 percent – 47.5 in his career). His HR/FB rate (36.1) was one of the highest in the game while having a high floor in 2018 (24.7) and 2019 (22.2).

Soto has about two full seasons of experience in the majors, leading to a .295 batting average with 226 runs, 69 home runs, 217 RBI, and 23 steals over 1,110 at-bats.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: At age 22, Soto looks well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. His ceiling is explosive, and he continues to get better. As of early February, Soto has an ADP of 4 while being a great starting piece to a fantasy team. The tradeoff here is batting average over impact speed. If Soto steals over 20 bases, he becomes a five-tool stud. The next step is 125+ runs, 45+ home runs, and 120 RBI, while his edge in batting average is a given.

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3. 1B Josh Bell

After his excellent breakthrough season in 2019 (.277 with 94 runs, 37 home runs, and 116 RBI over 527 at-bats), Bell was a bust last year.

The starting point of his failure was his lost approach (strikeout rate – 26.5 – 18.2 over his first four seasons). His walk rate (9.9) came in above the league average but below his previous success (12.1).

Bell has a sharp regression in his average hit rate (1.614 – 2.055 in 2019) and his RBI rate (11 – 21 in 2019). His drop in his contact batting average (.324) fell in line with his first two years in the majors (.324 and .330).

He did maintain his HR/FB rate (22.2), but Bell made much weaker contact highlighted by a significantly higher ground ball rate (55.7 – 44.0 in 2019). His fly-ball rate (25.7) was the lowest of his career.

Over the last four seasons, Bell hit .260 with 83 home runs and 290 RBI over 1,772 at-bats.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Bell makes more sense as the cleanup hitter, but Washington should separate Juan Soto and Kyle Schwarber in the starting lineup. Bell's bottom line is that he should come to the plate with 450 runners on base, which sets up a productive season in RBI if he regains his power stroke. His approach gives him a higher ceiling in batting average—possible .280 with 90 runs, 30 home runs, and 110 RBI with an ADP of 160.

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4. OF Kyle Schwarber

Schwarber is the second player added by the Nationals in the offseason that delivered a disappointing season in 2020. In 2019, he set career-highs in runs (82), home runs (38), and RBI (92).

His average hit rate (2.083) continues to support 40+ home runs. Schwarber finished with a much weaker contact batting average (.288) and regression in his strikeout rate (29.5 – 25.6 in 2019).

He struggled against righties (.188 BAA) and lefties (.189 BAA). Schwarber had the most success in August (.236 with eight home runs and 16 RBI). His RBI rate (10) was disgustingly low, showcased by hitting .176 with runners in scoring position and .211 with men on base.

Schwarber had a spike in his ground ball rate (50.8 – 41.1 in his career), while his HR/FB rate (25.6) was a career-high.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: With a major league career average of .230, Schwarber will bring batting average risk. He’ll hit home runs and draw walks. I don’t see a cleanup hitter even with a tease 2019 season staring at me. Another bat on the Nationals will emerge, pushing Schwarber lower in the batting order. I only see a .240 hitter with 70 runs and 75 RBI despite the ability to hit 40 home runs with a career-high in at-bats. I’m not buying at his ADP (193).

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5. 2B Starlin Castro

A broken right wrist that required surgery cost Castro the last three-quarters of the 2020 baseball season. Over his 60 at-bats, he hit .267 with two home runs and four RBI.

Castro starts 2021 at age 31 while having 1,633 hits. He looks well on his way to 3,000 hits if he keeps a starting job and stays healthy for the next decade.

His best overall play came in 2011 and 2012 (.295 with 169 runs, 24 home runs, 144 RBI, and 47 stolen bases over 1,320 at-bats).

In 2019, Castro set a career-high in home runs (22) and RBI (86) while playing for one of the lowest-scoring teams in baseball. His average hit rate (1.587) was his best since 2016 (1.603), but it doesn’t support a big push in power.

Castro has a favorable strikeout rate (16.8) while barely taking any walks (5.0) in his career. His lack of home runs comes from a ground ball swing (49.5). He had his best HR/FB rate in 2017 (16.2) with a slight rebound in 2019 (12.5).

He added value against left-handed pitching in 2019 (.323 with nine home runs and 21 RBI over 164 at-bats) while after the All-Star break (.302 with 44 runs, 16 home runs, 52 RBI over 285 at-bats).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Castro is a backend second base option with a chance at .280/70/20/80 season with an ADP of 350 in the early draft season. Castro needs a change in swing path to see higher levels in home runs. His bat is more stable than Schwarber, leading to a jump to fourth in the batting order.

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6. 3B Carter Kieboom

Kieboom played well in 2019 at AAA (.303 with 79 runs, 16 home runs, 79 RBI, and five stolen over 412 at-bats). The Nationals gave him a late April call-up after the injury to Trea Turner, but he struggled to make contact (.128 over 39 at-bats with two home runs and two RBI, and 16 strikeouts).

Over four seasons in the minors, Kieboom hit .287 with 45 home runs, 208 RBI, and 18 steals over 1,259 at-bats.

In 2020, he struggled with the Nationals (.202 with no home runs and nine RBI over 99 at-bats).

His walk rate (11.6 – 12.7 in the majors) grades well while offering a league-average strikeout rate (20.1 – 29.7 with Washington).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: His average hit rate (1.624 in 2019 at AAA) is high enough to reach 20+ home runs in the majors with a full season of at-bats. Fantasy owners lost the loving feeling for Kieboom this draft season based on his lower ADP (483 – 299 in 2019). If he gets his strikeouts under control, I won’t dismiss a chance of batting second in the batting order. Kieboom isn’t a lock to start, but I expect him to be much better in 2021.

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7. C Yan Gomes

Gomes will have a cloudy path for at-bats this year, with Alex Avila and Welington Castillo in the mix for playing time.

His contact batting average (.356) rebounded after a down 2019 (.304), while his average hit rate (1.645) fell in line with his last four seasons.

Gomes has a low walk rate (5.7 percent) of his career with weakness in strikeout rate (24.7).

After delivering only six home runs and 30 RBI over his first 240 at-bats in 2019, he hit six home runs with 13 RBI over 74 at-bats in September.

In 2020, the Nationals never gave him more than three starts in a row. He only made four starts over the first 14 games.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Gomes offers a low average bat with a chance at 50/15/50 season with a push to 400 at-bats. I’d look for more upside at C2, even with a low ADP (338).

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8. OF Victor Robles

In the last two seasons with the Nationals, Robles hit .246 with 20 home runs, 80 RBI, and 32 stolen bases over 714 at-bats.

His walk rate (5.3) with Washington came in below his minor league career (7.6) while seeing his strikeout rate in 2020 (28.0).

In 2019, Robles played better before the All-Star break (.246 with 47 runs, 13 home runs, 37 RBI, and 12 steals over 289 at-bats) while doing more of his damage in stolen bases (17) over the final three months.

Last year he lost his way in all areas of the game while continuing a low hard-hit rate (22.9).

Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .300 with 28 home runs, 155 RBI, and 129 steals over 1,438 at-bats.

Hidden in his stat line is 34 times hit by a pitch over 714 at-bats in 2019 and 2020, which invites injury risk along with his aggressive style of play.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Robles is only a wild card in 2021. His success in power in 2020 isn’t supported by his average hit rate (1.432) and light-hitting swing. His ADP (165) is driven by his upside in speed. There’s talent here, but a bottom of the order opportunity does lower his chances and expectations in runs and RBI.

Bench Options

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C Alex Avila

Avila continues to take plenty of walks (14.4 percent), but he strikes out too many times (29.2 percent) to earn a full-time starting job at this point of his career.

Over the last four seasons, he hit .219 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI over 718 at-bats, but he struck out 300 times.

The best value in his career comes against right-handed pitching (.240 with 94 home runs and 319 RBI over 2,370 at-bats).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: This season, Avila provides power off the catcher bench while having a minimal opportunity.

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1B Ryan Zimmerman

Zimmerman opted out of the 2020 season with concerns with Covid. The Nationals signed him to a one-year deal for $1 million in late January.

Over the past six seasons, Zimmerman is one for six in success (2017 – .303 with 36 home runs and 108 RBI over 524 at-bats). He missed 402 games over his other six years.

In 2019, his season started with a right foot injury (plantar fasciitis), and it lingered all season. Zimmerman hit .367 against left-handed pitching in his limited at-bats (49) with two home runs and eight RBI. His best month came in September (.283 with eight runs, three home runs, and 12 RBI over 53 at-bats).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: His best hope for at-bats will come if the National League adds the DH. Zimmerman has a middle of the order resume in his major league career, but injuries have cost him a chance at the Hall of Fame. At age 28, he hit .286 with 1,266 hits, 179 home runs, 672 RBI, and 36 stolen bases. Only a waiver wire dart if Zimmerman earns starting at-bats.

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2B Josh Harrison

Injuries have caught up to Harrison over the past three seasons, leading to 166 games played out of a possible 384 chances.

Over 10 seasons in the majors, he hit .273 with 56 home runs, 291 RBI, and 80 stolen bases over 3,003 at-bats. His best starting value came in 2014 (.315 with 77 runs, 13 home runs, 52 RBI, and 18 steals over 520 at-bats).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Harrison will compete for a utility infield job for the Nationals. He could offer some insurance at third base if Carter Kieboom struggles.

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OF Yadiel Hernandez

Over 10 seasons in Cuba and a few other foreign leagues, Hernandez hit .322 with 62 home runs, 387 RBI, and 24 steals over 2,227 at-bats.

The Nationals added him to their minor league system in 2017, leading to 1,269 at-bats over three years (.301 with 206 runs, 63 home runs, 217 RBI, and 16 stolen bases).

Hernandez will take a walk (12.0 percent) while offering a slightly better than league average strikeout rate (19.0).

His highlight season came in 2019 at AAA (.323 with 33 home runs, 90 RBI, and seven steals over 439 at-bats). Washington gave him 26 at-bats in 2020 (.192 with one home run and six RBI).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Hernandez will compete for a bench outfield job in 2021. He has no upside in speed, while a juiced-up swing may create some at-bats with the Nationals at age 33. His best asset is batting average if Hernandez can handle major league pitching.

Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals will reportedly face off against the New York Yankees on Opening Day of the 2020 MLB season.

Starting Pitching

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1. SP Max Scherzer

Scherzer added disaster to his resume in 2020 for the first time since 2011. He allowed four runs or more in four of his 12 starts (19 runs and 39 baserunners over 22.1 innings with 36 strikeouts).

He went 4-3 with a 1.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 56 strikeouts over 45 innings in his other eight games. Scherzer served up 1.3 home runs per nine with a sharp decline in his walk rate (3.1 – 1.7 in 2019).

His struggles came against left-handed batters (.312 with five home runs over 138 at-bats). Batters finished with a 27.3 percent line-drive rate (20.0 in his career) while also setting a career-high in his HR/FB rate (14.3).

Scherzer finished with an average fastball (95.0 MPH) that came in a range similar to his previous five seasons. His downside came from him losing the feel of his curveball (.450 BAA – .234 in his career) and regression in his four-seam fastball (.267 BAA – .215 in 2019) and changeup (.317 BAA – .299 in 2019).

From 2013 to 2019, Scherzer went 118-47 with a 2.82 ERA and 1,863 strikeouts over 1,485.1 innings.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: This fantasy season, Scherzer has an ADP of 29. Drafters from an early draft position are willing to dismiss his struggles in 2020 while hoping to strike fantasy gold at a discount. The only injuries that possibly led to his demise were a side issue in spring training (four months before the start of the year) and a hamstring issue in August. I’m neutral on Scherzer until I see his spring training report.

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2. SP Stephen Strasburg

After the best season of his career in 2019, Strasburg only made two poor starts last year due to a nerve issue in his right hand that required surgery in late August.

Strasburg enters his 12th season in major league baseball with a record of 112-59, 3.19 ERA, 1.088 WHIP, and 1,697 strikeouts over 1,443.2 innings.

In 2019, he led the National League in wins (18) and innings pitched (209.0). It was the second time in his career with over 200 innings. He also set a career-high in strikeouts (251).

His strikeout rate (10.8) matched 2018 with a slight improvement in his walk rate (2.4).

Strasburg finished the year with a 1.89 ERA and 50 strikeouts over his last 38 innings while also shining in the big moments in the playoffs (5-0 with 1.98 ERA and 47 strikeouts over 36.1 innings).

His AFB (94.3) was the lowest of his career (2017 – 96.1 and 2018 – 95.2). He continues to have two elite pitches (changeup – .144 BAA and curveball – .160 BAA), but his two fastballs ball didn’t create a winning edge (four-seam – .259 BAA and sinker – .294 BAA).

His ground ball rate (51.1) came at his highest level since 2013 (51.5). Even with a career-low in his fly-ball rate (28.6 – 32.9 in his career), Strasburg had underlying disaster simmering in his HR/FB rate (16.2 – 15.7 in 2017 and 12.0 in his career).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Last year, Strasburg was the 9th pitcher drafted with an ADP of 29. The Nationals expect him to be ready for opening day, but his price point is much lower in 2021 (ADP – 70). Possible great value as a cheat ace while understanding his injury history.

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3. SP Patrick Corbin

Corbin exceeded expectations in 2018 and 2019 when he went 25-14 with a 3.20 ERA and 484 strikeouts over 402 innings. Batters only hit .222 against him over this span while posting his highest strikeout rates (11.1 and 10.6) in his career.

Last year Corbin allowed the most hits (85) in the National League, leading to a drop of 2.6 strikeouts per nine innings and an ugly ERA (4.66) and WHIP (1.569). Other than one lousy start on August 15th (five runs and nine base runners over innings), his season wasn’t far off after his first seven starts (3.79 ERA, 1.338 WHIP, and 36 strikeouts over 40.1 innings).

Over his final four games, Corbin allowed a ton of hits (42) over 25.1 innings, with most of the damage coming in two disaster starts (12 runs, 27 base runners, and three home runs over 11.1 innings).

His walk rate (2.5) beat his career average (2.7). Corbin had no answer for right-handed batters (.321 with eight home runs over 215 at-bats). He lost almost two MPH off his fastball (90.6 – 92.5 in 2019) and four MPH off his changeup.

The lack of fastball led to batters hitting .400 vs. his four-seamer (.618 SLG) and .375 against his sinker (.548 SLG). His slider still had plenty of life (.194 BAA), and he threw it almost 40 percent of the time.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Danger Will Robinson, danger. Corbin has an ADP of 144 in early February in the 12-team high-stakes market. The loss of his fastball is a significant obstacle for him to regain his previous form. He throws strikes with a reasonable strikeout rate while owning one plus pitch (slider). The velocity on his pitches is the only factor a fantasy owner has to focus on when evaluating his chances in 2021. Avoid for now as I wait for more information.

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4. SP Jon Lester

In 2019, Lester had the worst season of his career with a full year of starts. He managed to pick up 13 wins while leading the National League in hits allowed (205) and posting an unrecoverable WHIP (1.497).

His strikeout rate (8.7) and walk rate (2.7) in 2019 fell in line with his career resume (8.4 and 2.7) while improving on both stats from 2018 (7.4 and 3.2). Last year, his strikeout rate fell to 6.2.

In 2020, Lester teased over his first three starts (2-0 with two runs and seven hits allowed over 17 innings). Five games later, his ERA dropped to 5.80 after allowing 24 runs, 46 baserunners, and eight home runs over 23.1 innings.

Somehow he strung three more good starts together in mid-September (two runs and 11 hits over 17 innings with 10 strikeouts). The waiver wire trolls were rewarded one more punch to the gut in his final start (seven runs and nine base runners over 3.2 innings).

His AFB (89.9) was a career-low with four straight seasons of regression. Lester only had success with his changeup (.237 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: The Nationals signed him to a one-year $5 million contract in mid-January. Lester has become an up and down inning eater with a fading skill set. His HR/9 rate (1.6) is much too high to expect a sub 4.00 ERA. He’ll be found in every league's free-agent pool while only being a double start option in 2021. Over 15 years in the majors, Lester went 193-111 with a 3.60 ERA and 2,397 strikeouts over 2,598.2 innings). The Red Sox and Cubs fans do thank him for being part of three World Series titles.

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5. SP Joe Ross

Ross sat out 2020 due to concern with Covid.

Washington lost Ross in mid-July in 2017 with a right elbow injury that required TJ surgery.

Over his first eight seasons in the minors, he went 24-26 with a 3.64 ERA and 363 strikeouts over 443 innings. Ross had a low strikeout rate (7.4) in the minors with strength in his walk rate (2.6).

His stuff played better over his first 35 games in the majors in 2015 and 2016 (12-10 with a 3.52 ERA and 162 strikeouts over 181.2 innings).

In 2018, he had a 2.39 ERA over 26.1 innings in the minors with 19 strikeouts before getting lit up in three starts with Washington (5.06 ERA and seven strikeouts over 16 innings).

In 2019, he struggled at AAA (4.28 ERA and 32 strikeouts over 40 innings) with further regression with the Nationals (5.48 ERA and 57 strikeouts over 64 innings). His strikeout rate (8.0) in the majors fell in line with his early resume, but he walked 4.6 batters per nine.

Ross had a bounce up in his fastball (94.5), but all of his pitches (four-seam, sinker, changeup, slider, and curveball) had no value.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: In mid-December, the Nationals’ manager suggested that he wanted him to be their fifth starting in 2021. I won't write him off as Ross did flash with the Nationals early in his career before getting hurt. It all starts with throwing more strikes and more zip on his pitches. Only a spring training follow for now.

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SP Austin Voth

Washington’s farm system's lack of depth led to Voth getting a full season starting in 2020. He allowed three runs or fewer in six of his 11 starts, with his best success coming back-to-back games in September (two runs and seven hits over 12 innings with 13 strikeouts).

Voth only pitched over five innings in one game while allowing 21 runs and 39 base runners over 14.1 innings in four straight starts mid-season.

Over three seasons with the Nationals, he went 5-7 with a 5.11 ERA and 99 strikeouts over 105.2 innings while walking 3.2 batters per nine innings. His strikeout rate (8.4) does have more upside with better command.

His arm failed to make an impact over four seasons at AAA (17-29 with a 4.23 ERA and 360 strikeouts over 410.1 innings). Over seven seasons in the minors, Voth had a 3.69 ERA and 754 strikeouts over 810.1 innings.

Last year, his AFB (92.5) fell below the league average while having success with his curveball (.163 BAA) and show-me changeup (.125 BAA). Voth served up a batting practice four-seam fastball (.328 with nine home runs over 125 at-bats).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Coming through the early days in the minors, Voth owned an upside changeup, which hasn’t developed with Washington. He did ticker with a split-finger fastball in 2020, but he threw it only 13 times. At age 28, his window in the majors is closing fast. Voth will be in the mix for the fifth starting job in March.

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SP Seth Romero

The best hope for success in the fifth starting for the Nationals lies in Romero's left arm, despite only 47.1 career innings in the minors (4.37 ERA and 69 strikeouts).

Romero worked as a starter and late-inning arm in his first season in college. He went 7-4 with a 1.94 ERA and 92 strikeouts over 83.1 innings. Over the next two years, he went 10-9 with a 2.71 ERA and 198 strikeouts over 143 innings while losing time due to a suspension and a fight in 2017 (kicked off the team).

A left injury that required TJ surgery led to Romero missing all of 2019.

Washington gave him three relief appearances last season. In his major league debut, he allowed four runs, six baserunners, and one home run over 1.2 innings.

His AFB (92.3) was below the league average. His best pitch is a swing and miss slider while also owning a changeup that projects to be better than the league average.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: At age 24, Romero has no experience at AA or AAA. He’ll strike out plenty of batters, but his command still needs plenty of work. Possible fast-mover in spring training and Washington doesn’t have anyone blocking at the major league level.

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CL Brad Hand

Hand was the second tier closer to own in 2020. He led the American League in games finished (21) and saves (16) while posting the lowest walk rate (1.6), ERA (2.05), and WHIP (0.773) of his career.

In 2019, Hand had a productive season while showing improved command (2.8 walks per nine). Hidden behind his numbers was a couple of bad months of pitching. From June 25th to August 21st, Hand had an 8.10 ERA, 2.160 WHIP, and four home runs allowed over 16.2 innings. Over this period, he blew five of 12 save tries.

His AFB (91.6) was down about 1.3 MPH from 2019, which came after losing 1.4 MPH from his 2018 fastball (94.2 MPH). Hand has the best success with his slider (.200 BAA), and his four-seam fastball (.162 BAA) was tougher to hit in 2020.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Since moving to the ninth inning in 2017, Hand has a 2.61 ERA, 323 strikeouts, and 103 saves over 230.2 innings. There has to be a concern with his fading fastball paired with disaster in 2019 and up and down success with his command in his career. His ADP (138) is lower than 2020 (105) after posting an excellent season. Buy his closing resume while hoping for a rebound in velocity – 3.00 ERA, 90 strikeouts, and 35 saves.

One note to think about, Hand allowed a 57.1 percent fly-ball rate in 2020 (37.1 in his career), but he didn’t allow a home run. That trend won’t be repeated over 162 games.

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RP Daniel Hudson

Despite an excellent finish to 2020 with the Nationals (1.44 ERA, 23 strikeouts, and six saves over 25 innings) plus a World Series-clinching save, Hudson had a rough ride last year. Over his first 11 games, he picked six saves with no runs allowed in nine games. Unfortunately, two disaster games (seven runs, seven baserunners, and three home runs over 1.1 innings) crushed his ERA.

Over his final 10 appearances, his arm continued on a path of inconsistency, leading to a 6.52 ERA. Hudson allowed six home runs over 20.2 innings with a significant drop in his walk rate (4.8).

His AFB (96.7) has been elite over the previous six seasons. His slider and changeup lost value compared to 2020. Batters did have a tough time vs. his four-seam fastball (.161 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Big-fastball arm that should have a higher ceiling with better command. Hudson has a 4.20 ERA as a reliever in his career with 27 saves. He projects as a seventh-inning arm in 2021.

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RP Tanner Rainey

Rainey started his minor league career as a starter. After struggling at single-A (5.57 ERA) in 2016, he was transitioned to a closing role. Over 131 innings from 2017 to 2019, Rainey went 12-7 with a 3.09 ERA, 201 strikeouts, and 18 saves over 131 innings. Walks (5.3 per nine) have been a problem in the minors.

Over the last two seasons with the Nationals, he has 3.54 ERA and 106 strikeouts over 68.2 innings while walking 5.9 batters a game. In 2020, Rainey had the best command (3.1 walks per nine) of his career. Batters only hit .213 against him, but he allowed four home runs over 20.1 innings.

His AFB (96.9) is top shelf while offering a plus slider (.108 BAA) and tough to hit four-seam fastball (.230 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Rainey has a “wild thing” feel that holds him back from pitching in the 9th inning. His season ended last year with a forearm issue, which is something to follow. He has a developing arm once Rainey throws more strikeouts. 

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2021 Fantasy Baseball Team Outlooks

American League

East: BAL / BOS / NYY / TAM / TOR
Central: CWS / CLE / DET / KC / MIN
West: HOU / LAA / OAK / SEA / TEX

National League

East: ATL / MIA / NYM / PHI / WAS
Central: CHC / CIN / MIL / PIT / STL
West: ARI / COL / LAD / SD / SF