3 BOLD Predictions For The 2018 Washington Nationals

Happy Opening Day baseball friends!  After many months of battling cold temperatures and evenings without the soothing voices of Bob and F.P., Washington Nationals baseball returns today.

One of the many great things about Opening Day is the sense of optimism it brings with it – spring in Washington can be truly beautiful and the beginning of a baseball season leads one to think of the endless possibilities over 162 games.  Naturally, this leads fans to start making predictions for what will occur.

So I figured for my debut MASN article, I would make 3 bold predictions, plus a few honorable mentions, for the Nationals’ 2018 season.  Additionally, I hope this inspires you to share your prognostications in the comment’s section below.

#1           Adam Eaton Hits 20+ Home Runs

Washington’s big offseason acquisition prior to last season, Eaton was off to a breakthrough offensive season for the Nationals in 2017, hitting .297/.393/.462 over 23 games.  Unfortunately a fluke knee injury occurred running to first base, abruptly ending his season.  Now with nearly a year for his knee to recover and to build up his body, I am expecting a monster season for Eaton, with 20+ home runs and 55+ extra base hits.  Eaton’s career season high is 14 home runs, which he could match prior to the All-Star game.

#2           Jeremy Hellickson Wins 10+ Games As The 5th Starter

In a relatively quiet winter for all of baseball, one of my favorite low-cost gambles was the Nationals signing of Jeremy Hellickson to a minor league contract.  Washington was seeking a low-cost 5th starter in case young pitchers A.J. Cole or Erick Fedde were not ready for the job, while Hellickson will look to rebound in the National League, pitching half his games against the mediocre National League East.  I am not projecting a return to his 2016 numbers in Philadelphia when he posted a 12-10 record with a 3.71 ERA and 154 strikeouts over 189 innings; however, I see little reason he cannot approximate his career NL numbers of a 4.27 ERA over 447.1 innings pitched.

The Nationals have done quite well in recent seasons finding valuable contributors on minor league contracts (remember Matt Albers, Matt Belisle and Hector Carrasco) and I believe Hellickson to be the next example, providing Washington with 10 wins, a 4.20 ERA and 150+ innings while solidifying the 5th starter spot.

#3           Tanner Roark Returns To Form

Roark struggled through a difficult 2017, as he spent spring training with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and received irregular work throughout the tournament.  This caused him to start the season slowly and he never seemed to find his groove all year.  I attribute much of his poor 2017 to his unconventional spring.  This season Roark has had a full spring to prepare in West Palm Beach, and has made some mechanical adjustments in his delivery to improve his command.  Roark gets overlooked in a rotation with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, but I expect him to rebound with 15 wins and an ERA in the low-3s this season.

Honorable Mention Predictions ->             Bryce Harper hits a Home Run on Opening Day.  Victor Robles permanently joins the Nationals on Mother’s Day weekend.  Stephen Strasburg throws a no-hitter in 2018.  And finally, Washington wins 92 games this season and wins their 1st playoff series!

*Previously published on 3/30 on MASNsports.com!

Scouting The MLB Draft – Logan Gilbert Stetson University

Logan Gilbert           RHP Stetson University                      Evaluated 3/23/18

Fastball (50/60)         Curveball (45/55)         Slider (40/45)      Changeup (35/40)

The junior serves as the Friday starter for Stetson University and has legitimate professional potential.  Gilbert is truly a “Mountain of a Man”, as he is listed at 6-6 225lbs and I would suggest he is closer to 245lbs.  He is well-built but will need to be aware of his conditioning.  Gilbert has long limbs that he utilizes to get impressive extension toward home plate.  He throws from a traditional 3/4s arm slot and repeats his mechanics fairly well both in the stretch and windup.  Gilbert has a quiet, one-step windup into a letter-high leg-lift and a medium effort delivery.  For his size, he fields his position well and does a nice job holding runners.

Gilbert features a 4-pitch repertoire consisting of a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup.  His fastball sat at 90-92mph, touching 94mph three times, with natural cutting action away from righties.  Despite the cold, windy weather, Gilbert commanded his fastball low in the strike zone and to both sides of the plate.  The pitch was “50/55” quality in this viewing, although I expect it to play as a “60” under normal conditions.

His curveball (73-76mph) has the traditional 12-6 shape with late tumbling action and he can bury the pitch in the dirt or throw it for strikes.  The slider (79-81mph) showed 1-plane break and moved harshly away from righties.  He throws it for strikes but it does not profile as a swing-and-miss offering but rather a pitch that catches the corner or induces weak contact.  Finally he threw only three changeups (80-83mph) in this outing and the results were solid, inducing a whiff, a meek ground ball to shortstop and a called strike.  The pitch obviously fooled hitters, yet the pitch did not particularly impress with the movement or quality of the offering, projecting as a future “40”.

Gilbert is a high-level collegiate pitcher and one of the better prospects I have seen in several years.  His fastball and curveball both project as above-average pitches, and there is potential either (or both) the changeup or slider get to average.  This arsenal, combined with a tremendous physique and natural extension in his delivery, allows him to profile as a mid-rotation major league starter.  Gilbert projects as a mid-to-late 1st round pick this June.

THE NatsGM Show #125 – Guest Carlos Collazo

Baseball America author Carlos Collazo makes his debut appearance on THE NatsGM Show to discuss the Nationals’ farm system, the 2018 MLB Draft and the recent minor league pace-of-play initiatives.  He breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of the system, plus several top Nats’ prospects like Victor Robles, Luis Garcia & Yasel Antuna.  Carlos then talks about the upcoming June draft, the depth of college pitching and some prospects with helium.  Finally he gives some quick thoughts on baseball’s unpopular measures to speed up minor league baseball.

Thanks to Carlos for joining the show and to you for downloading – Please Rate & Review the show on Apple Podcasts and Follow us @Nats_GM!

THE NatsGM Show Special – A Recap of the 2018 Nats Clubhouse Social

Last Thursday evening the Washington Nationals invited me (Ryan) and a guest (Producer Josh Owens) to their Nats Clubhouse Social event.  Because the evening was such fun and Josh has never appeared on-air, we thought we would briefly recap the festivities in audio form.

A special “Thank You” to Valerie Camillo, Sarah Perucci and the Washington Nationals for including us!  Below are some pictures from this wonderful night…