No Rendon, No Problem? Oddsmakers expect Nats to compete for another championship in 2020

July 1, 2020 12:40 AM

Last season was a storybook year for the Washington Nationals. After starting a lackluster 19-31 through their first 50 games, the Nats caught fire the rest of the way, going 74-38 to finish 93-69 en route to a wild-card berth. Washington then took the postseason by storm. The Nats beat the Brewers in dramatic fashion in the one game playoff, took down the Dodgers in five games in the divisional round, swept the Cardinals in the NL Championship and then defeated the Astros in seven games to win their first World Series in franchise history. The Nationals' predecessor, the Washington Senators, last won a World Series in 1924. 

Washington had to make some tough decisions this offseason. They re-signed ace and World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg (18-6, 3.32 ERA in 2019) to a massive 7-year, $245 million deal but decided to let star third baseman Anthony Rendon (.319, 34 homers, 126 RBI) walk in free agency, where he signed a megadeal with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Nats kept the rest of their core intact, re-signing World Series hero and utilityman Howie Kendrick, infielder Asdrubal Cabrera and reliever Daniel Hudson. Washington added second baseman Starlin Castro, first baseman Eric Thames and reliever Will Harris in free agency. Longtime first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and fringe starter Joe Ross will sit out the shortened 60-game season due to concerns over Coronavirus. 

Here is the expected 2020 Nats starting lineup according to RotoChamp

1. Victor Robles OF

2. Adam Eaton OF

3. Trea Turner SS

4. Juan Soto OF

5. Howie Kendrick DH

6. Starlin Castro 2B

7. Eric Thames 1B

8. Kurt Suzuki C

9. Carter Kieboom 3B

The strength of the Nats remains their deep and talented starting rotation, where they return all five starters in 2020. The extra time off and shortened season could greatly benefit the Washington starters, who pitched deep into October in 2019.

Here is Washington's projected starting five

1. Stephen Strasburg

2. Max Scherzer

3. Patrick Corbin

4. Anibal Sanchez

5. Eric Fedde/Austin Voth

In the bullpen, Washington will rely on closers Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson, along with free agent addition Will Harris and Tanner Rainey as the primary setup men.

So what do the oddsmakers think of the Nats' chances in 2020?

At BetMGM, Washington's regular season win total is 33.5 (-110 both sides). This would translate to roughly 90.5 wins over the course of a 162-game season. At 33.5 games, the Nats are tied with the Braves and Rays for the 5th highest win total of any MLB team, trailing only the Dodgers (37.5), Yankees (37.5), Astros (34.5) and Twins (34.5)

FanGraphs, widely regarded as the top site for advanced baseball analytics, is projecting Washington to go 33-27, which puts them right at their win total mark.

In terms of division odds, the Nats are + 240 to win the National League East, trailing only the Atlanta Braves at + 180. The Mets and Phillies are both + 325 followed by the Marlins at a distant + 15000.

Washington has the third best odds to win the NL Pennant at + 1000. The Dodgers are the favorite at + 150 and the Braves are the runner up at + 600.

The Nats are + 2000 to repeat as champions and win the World Series, tied with the Rays for the 6th-best odds overall. Only the Dodgers (+ 350), Yankees (+ 400), Astros (+ 800), Braves (+ 1400) and Twins (+ 1600) have better odds. 

In terms of awards, Juan Soto is + 1100 to win NL MVP, trailing only Mookie Betts (+ 500), Ronald Acuna Jr (+ 600), Cody Bellinger (+ 700) and Christian Yelich (+ 800). Soto is only 21-years-old and is coming off a breakout season in which he hit .282 with 34 homers and 110 RBI. 

Strasburg and Scherzer are both in the top 5 for NL Cy Young odds. Scherzer is + 450 and Strasburg is + 1100. The favorite is Jacob deGrom at + 280. Patrick Corbin has the 8th-best odds at + 2500. 

Scherzer is the favorite to lead the NL in strikeouts at + 280. Strasburg is 4th at + 900 and Corbin 7th at + 1400. In 2019, deGrom led the NL in strikeouts with 255, followed by Strasburg 251, Scherzer 243 and Corbin 238.

Scherzer is + 800 to lead the NL in wins, tied with Clayton Kershaw for the top odds overall. Strasburg is + 1600 and Corbin + 2500.

The Nationals open the season on Thursday July 23 at home against the Yankees. With Gerrit Cole expected to face either Strasburg or Sherzer, the Yanks are listed as short -130 road favorites with the Nats a + 110 home dog. The total is 7.5 with heavy -120 under juice (+ 100 over).

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