The Washington Nationals are off to the best start in team history at 25-17 and are a half-game out of first place in the National League East behind the Atlanta Braves. Despite that, the Nats are ranked second in SI.com's MLB Power Rankings, and they're the highest ranked team in the NL. But that's not even the exciting news.
The folks over at SI.com like what they see from the Nats considering their laundry list of injuries, which has caused them to move up from the number six spot in the previous rankings. They like the Nats so much, in fact, they say, "it might not be a stretch: If guys like Mike Morse and Jayson Werth are healthy for the second half of the season, the nation's capital could have a legitimate World Series contender to root for in October."
It's not the first time that national baseball writers have written about the Nationals as playoff contenders, but it's the first time that I've read anyone seriously consider the Nats as a World Series contender. The team continues to have outstanding pitching success, and as the Power Rankings mention, they stand to get better with the return of Morse soon and Werth down the road. The Nats have been piecing together a lineup for most of the season with lingering injuries to key players like Morse, Werth, Drew Storen, Wilson Ramos, Brad Lidge, and Chien-Ming Wang. Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, and Rick Ankiel have all missed some time due to injuries this year, too.
It's still May, so a prediction like this certainly calls for cautious optimism. However, if this team can keep its pitchers healthy and get some key bats back into the lineup, the possibilities are endless. It's just now people outside of DC are realizing it.
(Screenshot from SI.com)
For me, the most encouraging thing is that The Nationals easily have the pieces and salary to make a move at the trade deadline. Also, most of the core pieces are very young and home grown. They are built like the Rays, but with a big market team salary capability. Jim Bowden was on MLB radio a few weeks ago talking about how Washington can have a Yankee/ Red Sox/ Phillies type of long term run of success. That is what makes me very excited.
This is why it is doubtful that Wang will be traded. Whether he stays in the bullpen or whether he replaces Detwiler in the rotation for now, the Nats will need both of them to be starting in September and October after Strasburg gets shut down. The cool part is, we'll still have an ace in Gio at that time. :)
@kkolchack I tend to agree about Wang. And you're right. You can do a lot worse than Gio, Zimmermann, and Edwin Jackson as a playoff rotation.