Thanks to some quirks in the early season schedule, Joe Ross finally takes the bump for the Nationals in 2017 today. Ross hopes to build on the positives from 2016, while avoiding the injuries that cut his previous season short. As the youngest member of the Nationals’ starting rotation, there are plenty of positive signs for Cool Joe Ross but some causes for concern as well heading into 2017.
It’s obviously early in the season — small sample size and all that — but there are some Nationals who have clearly started the season hot and others… who have not. So let’s pick a couple Nats who are hot right now, and some who are not and figure out if they will stay that way.
Mad Max is back. After a stress fracture in his throwing hand slowed him down, the reigning Cy Young winner will finally take the mound for the Nationals in 2017. He didn’t pitch Opening Day for the Nationals in DC, but he will pitch Opening Day in Philadelphia. As fun as it would be to see Max mowing down batters in DC on the first day of the season, it might be even more fun to see him shutting down the Phillies in their home ball park.
Gio Gonzalez had a roller coaster of a 2016 season, and it ended with his worst stats ever as a National. He ended with a 4.57 ERA, by far his worst during his tenure in DC. As a result, Gio found himself on the trade block during the offseason as the Nationals searched for upgrades in the bullpen and at catcher. In the end, Gonzalez stayed put in DC and he will try and turn things around in 2017 as he takes the mound for the first time this season.
Coming off of a disappointing 2015 spent shuttling between the bullpen and the starting rotation, it felt like Tanner Roark was the forgotten man in the Nationals’ 2016 rotation. All Roark went on to do was post the sixth-lowest ERA in baseball among qualified starting pitchers. Not bad for a guy who throws in the low 90s and was never a top prospect.
Opening Day is here, and the Nationals will hand the ball to Stephen Strasburg to kick off the 2017 season. After a series of starts and stops in his career, Strasburg is hoping 2017 is the year it all comes together.
After a solid career as an Oriole, Matt Wieters made the (usually not so) quick drive 95 to DC and will be donning the curly W in 2017. Wieters has some big shoes to fill as he steps in to take the place of Wilson Ramos. While Wieters is a consistent ball player, he won’t be able to replicate Ramos’ success.
Ryan Zimmerman was one of the worst everyday players in baseball in 2016. As a proud owner of a vintage Zimmerman “Natinals”-era shirsey, it pains me to admit that. But it was true. Yet 2016 is over and the 2017 season is right around the corner. Is there any hope that Zimmerman can turn things around?
Trea Turner might have been the most exciting story coming out of the 2016 season. Sure, Max Scherzer won a Cy Young award, but he’s expected to be one of the best pitchers in baseball year in and year out. The Nationals did make the playoffs, but by coming up short in the NLDS yet again, it’s not something many fans are celebrating. Turner, though, made a huge impact on the field in only 73 games in 2016 and incited a wave of enthusiasm for his upcoming 2017 season. But MLB history is full of one-year wonders, so is Turner destined for greatness in 2017 or has the bar been set too high?
While most players go through slumps and hot streaks during the season, Daniel Murphy just plain hit in 2016. He hit for average. He hit for power. He set the table. He was clutch. Though he was the Nats’ backup plan at second base before the 2016 season, he ended up being in the conversation for the National League MVP at its conclusion.