At the end of 2020, we outlined five big picture storylines that Nationals fans need to focus on this year. While some of the storylines are the same, it is worth taking a closer look at them now that Mike Rizzo has made some moves.
Here are some of the stories that we will be paying attention to during Spring Training and into Opening Day. One important note, these storylines aren’t ranked in order of importance, but rather just some overall thoughts.
Story Line 5: Which Players will stand out during Spring Training?
It’s always fun to see which players will stand out (in a good way, of course) during Spring Training. It will be interesting to see how the players come together with the new faces in the clubhouse during a very unconventional Spring Training. Let’s hope that there are no camels that appear during camp and more of smashing watermelons!
Story Line 4: What is the Identity of the 2021 Washington Nationals Team?
The Washington Nationals roster had significant turnover during the past two seasons. This spring, Washington will have a lot of new faces in the clubhouse and many will need to be important contributors right away if the team is to return to the postseason. The roster has a mix of players with varying ages and experience, but is it the winning formula? While the team’s identity might not come into focus over Spring Training, Nationals fans will get an idea if they’re in store for a whole lot of heartbreak.
Storyline 3: Prospects
There are a lot of great prospects that are going to be making an appearance at Spring Training. I am not sure if any of them will be making the team for the 2021 season, especially since there was no minor league season in 2020. However, it should be fun to see their performance against some everyday players, and start to track their development.
Storyline 2: The Future of Juan Soto and Trea Turner
Besides pitching, Juan Soto and Trea Turner‘s future with the Washington Nationals has to be one of the most interesting storylines that we will focus on during the upcoming season. It affects the Nationals both on and off the field.
With the addition of Kyle Schwarber, Juan Soto is going to be shifting to right field, a position he hasn’t played regularly since he was in the minors. If Soto can (and I am sure that he will) master that position, will it increase his value and put additional pressure on the Nationals? There have already been talks between the Washington Nationals and Juan Soto for an early contract extension. Hopefully, something will materialize so that Nationals fans can rest easy knowing Soto will be in Washington for the foreseeable future.
We all know how vital he is to the Nationals on and off the field and at the plate. You don’t have to look back very far to see the difference between how Washington performed with and without him back in 2019. Can Turner further cement his place with the Nationals and make ownership open up their wallets to extend his time at Nationals Park?
Storyline 1: Pitching, Pitching, Pitching
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that has followed the Washington Nationals over the past few years that Rizzo and Co’s offseason moves were focused on pitching. While this approach worked in 2019 and not so much in 2020, 2021 is a new year and a new season. Will the additions of Brad Hand and Jon Lester bring the pitching back to its 2019 form? Will Rizzo’s focus on pitching pay off and take the Nationals to the promised land again, or will it backfire?
Edited by: Jonathan Mailloux