Washington Nationals 2019 Betting Odds, Preview: No Harper, No Problem
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Washington Nationals
outfielders Juan Soto and Victor Robles.
- The Washington Nationals watched their franchise star Bryce Harper head to Philadelphia in free agency, but they still have one of the best outfields in baseball with Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Adam Eaton.
- By adding Patrick Corbin to a rotation that already includes Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, they potentially have the best trio of starters in the MLB, which bodes well for them if they can fight through the NL East and make the postseason.
- Harper's middle-of-the-lineup presence will be missed, but their lineup is still loaded with above-average bats.
Original analysis published on Feb. 25.
The Nationals had Bryce Harper for seven seasons and didn’t make it past the NLDS. A disappointing run if you really think about it. Now, they’re at risk of watching him bring a World Series title to Philadelphia.
Don’t shrug Washington off, though. The Nats are still a mighty fine team. They’ve added Patrick Corbin, Brian Dozier, Trevor Rosenthal and others. They have a stud prospect about to join Juan Soto in the outfield. After a disappointing 82-80 season, they are certainly set up for a bounce-back year.
- Record: 82-80 (-19.0 units, 3rd worst), 77-84 ATS (-12.9 units)
- Over/Under Record: 76-81-4
- Preseason World Series Odds: +800
- Win Total: 93.5
- Most Profitable Starter: Jefry Rodriguez (5-3, +1.9 units)
Not all records add up to 162 games due to suspended game.
The Nats fell way short of expectations last year, but why? Well, turns out luck was a big factor, as their Pythagorean record was eight games better than their actual record — tied for the second unluckiest differential in the league.
Though Harper didn’t have an exceptional season, most of their position players fared quite well. Other than Max Scherzer, most of their pitching staff probably wished they would have done better, though.
- World Series Odds: +1200
- Division Odds: +225
- Win Total O/U: 89
- Playoff Odds: Make +105, Miss -125
Despite losing Harper, the Nationals are still a very good team. Earlier in the offseason, I saw them with World Series odds of 20-1. Alas, I did not have an account at that book at the time. If you have a chance to take them at that, fire away. There are still some +1600s floating around, which also look pretty good to me.
(3/4 update: I found another book with them at +2000, which I bet on)
I’m staying away from the win totals for all the NL East contenders, but will be shopping around to find a team or two to win the division. The Mets at +300 look like solid value, and if the Nats move to the +250 range, I’d like that, too.
(3/4 update: The Nationals have moved to +300 at some books to win the division, which I bet on.)
- Additions: Patrick Corbin, Brian Dozier, Kurt Suzuki, Yan Gomes, Kyle Barraclough, Matt Adams, Anibal Sanchez, Trevor Rosenthal, Tanner Rainey, Tony Sipp, Henderson Alvarez (minors), J.J. Hoover (minors), Vidal Nuno (minors), Brandon Snyder (minors)
- Subtractions: Bryce Harper, Kelvin Herrera, Matt Wieters, Tanner Roark, Mark Reynolds, Greg Holland, Joaquin Benoit, Tim Collins, Jefry Rodriguez, Trevor Gott, Pedro Severino, Sammy Solis
- Potential Lineup
- Adam Eaton – RF
- Trea Turner – SS
- Juan Soto – LF
- Anthony Rendon – 3B
- Ryan Zimmerman/Matt Adams – 1B
- Brian Dozier – 2B
- Yan Gomes/Kurt Suzuki – C
- Victor Robles – CF
- Projected Rotation
- Max Scherzer
- Stephen Strasburg
- Patrick Corbin
- Anibal Sanchez
- Jeremy Hellickson
- Prospect Watch: Victor Robles (No. 4, OF), James Bourque (Unranked, RHP), Tanner Rainey (Unranked, RHP), Raudy Read (Unranked, C)
- Key Injuries: Michael A. Taylor (Knee/hip, return TBD), Howie Kendrick (Hamstring, early 2019), Koda Glover (Forearm, return TBD)
- MVP Candidates: Anthony Rendon (+2500), Juan Soto (+3000), Max Scherzer (+5000), Trea Turner (+6000), Victor Robles (+10000)
- Cy Young Candidates: Max Scherzer (+250), Patrick Corbin (+2000), Stephen Strasburg (+2500)
Player(s) to Watch: Juan Soto and Victor Robles
Get used to these two names. Juan Soto and Victor Robles are set to be a force in the Nats’ outfield for years to come.
You’re already familiar with the former. At age 19, Soto broke numerous records for a teenager last year. In 2017, Soto reached Single-A. It took him just 39 games between Single-A, High-A and Double-A last year before he was promoted to the majors.
After posting an OPS of .923 in nearly 500 major league plate appearances, I think it’s safe to say everyone has lofty expectations for him now that he’s 20.
Steamer projects him to be the 6th best hitter in the majors this year, only behind Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, J.D. Martinez, Giancarlo Stanton and Mookie Betts. Not a shabby list of fellas. One thing to keep an eye on his his ground ball rate. Forget the launch angle craze, says Juan.
I’m not betting against Juan Soto — that’d be crazy — but the ground ball rates (54% overall, 62% against lefties, 58% with two strikes, 20th most) do stick out.
— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) February 24, 2019
Since 2002 (as far as Fangraphs’ batted ball data goes back), there have been 336 qualified hitters with an OPS of .900 or higher in a season. Seven of them have had a ground ball rate over 50%:
- Christian Yelich (2018, 51.8%, 1.000)
- Shawn Green (2002, 51.2%, .944)
- Tommy Pham (2017, 51.7%, .931)
- DJ Lemahieu (2016, 50.6%, .911)
- Bernie Williams (2002, 50.2%, .908)
- Ryan Braun (2016, 55.7%, .903)
- Derek Jeter (2006, 59.4%, .900)
Soto wasn’t quite qualified, but as you can see, these type of seasons are an anomaly. Hopefully for his sake, those ground balls decrease, as Washington will be counting on him not to have a sophomore slump.
Taking Harper’s spot in the outfield is Robles. The No. 4 prospect in the MLB behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eloy Jimenez, Robles is a speedy center fielder who impressed in a 21-game stint last year.
Scouts have pegged him with 70-grade (on a 20-80 scale) field, arm and speed tools. While Soto is more of a pure hitter, Robles could be an all-around stud. Think Lorenzo Cain. He’s not going to be a middle of the order power bat, but he will provide value at the plate, on the basepaths and in the outfield.
These two outfielders, along with Adam Eaton, should mitigate the loss of Harper.
Pitcher to Watch: Patrick Corbin
Harper was arguably the best position player on the market this offseason, while the same could be said about Patrick Corbin among the available pitchers. Though many believed he would go to the Yankees or Phillies, it was the Nats who surprisingly landed him early this winter.
Corbin is nowhere near as big of a name as Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg, but he could be just as good as either of them this year.
The 29-year-old southpaw is coming off a career year that helped him command $140 million from the Nats. His 3.15 ERA wasn’t overwhelmingly dominant for a National League pitcher, but his 11.07 K/9 and 2.16 BB/9 suggest he can repeat it or even be better.
Corbin has 3.5 seasons under his belt since undergoing Tommy John and has slowly improved in several vitally important statistical categories.
The Nats are obviously banking on the fact that he doesn’t regress back to his 2016 days, but I don’t think that will happen.
With Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin, the Nats have an elite top-3 in their rotation that will allow them to compete in any playoff series if they can get there.
Though the Harper-era is done for, the Nationals seem content with moving on to their next group of stars.
Even without him, their lineup is quite formidable. Anthony Rendon, though often overshadowed by Harper during his career, has been the seventh best position player in the game over the past three years per fWAR.
Trea Turner is an excellent all-around player who can wreak havoc on the basepaths along with Robles. Though he’s coming off a down year, Brian Dozier is a risk worth taking on a 1-year deal. He hit 76 combined dingers with the Twins between 2016 and 2017 and could be the team’s best power source this year.
Washington’s bullpen leaves a little to be desired after Sean Doolittle, but that can always be improved at the deadline.
Don’t let the loss of Harper get in your head. The Nationals are one of the best teams in baseball.
All odds via Westgate SuperBook as of Feb. 22
Transactions accurate as of Mar. 25. Free agents deemed subtractions until they re-sign