By Sam Bush
In Vegas, the Nationals are only the third-best fave to win the NL Pennant — at +700 behind the Dodgers and Braves.
The Nats are undervalued. Last year, they were a team of destiny that crawled out of multiple holes to become an unlikely champion. This year, they’ve got a ton of big-game experience under their belts and will come back with a roster that’s on par with last season’s.
Yes, they lost arguably their best hitter in Anthony Rendon, but I think it’s fair to expect the next steps in the progression of Juan Soto and Victor Robles. Even if they don’t take that big leap, offense isn’t an issue for this team as they finished third in runs scored in the second half.
Their biggest area of improvement was the seemingly never-ending joke that is their bullpen, which ranked dead last in ERA with the fifth-most blown saves during the regular season. They oddly improved that bullpen almost on the fly as they were steady enough to not get obliterated in the playoffs. That momentum, along with the addition of Will Harris coming over from the Astros, should make the pen issues a thing of the past.
The improved bullpen should help them punch a ticket to the playoffs, where they’ll have a big advantage with the best starting rotation in the NL.