The Nationals have won the National League East two seasons in a row and are favored to win their third straight division title in 2018.
MLB Network analyst Dan O’Dowd, a former major league general manager with the Rockies, feels very good about the Nationals’ chances, as long as Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg can survive the rigors of a long season and are close to 100 percent healthy come Oct. 1.
“I believe this is their season. I believe they are going to get over the hump this year,” O’Dowd said. “They got have health. If they (go) long periods of time without health, then no organization (can win). They are going to win the division. If they have health at the right time, then this is a club that should be competing in the World Series this year. They have that kind of a talent and that kind of experience now on the team.”
O’Dowd likes what the Mets have done to fortify their roster, and he believes that is a team that could give the Nats fits again. The Mets are the last team besides the Nats to win the division, making it to the 2015 World Series.
As for the National League as a whole, O’Dowd thinks the Dodgers have something to prove after coming within a game of the title last season.
“I think the Mets are going to be good,” O’Dowd said. “I don’t think the Mets have to score a ton of runs. I think that pitching staff is that dominant, but I still don’t think they are anywhere close to the talent on the Nats. I believe the best two teams in the National League are the Dodgers and the Nats. I believe they are the most talented and most deep teams.”
There are always the questions of Bryce Harper in 2018 with his opportunity at free agency looming at the end of the season. Will this be his last season with the Nats? What will it take to keep him in D.C.? Would winning the world championship affect Harper’s decision?
“I think Bryce Harper is going to have one of those stupid, ridiculous years going into his walk year,” O’Dowd said. “He’s one of those unique, talented players. When he maintains his focus for a long period of time, there’s no telling what he might do, and he’s got a lot of at stake this year because platform years are exceptionally important going into free agency.
“I think the Nationals will have a chance to keep him there, but I think they will be competing against a lot of clubs, so they better have backup plans in place.”