After winning 98 games last season, the Nationals are set to take on 2013 with legitimate World Series aspirations. They are a year older, should have Stephen Strasburg for a full season, and made minor tweaks to improve their roster. With what they currently have on paper, the Nats have become favorites for many to win it all.
Just take the latest Sports Illustrated for example, where a collection of their baseball writers have chosen the Nationals to beat the Rays in the World Series. SI also predicts Stephen Strasburg for Cy Young and Bryce Harper to win the N.L. MVP. The games top team prize and two best individual honors? That would be a pretty good season.
Here is their regional cover featuring Strasburg:
The Nationals ace is appearing on the publication for the second time, he graced the cover after his rookie debut with the headline 'National Treasure.' His teammate Bryce Harper had his second SI cover appearance just a few weeks ago as part of their spring training preview.
In this particular issue, Sports Illustrated's writers gush over the Nationals and what they can do this season. They compare them to Davey Johnson's 1986 New York Mets as Tom Verducci writes:
"Like the ’86 Mets, the 2013 Nationals are the best team on paper at the start of the season. And like that championship team, Washington has young power pitching, a deep bullpen with multiple closers, a blend of power and speed, and an unmistakable swagger."
Those Mets won 108 games and the World Series, so basically SI thinks the Nationals are capable of a historic season. They don't expect the Nats to just win it all, they predict near total domination.
Predictions rarely come true in sports and the Braves, Dodgers, and Reds may have something to say about the Nats even getting out of the National League. Oh, and the Giants will be back after winning two of the last three titles. But you can't argue entirely with what Sports Illustrated is projecting. At least on paper, the Nats may be the best team in baseball, Strasburg is a special talent, and no one is betting against Harper after his spring.