Nats Fail to Sign Second Rounder This past Friday was the deadline to sign draft picks and the Washington Nationals failed to sign their second round pick, Andrew Suarez. Suarez will return to The University of Miami for his senior season. His decision to not sign may not be the best for him as he had arm issues coming into the draft and their will be plenty of college juniors and high school seniors in next years draft. College seniors are normally seen as safe picks that aren't difficult to sign and so go in later rounds. Suarez will need to have a very good season to better his draft position and with the new slotting system that is what he's going to have to do to get more money than the Nationals offered. As far as the Nationals perspective they lost out on a second round pick this season but get an extra second round pick in next year's draft and with the state of the Nationals big league team filling the system with talent now as opposed to next season doesn't make that big of a difference.
The Healthy Nats
Since Bryce Harper returned on June 30 the Washington Nationals have gone 10-5 and averaged 5.2 runs a game. The pitching has been good as well over that span allowing 3.5 runs a game. While a .666 winning percentage is likely not sustainable the Nationals have been playing very well for longer than the past fifteen games. Going back to when they started to get fully healthy with Ryan Zimmerman's return on June 3 the Washington Nationals have gone 26-15 scoring 4.4 runs a game and allowing 3.1. That has led them to a .634 winning percentage and if they can keep that up in their final 66 games they will finish with 95 wins. The Washington Nationals are a very good team and are finally a healthy team. The roster can be tweaked but big changes likely aren't needed and even if they ride the bench of veterans out until the end of the season it is unlikely all of them make the playoff roster if the Nats make it there.
The Trade Deadline is Coming
As mentioned above there could be some minor changes coming for the Nationals. The biggest weakness for the Nationals right now is lead-off hitter and that is more a product of batting Denard Span there than anything else, but Span has been hot lately batting .382/.432/.412 over the past 14 days and .309/.378/.383 over the last 28 raising his season batting line to a respectable .279/.328/.393. For the past month Denard Span has been the lead-off hitter the Nationals need him to be and with his career splits indicating he is better in the second half of the season there is no reason to think he can't continue to be productive.
With Span being hot over the last month the Nationals don't need much at the deadline except to perhaps improve the bench, but that doesn't require a trade and Souza Jr, Walters, and even Tyler Moore have been productive in AAA and could provide a boost to the Nats bench. While a trade for Beltre or Utley likely improves the team the benching of Span could send the wrong message to the rest of the team and while the improved production would likely balance out any negative clubhouse reactions messing with the Nationals while they're playing so well is not the best of moves. In other words the best deadline deal the Nats are going to make have already happened with Bryce Harper's return to the line-up and changed batting stance and Span finding his lead-off stroke.
The Nats aren't as Gritty as you Think
Matt Williams and Washington columnists talk about the Nats team having grit, but Matt Williams almost seems too pleased to give the media the story they want and the stats show the Washington Nationals play more like an Oakland A's moneyball team than a Dusty Baker grit show. The Nats are first in stolen base percent at 85% ahead of only the Oakland A's at 82%, the Nats have made the 10th fewest outs on the bases and three less than the Oakland A's, and finally the Nats have the second fewest number of non-pitcher bunts, only one more than the Oakland A's. People like to think the Nationals give away outs but when you add it all up the most outs they've given away are from their pitchers and that is more of a product of being a National League team than anything else. When the numbers are broken down the Washington Nationals have actually given away fewer outs than the Oakland A's.
Nats Have no Stars
If you think the above it is because you're looking at the wrong stats, the very wrong stats. Tanner Roark is the only Washington National in the top 20 in pitchers wins and the Washington Nationals have no players in the top 20 in the NL in batting average. If this is how you judge who is a star player then please tell me what it was like to live without fire. While the Nationals don't have players in the top 20 in those two stats they have two pitchers (Roark and Zimmermann) in the top 20 in ERA with Stephen Strasburg just outside at 23 and the Nationals have Ian Desmond having hit the 7th most home runs in the NL and Desmond, Werth, and Rendon in the top 20 for RBI. While those stats aren't great for analyzing players they demonstrate that if you think the Nats have no star players then you really aren't looking.
By more advanced stats the Nationals have three pitchers (Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Roark) in the top fifteen in the NL in fWAR and FIP and have Werth and LaRoche in the top 20 in the NL in wOBA and Werth and Rendon in the top 20 in fWAR. I don't know what counts as being a star player but being one of the 15 or 20 best players in a league does it for me and that doesn't even count what the Nationals are going to get out of players who've missed significant time. The Nats may not have a player who is going to finish in the top five in voting for the MVP award and may have only had one all-star, but that doesn't mean they don't have players who aren't performing very well and putting up star quality performances.