Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
The Nationals are the best team in baseball. Hands down. Mark it eight, dude.
Washington's batting order is as versatile as they come. Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth will supply power. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa will provide power and speed. Denard Span will be the leadoff man and center fielder the Nats wish they had in 2012.
No single member of Washington's starting nine should be overlooked, but Harper should be the star of the show in 2013. He had the greatest season ever by a 19-year-old, and it finished with him slugging .690 over his final 34 games. He could be the second 20-year-old to hit 40 homers, joining Mel Ott.
Washington's pitching staff is just as dangerous as its offense. Stephen Strasburg will contend for the Cy Young in 2013 after managing a 3.16 ERA and an 11.1 K/9 in his first (somewhat) full season. Gio Gonzalez finally became an ace thanks to sharpened control in 2012. Jordan Zimmermann has the stuff to be an ace on most other staffs, and Dan Haren will be an ace-level pitcher if his health holds.
The signing of Rafael Soriano took Washington's bullpen from being a moderate strength to being a major strength. He's not Craig Kimbrel, but he's generally been durable and has saved over 40 games in two of the last three seasons. He'll have two dangerous setup men in Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen forming a bridge to him.
The Nationals were baseball's best team in 2012, of course. All the while, the only real knock against them was that they were inexperienced upstarts. After getting their feet wet in the postseason and coming a couple of outs shy of the NLCS, that knock no longer applies.
Washington should see its first World Series in decades in 2013, and the Nats are easily the safest pick to win it all.
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