Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Nationals will begin the defense of their first NL East division championship. They'll do so with a roster that's likely better than last season's 98-win squad.
Like all teams, however, games aren't won on paper, and factors can alter a team's course in a hurry.
Worst-Case Record: 85-77
Even if the Nationals incur some injuries or encounter other performance-based issues, they'll be a .500-plus team. It's a roster that's deep and has backups capable of filling in.
Nonetheless, if an injury were to befall starter Stephen Strasburg, and hip issues cropped up for starter Dan Haren, that would seriously affect Washington's ability to repeat in the NL East.
Best-Case Record: 104-58
On paper, I don't think there's any question that Washington stands above all other teams in the National League.
Its rotation with Gio Gonzalez, Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Haren and Ross Detwiler is as good as it gets. The addition of Rafael Soriano to the bullpen gives the Nationals a killer trio of Soriano, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard.
The lineup is enhanced with the addition of center fielder and leadoff hitter Denard Span. Shortstop Ian Desmond is quickly developing into an elite player, and the sky is the limit for left fielder Bryce Harper.
Manager Davey Johnson has already said this is his last year guiding the Nationals. He's got a golden chance to go out on top.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.