Just as recently as 2009, the Washington Nationals were the laughingstock of the National League when they won just 59 games and finished with the worst record in all of baseball.
With all of the depth that the Nationals were able to build up in their farm system, it was clear the team would eventually be able to turn things around. Few people, if any, expected the Nationals to be competitive so quickly.
Through the first 50 games of 2012, the Nationals have not only established themselves as a playoff contender, but also as one of the best teams in the National League. It is not crazy to think the Nationals are now serious World Series contenders.
The Nationals have been able to put together a record that is good enough to lead them to the top of the NL East even though they are missing a number of their top players. Ryan Zimmerman has already spent time on the disabled list, Mike Morse has played only eight games after a two-month stay on the DL, Jayson Werth has missed time and appeared in just 27 games, and closer Drew Storen is still recovering from his preseason surgery.
Washington has been able to fight through all of these setbacks and it goes without saying, the team will be a much stronger out for opponents at full strength.
Few teams in the major leagues are younger than the Nationals with an average age of 27.5 years. They have a number of players that will continue to grow as the year goes on. Bryce Harper and Stephen Lombardozzi have played well this year, and the youngsters should improve as the season progresses.
There may be reinforcements on the way for the Nationals as well. The team could very well be buyers this trade deadline and pick up the pieces it needs to make a deep postseason run.
If the Nats do reach the playoffs, one of the reasons they will be worthy World Series contenders is their starting rotation.
Stephen Strasburg is as good as any pitcher in the majors and is a terror for the opposition. While Strasburg may be on an innings limit this year, Davey Johnson and crew may be willing to stretch it a bit if it means the team could bring home the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Alongside Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson make a formidable quartet. This is just about as good of a group of starters that any potential playoff team can put together this year.
Considering what the Nationals have been able to do despite being less than full strength, they are certainly a team to keep an eye on in the coming months.
With one or two deadline moves, Washington could end up as the NL representative in late October. This year could be the start of a long run of success for the Nationals, and they may appear in their first of many World Series. Washington has the talent to continue to impress in 2012 and will only improve as time goes on and the young roster gains more experience under its belt.