Nationals 2017 preview: For Washington, it's World Series or bust

The Nationals are built to win now. Anything less than a World Series run has to be considered a disappointment.

This just may be the year the Nationals getover the hump in the postseason.

Washington has made the postseason three times since 2012but has lost in the divisional series each time — to three different teams. Manager Dusty Baker must figure out a way to win in October.

Bryce Harper saw his stats plummet during the second half of lastseason, which dropped his overall average to .243 with 24 home runs and 83 RBIs. This came after rocking a.330/.460/.649 slash line with 42 home runs and 99 RBIs in 2015.

Baker's first assignment will be to implement Adam Eaton or Trea Turner into the leadoff position with the other taking up the No. 2 spot. Baker has toyed with moving Eaton all the way down to No. 6, but Washington's brass didn't send top prospect Lucas Giolitoto the White Sox for a No. 6 hitter.

Anything less than a World Series run has to be considered a disappointment for this team.

The rotation is a tad ominous and the bullpen is largely devoid of a true closer, but the Nationals are set up to win now.

Washington Nationals schedule 2017

The Nationals' opening day isApril 3, starting athree-game home series against the Marlins.

Washington's biggest early series is April 10-12 when it hosts the Cardinals. Bothwill try to flexmuscles by claiming an early-season win between playoff contenders.

Washington Nationalsroster

Nationals projected opening day lineup

1.Adam Eaton, CF
2.Trea Turner, SS
3.Daniel Murphy, 2B
4.Bryce Harper, RF
5.Anthony Rendon, 3B
6.Jayson Werth, LF
7.Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
8.Matt Wieters, C






Nationals projected rotation

1.Max Scherzer, RHP*
2.Stephen Strasburg, RHP
3.Gio Gonzalez, LHP
4.Tanner Roark, RHP
5.Joe Ross, RHP
* notexpected to be ready for opening day




Nationals projected bullpen

Closer:Shawn Kelley, RHP
Setup:Koda Glover, RHP
Setup:Joe Blanton, RHP

Nationals fantasy baseball sleeper

Joe Ross, SP — Injuries aside, Ross put together a promising season last year. The 23-year-old pitcher went7-5 with a 3.43 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 105 innings pitched. He will open the season as the Nationals' No. 5 starter, which means he will be matching upagainst inferior opposing starting pitcherson a consistent basis.

Nationals top prospect(s)

After depleting most of their farm system to acquire Adam Eaton, the Nationals still have outfielder Victor Robles to look forward to in the future. Speedywith a terrific glove, Robles projects to see the majors as early as this fall. He is ready defensively.

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