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Expect More From Nats After Rough 2015

Bryce Harper Washington Nationals MLB

The 2015 season was a largely forgettable one in Washington. Full of promise entering the campaign, the team was plagued with injuries and missed out on the postseason even though they were the favorites to win the 2015 World Series (7/1). The season ended on the lowest of lows as superstar Bryce Harper and closer Jonathan Papelbon had to be restrained in a dugout altercation versus the Philadelphia Phillies.

Still, there is a lot to be optimistic about ahead of the 2016 baseball season in the nation’s capital.

That said, books are a little cooler on the Nationals this year, especially in World Series futures markets, but that adds a little more value to backing the club. The Nats are presently being offered at +1800 on the futures board at online book Bovada – a decent price for a club with talent all over the field. But let’s not forget: The Nats are one of two franchises along with the Seattle Mariners, to have never played in the World Series.

The National League East might be the most plausible of all futures markets for the Nationals until they wash the 2015 stink from themselves. They are presently +110 to win the division crown, behind only the New York Mets, last year’s winner, who are favored at -110. The Nats have won two of the past four division titles and no team has won back-to-back NL East titles since the Philadelphia Phillies won five-straight from 2007 through 2011.

The Mets will be a tough opponent in 2016, the Miami Marlins could put up a fight every now and then, but the Phillies and Atlanta Braves could be as close to an automatic W as it gets.

It’s cliché in the sports world, but health is going to be huge for the Nats. We all know about the incredible exploits of Bryce Harper last season, and he played his most games ever in 2015 (153), but what of his supporting cast? Much was expected from Anthony Rendon following a stellar 2014, but he played in just 80 games. Slugging left fielder Jayson Werth appeared in just 88 games and 1B Ryan Zimmerman has played in just 156 in the previous two seasons combined. You see where this is going.

Fortunately, all of the above are basically at full health at the time of writing and Rendon in particular is a name being bandied about to have a big bounce back season. He posted a 6.5 WAR in 2014 and is entering his age-26 season so there is promise.

The pitching should be good, but will always be overshadowed by the Mets’ stable of studs. Max Scherzer was brilliant last season so anything close to his 2015 form will be a bonus. Like the aforementioned Rendon, many expect a rebound season from Stephen Strasburg, who although not brilliant, was still good with an 11-7 record, 3.46 ERA and 3.4 WAR last season.

The 89.5 win total feels a touch high, but with the best player in the National League in Bryce Harper, coupled with a very weak division, it is certainly not out of reach.

There is a lot to prove in D.C. after the letdown season in 2015. As long as the club is healthy and there is some semblance of harmony in the dugout, this is a team you don’t want to bet against.

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2016 Washington Nationals Futures Odds
World Series+1800
National League Pennant+700
National League East+110
Win Totals89.5

Odds as of April 1 at Bovada