How Easy Do the Nationals Have It in the NL East?

Willie Bee

Thursday, February 8, 2018 1:31 PM UTC

Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018 1:31 PM UTC

MLB futures odds are beginning to roll out, and the chalkiest pick to win a division title is the Washington Nationals in a watered-down NL East.

With pitchers and catchers reporting starting Feb. 12, we’re beginning to see true consensus for just who will be the favorites to win their respective divisions. The Houston Astros, fresh off the World Series title, are the team to beat in the AL West. Their Fall Classic counterparts, the Los Angeles Dodgers, are clear-cut favorites to win their sixth consecutive NL West title.

Once full MLB futures odds come out in more detail, however, no team will be a chalkier division favorite than the Washington Nationals. A stacked roster is undoubtedly one reason Washington is expected to rule the NL East, but the opposition the Nationals are going up against in the division also figures heavily into what I suspect will be -600 or shorter odds.

Will Nats Win NL East By More Than 20 Games?

World Series odds currently running at Bookmaker have the Nationals at +780, which puts them between the Dodgers (+575) and Chicago Cubs (+975) in the National League hierarchy. That is very close to the 8/1 Washington was fetching a year ago to win the Series, 4/1 to take home the Senior Circuit and 2/3 to win the division.

The Nationals were runaway winners in the NL East, their 97 wins good enough for a 20-game bulge. That 2nd-place club was the Miami Marlins, who are fresh off a winter selloff following the team being sold to a group headed up by former Yankees great Derek Jeter. The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are also still in rebuild mode, leaving just the New York Mets as the team with an outside chance of dethroning Washington’s 2-year run atop the division. All told, the Nationals will play 76 of their games against the rest of the division, and it’s relatively easy to forecast 50 wins against that quartet.

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7 days until pitchers and catchers report.

(Beep, beep.)

— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) February 7, 2018

Scherzer Anchors Talented Pitching Staff

It was a quiet offseason for GM Mike Rizzo, the biggest addition being Matt Adams, who will serve as Ryan Zimmerman’s backup at first base. Getting a healthy Adam Eaton back in center field will almost seem like an addition after he played less than a month in 2017 due to a knee injury. Eaton will be flanked in the outfield by Bryce Harper --– in his free agent year -- in right, and the only real position battle entering spring between Michael Taylor and rookie Victor Robles in center. The infield is set with Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon, and there are rumors the Nationals could pursue Miami catcher JT Realmuto.

Max Scherzer, the NL CY Young winner the past two seasons, has Stephen Strasburg behind him in a 2-ace rotation. Gio Gonzalez is the left-handed complement to that pair, and Sean Doolittle goes to camp as the closer in a bullpen that also has Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and a healthy Koda Glover.

Yeah, the Nationals are the easiest division pick of them all, though the return won’t be much. Once the season starts and free MLB picks start rolling out at SBR, expect a lot of substantial money lines in the -180 to -300 range for this club. Win totals were just released for the 2018 season and the Nats have the highest in the NL East by a wide margin at 91.5.

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