After winning the Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series Championship in 2019, the Washington Nationals have arrived to spring training in West Palm Beach, Florida with the hopes of defending their crown under the leadership of third year manager, Dave Martinez.
In 2019, The Washington Nationals shocked the world. The team entered the playoffs without winning their division, as they clinched a Wild Card spot. While getting into the playoffs is no small feat, they were not the favorites to take home the hardware heading into the playoffs. However, they were able to ride on the backs of their superstar players: Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Trea Turner and Stephen Strasburg.
While the team is returning many of their players as they head in with the hopes of defending their titles, they are without their star third baseman, Anthony Rendon. During the off-season, Rendon signed a seven year, 245 million dollar deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Rendon was a home-grown National as he was drafted sixth overall in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft. Not only was his presence felt in the field, but it was also felt in the lineup. Rendon batted third for Washington in their championship run. The loss of Rendon is huge as Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post states “[Rendon] was their best offensive player, a human metronome in the middle of their order, a big reason a miracle turnaround ended with history.”
However, the Nationals must quickly find a way to replace the production of Rendon. Though the team is surely going to miss Rendon’s play, the organization’s number one prospect, and former first round pick is slated to be handed the keys to the daily duties of third base. Manager Dave Martinez has said to the media frequently that the third base job is Kieboom’s job to lose. Kieboom acknowledges the shadows that he is following in with Rendon, but he is not letting that get in the way of his outlook on the season. In an interview with ESPN, Kieboom stated, “I am not going to come in here and be Anthony Rendon. That is not who I am as a player. He is in a class of his own.” He went on to say in the interview, “That is not my job to try and live up to what he has done. My job is to go play my game.” In his minor league career, Kieboom is sporting a .287 batting average. While he is sure not to live up to the stardom of Rendon, the Nationals are hoping he can be the answer at third base for the future.
While the team lost Rendon, they are largely bringing back the same lineup and pitching staff they won the World Series with. The team inked World Series Most Valuable Player, Stephen Strasburg, to a seven year 245 million dollar deal in the off-season, presumably making him a National for life. In addition to bringing back Strasburg, the team brought back catcher, Yan Gomes, utility infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, reliever Daniel Hudson and face of the franchise Ryan Zimmerman.
The team was able to add free agents who are going to be key pieces for a shot at another title. They brought in former Brewers standout first baseman, Eric Thames, who is a career .244 hitter. The team also linked a deal to solidify the bullpen as they brought in former World Series Champion, Will Harris, who has pitched to a career 2.84 earned run average. In addition to Thames and Harris the Nationals were able to bring in former Yankee and Marlin, Starlin Castro. With the departure of Brian Dozier, Castro is slated to platoon at second with Howie Kendrick. Castro is sporting a .270 career batting average.
As they look to defend their title, the team has one goal in mind: Go 1-0 every day. Under the leadership of Dave Martinez, the team is sure to have success again in the 2020 season.