Aug. 28, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) throws during the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

2013 MLB Preview: Washington Nationals

Perhaps the most exciting young team in baseball resides in the nation’s capital, as the Washington Nationals are hot off their best season in franchise history (well, this franchise’s history). The team became the first Washington baseball team to make the postseason since the Washington Senators did it back in 1933, but the ride was over as violently and quickly as it has started.

The biggest controversy from last year surrounded the shutting down of Stephen Strasburg, who despite pitching brilliantly down the stretch for Washington, was benched after hitting his innings limit for the season and wasn’t a part of the postseason roster. However, the Nationals managed to make the playoffs despite the negative attention, and they’ve set themselves up well for another run, only this time the run will be highly anticipated rather than a complete and utter shock.

Best Case Scenario

The strategy behind Strasburg’s inning limit works, and not only is he fresh for the season, he’s pissed off that he was forced to miss all the fun last year. So this sets him on a tear that not only bolsters the Nats to the top of the NL East, but makes Strasburg the front runner to take home the Cy Young Award. Meanwhile, Bryce Harper shines again in the outfield and garners a ton of MVP consideration or his heroics throughout the summer, and Washington graduates to America’s sweetheart team with plenty more Barak Obama sightings as the team gets better.

Worst Case Scenario

Strasburg struggles and continues to battle injury. He loses some punch behind his fastball and his velocity dips a bit, leaving the Nats scrambling as all the sports media outlets dig the knife in and twist over how they shut down Strasburg last year and the plan backfired on them. Harper still manages a decent season, but is overshadowed by the slump the team is in and the negative attention garnered by Strasburg’s situation. Rumors swirl about how the ace wants out of Washington and the party from 2012 is crashed completely when the Nats are eliminated from postseason contention in mid-August.

Most Likely to Happen

The Strasburg angle is played to death by ESPN, but it eventually goes away when he makes a few starts and it’s apparent that the benching had little effect on his game or mentality. The team goes through highs and lows the entire year but manage to stay above .500 the whole summer. Washington makes a postseason push in mid-September and enter October as the Wild Card team as they continue to get stronger and grow even better as a team for a serious run at a World Series in 2014.

This is going to be one of the better stories to watch in 2013, as it still can go either way. Things will either end very well for the Nationals, or it will all blow up in their face and no one will give them a pass on their way back to the bottom of the baseball world.

Tags: MLB Washington Nationals

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