MLBPipeline.com is breaking down how each of the postseason teams was built, looking at the composition of Division Series rosters.After a trip to the postseason eluded the Nationals last season, the club rebounded in 2016 to win its third National League East title in five years, finishing with a 95-67
MLBPipeline.com is breaking down how each of the postseason teams was built, looking at the composition of Division Series rosters.
After a trip to the postseason eluded the Nationals last season, the club rebounded in 2016 to win its third National League East title in five years, finishing with a 95-67 overall record and eight games ahead of the second-place Mets to secure home-field advantage in the NL Division Series.
How the postseason teams were built
That the Nationals were able to win the East by such a margin in spite of a rash of injuries highlights the depth of their roster. Stephen Strasburg was an early Cy Young favorite before an upper back strain and then right elbow soreness resulted two trips to the disabled list for right-hander, and he missed even more time after suffering a strained flexor mass in his right elbow, an injury that will keep him out of the NLDS, during his return from the DL on Sept. 7.
The Nationals will also be without Wilson Ramos for the postseason after the All-Star catcher suffered a torn ACL in his right knee on Sept. 26, and both Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy are still on the mend after they missed parts of September and October with minor injuries.
An outstanding rotation was at the root of the Nats' success this season, as the team's starters paced the Major Leagues in strikeouts per nine innings, ranked second in ERA and hits per nine and allowed the fourth-fewest home runs. The bullpen was equally impressive, finishing with the third-best ERA among all 30 clubs.
That's not to say the Nationals didn't hit, however, as they had eight players hit double-digit home runs, including six with 20-plus bombs, and two who posted batting averages above .340 in Trea Turner and Murphy, who finished second in the NL with a .347 clip.
Here's a look at how each player on the Nationals' NLDS roster was initially acquired during his current stint with the club:
Player, how acquired, year:
Danny Espinosa, Draft, 2008 (3rd)
Michael Taylor, Draft, 2009 (6th)
Bryce Harper, Draft, 2010 (1st)
Wilmer Difo, Int'l sign, 2010
Reynaldo López, Int'l sign, 2012
Anthony Rendon, Draft, 2011 (1st)
Pedro Severino, Int'l sign, 2010
Sammy Solís, Draft, 2010 (2nd)
Ryan Zimmerman, Draft, 2005 (1st)
The Nationals are tied for second-most homegrown players among playoff teams with nine, and five of those players are former top-three-round Draft picks. 2015 NL MVP Harper (2010) and Anthony Rendon (2011) were selected in the first round in back-to-back years, and they combined to hit 44 home runs with 171 RBIs in 2016, with Rendon picking up the slack for a struggling Harper during the second half.
2008 third-rounder Danny Espinosa proved more than capable in his first year as the clubs' everyday shortstop as he set career highs with 24 home runs and 72 RBIs while offering quality defense. Ryan Zimmerman, the club's first-round pick in 2015, added 15 bombs of his own, although injuries limited the 32-year-old to just 115 games.
Player, year, acquired from:
Gio Gonzalez, 2011, Athletics
Jose Lobaton, 2014, Rays
Mark Melancon, 2016, Pirates
Tanner Roark, 2010, Rangers
Joe Ross, 2014, Padres
Marc Rzepczynski, 2016, Athletics
Blake Treinen, 2013, Athletics
Trea Turner, 2015, Padres
Trea Turner didn't carve out an everyday role until the middle of July, but a case can be made that the 23-year-old speedster was the Nationals' MVP. He became just the third player in Nats history to steal 30 bags in a season, and did so while batting .342 with 35 extra-base hits including 13 home runs. Serving primarily as the leadoff man, he reached base in 60 of 73 games, compiled a 22-game on-base streak and tallied 34 multihit performances.
On top of that, Turner, a natural shortstop, made a smooth transition to center field after initially handling second-base duties.
Both Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez made all of their scheduled starts and provided stability in a starting rotation that went without Strasburg for much of the second half. Joe Ross, whom Washington acquired with Turner from the Padres, also helped to fill the void by posting a 3.43 ERA across 17 starts.
Blake Treinen was an unsung hero as he paced all Nationals relievers with 73 appearances, and Mark Rzepczynski helped to stabilize what had been a shaky Nats' bullpen after coming over from Oakland at the Deadline. Meanwhile, the struggles of Jonathan Papelbon prompted the Nationals to make another Deadline deal, this time for Pirates All-Star Mark Melancon, and the All-Star closer pitched as advertised, saving 17 games in 18 chances.
Stephen Drew, 2015
Chris Heisey, 2015
Shawn Kelley, 2015
Daniel Murphy, 2015
Oliver Pérez, 2015
Clint Robinson, 2014
Max Scherzer, 2015
Jayson Werth, 2010
The Nationals are tied for the lead among all postseason teams with eight free agents on their NLDS roster, although none of them had a greater impact on the team's success in 2016 than Murphy. In the first year of a three-year, $37.5 million deal, the 31-year-old second baseman established career highs in most offensive categories, with 25 homers, 47 doubles and 104 RBIs to go along with a .347 average.
Strasburg's injuries placed greater pressure on Max Scherzer, but the four-time All-Star proved up for the challenge. In year two of a seven-year, $210 million deal, Scherzer paced the NL with 20 wins while making 34 starts, and his 284 strikeouts and 0.97 WHIP were tops among big league starters.
Jayson Werth continued to make good on the seven-year, $126 million contract he signed in 2011 by hitting 21 home runs and reaching base in 46 straight games. Stephen Drew, Chris Heisey and Clint Robinson, meanwhile, gave the Nationals quality depth and manager Dusty Baker the freedom to play matchups in the late innings, while Oliver Perez helped to bridge the gap to the ninth inning.
Kelley, who signed a three-year, $15 million deal during the offseason, was a consistent force for the Nats, recording seven saves across 67 appearances and compiling 80 strikeouts and 11 walks in 58 frames.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.