WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- In 2016, the Nationals became one of the few teams in the past decade to have four finalists for the four Baseball Writers' Association of America awards, and had a player win the Esurance Pitcher of the Year Award. Max Scherzer captured both the Cy
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- In 2016, the Nationals became one of the few teams in the past decade to have four finalists for the four Baseball Writers' Association of America awards, and had a player win the Esurance Pitcher of the Year Award. Max Scherzer captured both the Cy Young Award and Pitcher of the Year Award, while Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner were runners-up for the National League Most Valuable Player Award and Rookie of the Year Award, respectively. Dusty Baker finished third for the Manager of the Year Award.
It continued a run of the Nats winning these prestigious awards. Bryce Harper won the NL MVP Award in 2015 and Matt Williams won the Manager of the Year Award in '14. Expect much of the same for '17, as Washington is likely to have several contenders and a shot at a winner.
Harper could enter the year as a favorite. He is finishing up an amazing Spring Training, in which he looks and says he feels healthy. The power and patience that led him to the NL MVP Award in 2015 appears to have returned. If Harper has a big year and leads the Nationals to a return to the postseason, he will almost certainly garner attention for his second MVP Award and the Esurance Best Hitter Award.
Murphy should also be considered a candidate. He has proven that his performance with the Mets in the 2015 postseason was no fluke. It carried over in '16, his full breakout season, and he maintained a high level of play despite an ailing hamstring in the postseason. His numbers may drop a bit from his career performance in '16, but Murphy will still be one of the best hitters in the NL and should not be counted out.
And then there is Turner, who will be entering his second year in the Majors and first full season. What Turner did in less than half a season in 2016 was good enough to earn second place for the NL Rookie of the Year Award. If he doubles that production, or even gets close to doubling it over the course of a full season, his numbers would approach MVP Award-winning levels.
The Nationals also figure to have two strong candidates for the Cy Young Award and Pitcher of the Year Award in Stephen Strasburg and Scherzer. It was Strasburg who looked like the lead candidate for the award during the first half of 2016, when he started off 13-0 with a career-low ERA. If he is able to stay healthy for a full season, which has always been an issue for him, he could put together a career year and challenge for the award.
Meanwhile, Scherzer is in the prime of his career and is perhaps the second-best pitcher in baseball behind the otherworldly Clayton Kershaw. Scherzer is starting the season on time and healthy, so he should be expected to put up similar numbers from the past two seasons, when he was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.
If all breaks right for the Nationals, they could be taking home some hardware at the end of the year -- some individual trophies and perhaps one for the team.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.