WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals head into the 2020 season looking to become only the 15th Major League team to win back-to-back World Series titles. With most of the '19 squad back, they are hungry to experience a championship run again.
What’s the goal?
Washington is aiming to join a short list of teams that have won it all in consecutive seasons. Only the Yankees 1998-2000 (three straight), 1977-78, 1961-62, 1949-53 (five straight), 1936-39 (four straight) and 1927-28, Blue Jays (1992-93), Reds (1975-76), A's (1972-74, 1929-30, 1910-11), Giants (1921-22), Red Sox (1915-16) and Cubs (1907-08) have accomplished that feat.
How do they get there?
The Nats have the mindset of “compete, not repeat.” There’s no resting on the victories of last season; it’s a new year. Manager Dave Martinez encourages his players to focus on “the process” of how they reached the championship level and be mindful of that as they prepare to defend their title.
After re-signing Stephen Strasburg to a record seven-year deal this winter, Washington has its arsenal of arms intact. The team also bolstered the back end of its bullpen with the addition of Will Harris. The continued development of young players like Juan Soto and Victor Robles will be key to the Nationals’ success, especially as they look to replace the production of Anthony Rendon.
What could go wrong?
Washington tacked on extra mileage last year when it played through Oct. 29. The team will have to be watchful of its pitchers to avoid injuries. They went through an offseason program to adjust to throwing so deep into the playoffs, and Max Scherzer said on Wednesday he is “exactly where I need to be” after throwing his first live batting-practice.
While the roster is stacked with veterans, the Nats could have youth at a key position. 22-year-old Carter Kieboom has the opportunity to land the starting third-base job, vacated by Rendon. He has only played shortstop at the Major League level, but he trained this winter to change positions. Veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera has been going through fielding drills at third with Kieboom, and Starlin Castro and Howie Kendrick also can man the hot corner.
Who might surprise?
Last season, Turner hit .298/.353/.497 with 19 home runs and led the team with 35 stolen bases -- all with a finger injury. Now the shortstop is healthy and could help the Nats fill an important role.