WASHINGTON -- The Nationals return to D.C. for a seven-game stretch in six days with a chance to lock up another postseason appearance, although the location of the National League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, Oct. 1, is still up for grabs.
There’s still some work to be done and a few injuries to sort out before the Nationals can start spraying champagne this week, but they begin the week knotted with the Brewers for the top NL Wild Card spot, and they have already started thinking ahead to how their postseason roster will shape up.
MLB.com is taking a crack at predicting how a potential postseason roster might shape up for each team still in contention. Rosters for the NL Wild Card Game can fluctuate, depending on how a team wants to approach a single game, so these projections would be for a potential NL Division Series, if Washington’s roller-coaster 2019 season takes a turn to Los Angeles.
Suzuki missed almost two weeks with inflammation in his right elbow, but he came back to pinch-hit this weekend in Miami. He is almost certainly not 100 percent, but the appearance was a good sign that he will be healthy enough to contribute in some way. If Suzuki’s elbow is not good enough to pinch-hit, the Nats could carry a third catcher in Raudy Read and use Suzuki as a pinch-hitter for the postseason.
Cabrera has a sore right ankle, but he pinch-hit on Sunday so it looks like he should be fine. The plan for Kendrick also seems to be working well, because he played a lot during the road trip and is still raking, with multihit games in his past five starts. Adams (sprained AC joint in his left shoulder) also was available to pinch-hit this weekend, so he should at least be able to provide a left-handed pinch-hitting threat off the bench.
The Nationals boast one of the best outfield defenses in baseball, and the starting trio is certainly one of the team’s strengths. Parra emerged as a fan favorite and a crucial contributor to the team’s turnaround by reminding everyone, “Hey, this is supposed to be fun” -- and then the Nats took off. That sort of contribution is hard to quantify, and the allure of seeing Nationals Park come alive to “Baby Shark” during a big pinch-hitting situation late in the game is tantalizing. But dating back to Aug. 24, Parra is 2-for-42 with two walks, nine strikeouts and no extra-base hits. Andrew Stevenson or Michael A. Taylor could become candidates to overtake Parra if Washington considers it.
The Nationals boast one of the best rotations in the Majors, with Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin all recording 200 strikeouts this season. Sanchez rounds out a top four that the club feels can compete with anyone. The only unknown remaining for this group is perhaps how the Nats want to line them up. Scherzer and Strasburg will be ready to start the NL Wild Card Game, depending on what Washington needs to do this week to secure a playoff spot.
Voth seems like a strong bet to make this group after another impressive outing, albeit against the Marlins. Elias’ spot is the one that seems up for grabs. He’s got time to work his way back before the start of a potential NLDS, but the question is, would the Nationals put him on the mound in the playoffs without time to see hitters again? Elias also wasn’t exactly lights-out before injuring his right hamstring. If Washington decides to drop Elias and use Doolittle as the lefty in the bullpen, a trend it has followed recently, it could use the final roster spot on another bench player, perhaps a third catcher or a pinch-runner.