MLB Power Rankings: Nats’ struggles create whole new NL East dynamic

Washington Nationals' Anthony Rendon (6) reacts to being hit by the ball by Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Urena (62) during the third inning on Saturday, April 20, 2019, in Miami. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

In baseball there are slow starts and debilitatingly slow starts.

The Red Sox had a slow start, going 6-13 through their first three weeks. It looked bleak for a while, but they’ve gone 17-7 since thanks to bounce-back performances from Mookie Betts, Chris Sale and others. They look like a playoff team again, just as we expected.

In Washington, the Nationals’ slow start looks far more likely to derail their season. They’re seven games below .500 now with a -24 run differential. Injuries to Anibal Sanchez and Ryan Zimmerman leave them without key contributors.

There’s some bounce-back potential here, especially if the likes of Juan Soto, Trea Turner and Yan Gomes produce to their potential. Even so, those early losses count. FanGraphs projects an 83-79 record for Washington despite their talented roster.

With that in mind, Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently suggested the possibility that the Nationals sell at the trade deadline. Max Scherzer and Anthony Rendon would undoubtedly bring back huge returns in summer deals, but it’d be a departure from the norm for Washington, which has typically been a deadline buyer in recent years.

The Nationals have since won two games, but they’re still fourth in the NL East and their playoff odds have dropped to 15.8 per cent, according to Baseball Prospectus. By using closer Sean Doolittle to preserve a four-run lead Wednesday, manager Dave Martinez seemed to acknowledge that Nationals can’t afford to lose further ground.

They’re among the biggest losers in this week’s rankings, while the Astros take over top spot and the Twins continue their steady climb…

1 (2) Houston Astros


2 (1) Los Angeles Dodgers


3 (3) New York Yankees


4 (8) Boston Red Sox


5 (4) Tampa Bay Rays


6 (5) Chicago Cubs


7 (10) Milwaukee Brewers


8 (9) Minnesota Twins


9 (7) Philadelphia Phillies


10 (6) St. Louis Cardinals


11 (12) Cleveland Indians


12 (14) Atlanta Braves


13 (11) Washington Nationals


14 (13) New York Mets


15 (15) Arizona Diamondbacks


16 (17) Colorado Rockies


17 (16) San Diego Padres


18 (18) Oakland Athletics


19 (20) Los Angeles Angels


20 (19) Seattle Mariners


21 (21) Pittsburgh Pirates


22 (23) Cincinnati Reds


23 (22) Texas Rangers


24 (26) San Francisco Giants


25 (27) Chicago White Sox


26 (24) Toronto Blue Jays


27 (25) Detroit Tigers


28 (28) Kansas City Royals


29 (29) Baltimore Orioles


30 (30) Miami Marlins

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