The weather may be giving them trouble lately with an insane amount of rainouts, but overall 2016 spring training has been a breeze for the Nationals. They are 17-4 in the Grapefruit League - first place! - and there are no major injuries to report on. Compared to last year at this time when Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Denard Span were all questionable for Opening Day, the outlook for these Nationals appears much better.
But that doesn't mean there aren't questions hanging over this team as they prepare for a new season. The Nats made some improvements this offseason, but - like any team - they have both strengths and weaknesses.
Here is a look at the biggest questions facing the 2016 Nats...
1. Is the bullpen good enough?
Like most bullpens, the Nationals' relief corps could go many different ways this season. A glass half-full perspective would point to the veterans they didn't have last year, plus the high-ceiling young arms that could end up serving significant roles this season. But a pessimist may note that there is still plenty of inexperience, especially when it comes to late-inning roles. Jonathan Papelbon has a long track record as a closer, of course. But they don't have a proven setup man and there are no guarantees for the seventh inning at this point, either. Speaking of Papelbon, his situation will certainly be something to watch, not only when he's introduced to fans at the home opener but throughout the season when this team inevitably goes through ups and downs.
2. Do they have enough starting pitching depth?
On paper the Nationals have a fine group of starting pitchers, one that could rank near the top of the league if everything goes well. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, in particular, are pretty much sure things. But in Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross there are uncertainties and if any combination of those guys struggle or battle injuries, the Nats' depth could truly be tested. Behind their starting five is an unproven group that does boast Lucas Giolito, but it's not clear how much he can be counted on this year due to his innings plan coming back from Tommy John surgery.
3. Can they stay healthy?
Like their rotation, the Nationals' lineup looks solid on paper. But the Nats are still relying on a large group of position players who hold long and detailed injury histories. Werth, Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman are all coming off injury-shortened 2015 seasons and have durability concerns that go back further than that. Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper were healthy in 2015, but before that had trouble staying on the field. The Nats deserve credit for investing in a new medical and training program to keep their players healthy, but they have to stay off the disabled list for that initiative to prove its worth.
4. Are they better than the Mets?
As has been the case for the fifth straight year, the NL East once again appears to be a two-team race between the Nationals and another club, that other team now being the New York Mets. The Nationals appear ready to bounce back and compete for a division title this season, but the Mets are a formidable counterpart with arguably the best rotation in baseball. The odds of all of their arms holding up all year and each of them having All-Star seasons are debatable, but they have so many good pitchers. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are all so young that they could get even better this season. The Nationals certainly have the talent to beat the Mets, but they'll have to stay healthy and do better in head-to-head matchups.