How close are other downtrodden franchises to a Washington-like turnaround? Here's SI's projection of when nine teams who had losing records last year can expect to be serious contenders
James Shields will still be there, and the rotation will be fortified by rookie Kyle Zimmer, the fifth overall pick in 2012 who has nearly a 6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the minors. Everyone in the offensive nucleus—Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez—will be between 23 and 30.
Matt Harvey has arrived already; the 24-year-old righty allowed two earned runs in his first 22 innings this year. He will soon be joined by Zach Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, the building blocks of an elite rotation. With just enough offensive support from a lineup anchored by David Wright and top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, New York can contend.
Slugger Giancarlo Stanton will still only be 25, and—assuming he isn't traded—will be part of a powerful young outfield with Christian Yelich (who will be 23) and Jake Marisnick (24). Lefthander Justin Nicolino and righty Jose Fernandez, who at age 20 is already with Miami, should make the rotation a strength.
Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, at 24 and 23, will finally give Pittsburgh the swing-and-miss starters the franchise has been missing. Andrew McCutchen, who is signed through '17, will get help in the lineup from shortstop Alen Hanson and outfielder Gregory Polanco, who combined for 32 home runs, 147 RBIs and 75 steals at High A in '12.