Washington Nationals: Positional Overviews
The Washington Nationals have seen a complete roster overhaul in the two years.
Fans vividly remember the selloff at the 2021 trade deadline seeing 8 of their team’s players shipped off to other teams. A year later, more of the same happened at the 2022 trade deadline, seeing both Juan Soto and Josh Bell moved to San Diego. This is a clear attempt by the Nationals front office to establish a young core accompanied by veteran presence. During the last two seasons the team has seen lots of roster movement, here is a complete positional breakdown of the Washington Nationals.
Keibert Ruiz was the starting catcher for the majority of Washington’s games in 2022. Ruiz will have every opportunity to develop into a star behind the plate. He has flashed potential to be an impact player both defensively and offensively. Although he finished the season on the injured list, this was a positive season for Ruiz. He hit 2 home runs in one game versus the Chicago Cubs one of his best performances of the season.
First Base/Designated Hitter
In a perfect world for Nats fans, Joey Meneses continues to produce like he did this year into the 2023 season. Though the front office cannot depend on that, Meneses will most likely be on the roster next season due to his team friendly contract. The 10-year minor leaguer is under club control for the next 6 seasons. Anticipate the Nationals to ride the Meneses wave for as long as it allows.
Luke Voit is arbitration eligible this offseason, and expect the Nationals to bring him back. The trade deadline acquisition supplied power to a lineup in desperate need for it, and should not be expensive to sign. The veteran is much better suited for designated hitter, as he struggled at many times for his short stint for the Nationals.
If the Nationals head in a direction opposite of Voit, look for the Nationals to sign an experienced first baseman who can hit for power, but that can also handle the glove. Defensive skill has not been an asset for the Nationals since Ryan Zimmerman handled the duties.
The hot corner has been a spot of inconsistency since Anthony Rendon was a National. Carter Kieboom was the next big thing at third base, but has dealt with injuries for the past three seasons. He is anticipated to be fully healthy heading into 2023 Spring Training, but the Nationals cannot depend on Kieboom’s health any longer.
Opening Day starter Mikeal Franco lost his spot due to bad performance and was released mid-August. Franco was a minor league signing that was forced into the starting role following Kieboom’s season-ending injury in Spring Training. His struggles did not come as a surprise.
Illdemaro Vargas, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise for the Nationals following the trade deadline. Illdemaro hit .280 for the team and played excellent in the field no matter what position he played. Vargas most likely earned a spot on the Opening Day roster in 2023.
Prospect Jake Alu had a fantastic year for both AA Harrisburg and AAA Rochester. He finished with 20 home runs and a .299 batting average. Alu was also the recipient of the “Nationals Way Award.” Alu has never received an invite to major league spring training, look for the 25 year old to get his shot in 2023 with so much unknown at third base.
Nationals fans have something to be excited about up the middle of the field. CJ Abrams and Luis Garcia are two key assets to the franchise. The final month of the 2022 regular season was a glimpse into the future for Nats fans, seeing their two young middle infielders turn exciting double plays and have success at the plate.
Garcia begun playing shortstop when he received the call to the majors this season and struggled mightily. When CJ Abrams was acquired at the trade deadline, the move to second base seemed inevitable for Garcia. This position change should allow for Luis to not have to focus as much on defense, and continue to develop as a hitter.
Ildemaro Vargas started at both shortstop, second and third base in the 2022 season, and this skill set increases his chances to be on the opening day roster in 2023.
César Hernández is another signing that did not work out for Mike Rizzo. Coming off a season where he hit 21 home runs, Hernández has hit just 1 home run during the 2022 season.
I would not expect the Nationals to sign a free agent middle infielder. A clear young tandem at shortstop and second base has been established, and to break that would be a head scratcher.
Is the Victor Robles experiment finally over? This offseason might give Nationals fans an answer to that question. Robles is arbitration eligible this year, as he exceeds three years of MLB experience time.
Lane Thomas has proved himself to be apart of the future in D.C. He hit 17 home runs while playing multiple positions in the outfield. Thomas is going to be on the team in 2023.
Alex Call was a late season waiver claim from the Cleveland Guardians. Call did not get an opportunity in Cleveland, but did enough to earn significant playing time for the Nats coming down the stretch. 5 home runs in 102 at-bats is enough to earn a second look on most teams, so expect Call to get his shot in 2023.
Yadiel Hernández had a solid 2022 campaign. There is only one problem with Yadiel, he just completed his age 34 season. Washington will take any production they can get from Hernández, but he is not a solution for the future.
What are those solutions? Robert Hassell III, James Wood and Elijah Green are multiple years away from being on the major league squad. Washington should be on the lookout for free agent outfielders. A veteran to lead the young Nationals core is a necessity.
The Nationals lost 107 for multiple reasons, and starting pitching was one of them. Both Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg’s contracts will go down as two of the worst in Rizzo’s career. Corbin lost 19 games for Washington in 2022 and Strasburg appeared in just one game.
The 2023 starting rotation should have a combination of Josiah Gray, Patrick Corbin, MacKenzie Gore and Cade Cavalli. That leaves one spot to fill the traditional five man rotation.
Erick Fedde had another typical year for him, a 5.81 ERA, and I do not expect that to earn him a spot in next years rotation. Anibal Sanchez is 38 years old and should not be making starts for Washington into his age 39 season.
Joan Adon’s record was atrocious in 2022, but do not let this distract from the fact he is just 23 years old. He flashed abilities in multiple starts but could never piece consecutive solid outings together. I expect Washington to give Adon every chance to develop into a solid major league pitcher.
Starting pitching is important, and the Nationals have lots of young arms to manage. It would make perfect sense to add a seasoned veteran to the rotation to fill another slot in the rotation. Young pitchers would benefit from having a leader in the clubhouse. The development of Washington’s young starting pitchers is crucial to the future success of the organization.
The bullpen was the strongest part of the Nationals in 2022. Lead by a group of Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, Carl Edwards Jr and Erasmo Ramirez, Washington had its best bullpen in the past few years. Expect all four of those names to be back behind the right field wall in 2023.
Tanner Rainey and Victor Arano are both arbitration eligible players that battled injuries in 2022, but are both expected to be on the team in 2023.
Mason Thompson is an intriguing arm that can do multiple things out of the bullpen and is only 24 years old. Washington is expecting great things out of the tall right hander.
Andres Machado is another pitcher who had a solid season, and had his role increase as the season came to an end. Machado totaled a 3.34 ERA in 51 appearances for Washington.
Steve Cishek was the only reliever who struggled the majority of the season, pitching to a 4.21 ERA in 69 games. Do not expect to see Cishek back in the bullpen in 2023.
Expect to see Washington stay primarily in-house to stock their bullpen in 2023.
Washington fans are no stranger to change. Expect more of it in the coming seasons. Mike Rizzo and his staff are attempting to rebuild the roster for a second time. He was successful as he brought a World Series to D.C. Will he be able to do it again?