It is my first ever Washington Nationals Q&A post with District on Deck, and judging by your responses, we will be doing many more of them in the future! Fan questions can be some of the best form of discourse in sports, because at the end of the day, we’re all just fans of a team we want to see succeed. Normally, I’d just pick a few questions and elaborate on them, but I thought for the first Q&A we’d get to all of them! So let’s dive in!
“What prospect are you most excited to potentially see in 2023?” – @MarcHood04
For me, it is Robert Hassell III. Arguably the best piece in the haul received for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, Hassell was the 8th overall pick back in the 2020 MLB Draft. He’s 21 years old, bats and throws lefty, and plays a great Centerfield. He struggled a bit in AA after the trade, but I think you can chalk that up to a small sample size and a new environment. He’ll get settled in with the organization after a full offseason and it would not surprise me to see him start the year in AAA. If he does, and has a good first half, we could see him as a late year call up.
“Which under 25 year old player do you expect to breakout next year and solidify themselves as a core piece part of the next era of Nats baseball?” – @partyinthemodes
I do think 2023 is a bit early for most of the names people might look towards, but Cade Cavalli is probably the most likely next season. I imagine he’ll make the rotation out of Spring Training and stick with the team. Hopefully he has no lingering injury issues, but I know plenty of people are excited to see Cavalli in action at the big league level.
“Best under-the-radar prospect?” – @Reverrsse
Trey is the man, first and foremost. Be sure to check out his work over on the Half Street High Heat YouTube page.
I’m not sure you can call 103 MPH under-the-radar, but Jarlin Susana seems like the obvious choice. The Nats really wanted him in the package for Juan Soto, and basically included Josh Bell in order to acquire him. He’s got to keep guys off the bases, but his stuff is electric and so purely tantalizing. Jake Alu is also worth mentioning – they could play Candelario at 1B if they like Alu enough in Spring Training.
“Who ends the 2023 season higher on MLB’s Top 100 prospects list, James Wood or Elijah Green?” – @NatsFarm
This is a great question. I think the edge goes to James Wood at the moment, as he seems to be rocketing up many consensus rankings. We should also allow Green time to get settled playing professional baseball too since he’s still so young, but if he gets off to a hot start then he could definitely close the gap in the rankings.
“Do you see Rutledge as a Start or eventual two-pitch closer in MLB?” – @BrettAMartinez
I’ve gone back and forth, and it does seem like the Nationals want him to be a starter and will give him every opportunity to be a starter, but I do think he can be an elite reliever and is more equipped to do so given the injury history and the pitch repertoire.
“Where will Rutledge be by the end of the year if he stays healthy? – @erom_mo
Performance will play a large part, as he didn’t have the best season last year, but I think we could reasonably see him in AA to finish the year. I don’t think there’s any reason to rush him more than that, given the state of the Major League club. Let’s take our time with him and let him develop at his own rate, not the arbitrary rate the team sets for him.
“If we were to trade Meneses tomorrow, what would be your favorite *realistic* return?” – @DcConnoisseur_
If I’m being realistic, and fans might hate me for this, I don’t think you’d get anything substantial for Joey Meneses. Yes he has some years of control, but teams aren’t going to line up trying to trade for a journeyman player who is still relatively unproven. We all are hoping he is just a late bloomer at 30 years old and his production is somewhat sustainable, but it could also just be a flash in the pan type stretch. Only time will tell. You also have to keep in mind that he has tested positive for PEDs, which won’t completely eliminate his market (the Nats did sign him, after all) but might deter some teams from paying up in prospects compared to his production. It’s best to keep him around and let him prove himself.
“Who’s the difference maker they’ll sign this year? Can have an impact and be flipped for something worthwhile at the deadline or can be onboard for a few years?” – @sovereignmike
Man, I hope that signing happens. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked the Candelario, Garrett, Williams and Ramirez signings thus far. Truly, But will anything net you a good return at the deadline? Probably not. You do have to take a swing a bit at a one year deal, high risk guy to get that return. They did it with Kyle Schwarber and it worked well. They did it with Nelson Cruz and it worked not-so-well. That gives me some hope that they could go sign a Michael Conforto (who is only 29, not 41 like Nelson Cruz was) to be their big trade chip. But if they are in fact done signing players, then I’d say it’s probably Candelario. I wrote an article yesterday on players who fit the bill.
“What’s the rotation looking like this season? Josiah the opening day starter?” – @andygerth
This pains me, but I think it will be Patrick Corbin as your opening day starter. My choice would be Gray, as the team is using him in their promotional schedule unlike Corbin so you’d think that’d be a big deal for fans to see him get the nod, but Corbin has the experience and despite a dreadful past few years, the team still wants him to be the leader of this new, young staff. I think it will be:
- Patrick Corbin
- Josiah Gray
- MacKenzie Gore
- Cade Cavalli
- Trevor Williams
“Which young pitcher (Gore, Cavalli, Gray) has the most potential to turn into a work-horse ace? Not necessarily this year, but in the near future.” – @thefakeDKC
I love Josiah Gray and love his potential, but in the several interviews we’ve done over on Half Street High Heat with people who actually cover the game and know prospects view him as a middle-to-back-end of the rotation type guy. He can prove them wrong, and I hope he does, but I think Gore and Cavalli have higher ceilings. I think Gore will be a household name very soon.
“Will Ted Leonsis fix the damn clock the right way, with parts that weren’t one-offs from the day it was built? Maybe with better bat hands?” – @NatsClock
This story never fails to make me laugh. The famous Curly W clock in Right-Center field was a staple for years, but the company who made it went out of business. So when the clock broke, there was no way to fix it and the Nats decided to just remove the clock hands completely and it has sat their bare ever since.
If we’re being real, Nats park has not aged well in several respects and I would love to see Leonsis or whoever buys the team come in and make some upgrades. I wouldn’t mind seeing a better version of the Curly W clock come back as well.
“What did Rosenthal mean when he posted that the Nats were not behaving as if they were in a full rebuild?” – @Raymitten
This really confused me as well. In case you didn’t see it, Ken Rosenthal had an article yesterday in which he said the A’s, Pirates and Reds were all behaving like rebuilding clubs but did not mention the Nats in that conversation. I doubt he just forgot to mention them, but he also did not elaborate any further on the topic. I was hoping to see a follow up today from Ken, cause that is a question I want the answer to as well.
If I had to guess, I’d say Rizzo and Company, as they frequently have, are not using the term “rebuild” (which they should) and instead still calling it a reboot, thinking they can turn the ship around quickly. This is silly, in my opinion, cause even though you have good prospects, many are still 3-5 years away from even making their debuts. This isn’t a quick turnaround, but that’s OK. Just be real with yourself and the fans.
“When will we be remotely relevant again?” – @MarcJGerson
Hahaha I don’t know, my friend. But I do think 2024 is a year to watch. Some top prospects will likely make the team out of Spring Training, with more called up during the season, and if we get new Ownership that is willing to spend, a good offseason next year could make us “remotely relevant.”