3 Deserving Nationals players who did not make the Opening Day Roster

As Spring Training begins to wind down and 26-man rosters begin to get finalized around the league, I wanted to identify 3 Nationals players that I feel have earned the opportunity to break camp, but (likely) won't be on the Opening Day roster.
We will have to wait to get James Wood in DC full-time
We will have to wait to get James Wood in DC full-time / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages

While obviously I don't know exactly how the roster is going to completely shake out initially for the 2024 Washington Nationals, some players' early fates appear to be sealed already. With a few rounds of cuts already behind us, and a new round of cuts being announced today, fans can start to get an idea of how the Opening Day roster is going to look for the Nats. In this blog, I identify the 3 players I feel definitely deserve to make the roster but aren't likely to open the season with the big-league club, as well as a couple of honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions: LHP Joe La Sorsa, 1B Juan Yepez

Joe La Sorsa
Joe La Sorsa / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

Lefty reliever Joe La Sorsa was absolutely nails during Spring Training, pitching to a 1.00 ERA/WHIP over 9 appearances while striking out 11 over 9.0 innings. He also went 5/5 in save opportunities, which further boosted his case as well. La Sorsa proved he is a pitcher who can pitch in high leverage situations or clean up in mop-up duty as a long reliever, which he did at times last year. Since Robert Garcia is currently the only lefty remaining with a chance to make the Opening Day roster, I would expect La Sorsa to be the first man up from AAA Rochester should an injury or need for another lefty arise in the bullpen.

Juan Yepez
Juan Yepez / Rich Storry/GettyImages

First baseman Juan Yepez always was going to have a difficult path to making the Opening Day roster. This was even further complicated by the signing of Joey Gallo and the quad injury he suffered which will limit the former two-time Gold Glove outfielder to first base. To his credit, Yepez certainly did his part in attempting to make the roster, with a .387/.424/.581 line and 1.005 OPS. In addition to those impressive numbers, Yepez also homered twice and had 8 RBIs in 33 plate appearances, while remarkably only striking out once. The path for him to make the Nationals at a later date is unclear with Gallo and Joey Meneses already on the roster, but he certainly made a good impression on the coaching staff with his performance.

1. INF Trey Lipscomb (Verdict: TBD)

Trey Lipscomb
Trey Lipscomb / Rich Storry/GettyImages

Note: As of the time of writing, INF Trey Lipscomb is among the final 27 players left in camp who are attempting to make the 26-man roster, hence his TBD verdict.

Due to circumstance, Trey Lipscomb is the one that I believe has the most logical case to be included on the Opening Day roster. The reasoning for him to be on the roster lies in the fact that he has had a very strong spring, as well as displaying positional versatility, with him logging innings at third base, second base, and even shortstop this spring.

In 44 at-bats thus far, Lipscomb has a .364/.429/.523 line, good for a .952 OPS with a home run and 7 RBIs. Lipscomb, a 23-year-old prospect out of Tennessee and 3rd round pick of the Nats in the 2022 draft, was the winner of the minor league Rawlings Gold Glove award last year, for his outstanding defensive work at the hot corner, sporting a .971 fielding percentage over 134 games.

While Lipscomb continued to progress last year between High-A Wilmington and AA Harrisburg with his bat, he struggled in the Arizona Fall League, but was seemingly able to put those struggles behind him to rebound with the bat in an effort to break camp with the Nats. The case for him is also aided in the fact that the two spots in which he could make the team, third base and second base, had candidates who have struggled at times as well.

Nick Senzel is expected to be penciled in as the Opening Day third baseman, despite his subpar Spring that has included a .242/.324/.303 line, good for a .627 OPS. This line, coupled with the fact he has yet to homer and has 13 strikeouts in 33 at-bats, doesn't inspire a ton of confidence for the former 2nd overall pick by the Cincinnati Reds.

Since Lipscomb has also garnered a lot of work at second base, fans have wondered about where he will play once he is in the majors. Luis Garcia Jr. is the incumbent starter, but he continues to be the same player he always has been: a maddening player with very solid potential whose crucial mental errors could cost this team wins. Garcia has a .279/.311/.488 line with a .799 OPS to go along with 2 homers and 4 RBIs, but with his 3 errors and .919 fielding percentage, Garcia doesn't appear as if he's made many strides, and with comments made by Davey Martinez earlier this Spring that suggests he could be on a short leash, it makes sense why Lipscomb could be in line to make the Nationals Opening Day roster.

2. SP Jackson Rutledge (Verdict: Reassigned to Minor League Camp on 03/17/2024)

Jackson Rutledge
Jackson Rutledge / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

Out of the 3 names on this list, Jackson Rutledge, the Nationals 1st round pick (17th overall) in the 2019 draft is the only name that is already confirmed as not making the Opening Day roster, withRutledge having been in an earlier round of cuts. However, the case for Rutledge is based not only on his solid performance, but also the lack of success by his two biggest opponents for the fifth starter spot in Trevor Williams and Zach Davies, who was later released.

In 3 starts this spring, the 24-year-old Rutledge pitched to a 3.86 ERA over 7 innings with a 1.57 WHIP. While on the surface, these numbers are solid yet unspectacular, the real case that he has to be on the initial roster is the lackluster performances of Williams and Davies. The two veteran righties have been absolutely dreadful over their 4 starts in Spring Training, with Williams pitching to a 7.20 ERA and 1.60 WHIP, while Davies has a 9.00 ERA and 1.929 WHIP. It also is important to note that Davies was absolutely shelled on Thursday by the Cardinals, only going 3.2 innings and surrendering 10 hits and 9 earned runs, not exactly the kind of thing you want to see from a guy vying to pitch every fifth day.

Especially considering he made the majors last year and improved over all 3 of his starts, him being an early cut shows that the organization believes he could use a little bit more seasoning in the minors. However, a promotion to the Nats isn't out of the question should Trevor Williams, the winner of the fifth spot in the rotation, stumble out of the gate. I would expect Rutledge to return to the Nats during this season, as long as he can show that he is able to limit his walks and ultimately bring down his WHIP.

3. OF James Wood (Verdict: Re-assigned to Minor League Camp on 03/22/2024)

James Wood
James Wood / Rich Storry/GettyImages

If James Wood wasn't such a great ballplayer, the decision to ultimately not include him on the Opening Day roster wouldn't be such a hotly debated topic. If you haven't read my article about James Wood's early breakout this Spring, I have been on record saying that I didn't believe that he would make the roster, but boy did he make this decision a difficult one for Mike Rizzo & co.

So far in Spring Training, James Wood has made headlines for all the right reasons. The 21-year-old phenom and 6'7" outfielder from Rockville, Maryland has accumulated a line of .341/.491/.707, good for a 1.198 OPS. He also has added in a 12:10 K:BB ratio with 4 homers and 7 RBIs, as well as stealing 3 bags, showcasing the entirety of his 5-tool skillset. While Nats fans everywhere clamored for the team's #2 prospect to make the team on Opening Day, it is probably best that he begins in the minors.

There is no need to rush his service time clock, especially for a team that is not expected to be anything great. This team also has 1-year rentals that they are looking to showcase and flip at the deadline including Joey Gallo, Jesse Winker, Eddie Rosario, who all figure to factor into the outfield mix this season, and with Stone Garrett eventually working his way back from injury and adding to the outfield conundrum as well, the timing just isn't quite right for Wood to make the big-league club. This, combined with the fact that it is effectively the last chance for Victor Robles to establish himself as a major leaguer, this organization wants to make sure that they don't rush Wood's development into one of the cornerstones of this team in any way, as Wood not panning out would be extremely detrimental to the future of this franchise.

However, I do believe that James Wood will be in the bigs by the end of the season. I would look for him to be one of the first options for a call-up should an injury in the outfield take place, similar to how Juan Soto was brought up back in 2018 when Howie Kendrick went down with injury. A more realistic timeline is for him to be brought up is after the trade deadline, when hopefully the club was able to offload some of those 1-year rentals for pieces to help the future of this club.

What do you think of the latest round of Nationals roster cuts? Do you think I missed someone else more deserving to make the team? Please let me know on X @DCBerk and let me know your thoughts!

All stats in this article are provided by MLB.com