3 Nationals Who Still Have Something to Prove

This season saw numerous pieces of the future make significant strides throughout the 2023 season. However, who are 3 of the young building blocks that still have something to prove?
Los Angeles Dodgers v Washington Nationals
Los Angeles Dodgers v Washington Nationals / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

1. Josiah Gray

Josiah Gray
Chicago White Sox v Washington Nationals / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

The Nats' lone All-Star representative this past season and one of the main pieces of the Max Scherzer-Trea Turner deal had an up and down 2023 season. Josiah Gray was nails early on outside of his first start of the season against the potent Atlanta offense, but received no run support. He was also great in May albeit inconsistent until his tough month of August, which was one to forget. Gray finally settled down in September and finished the year strong, tallying a 3.91 ERA across 159 innings pitched. The key for him going into next season and beyond in order to establish his place in the rotation long-term is going to be limiting the free passes. Gray had a career-high 1.46 WHIP this season, and a carrer-low 1.8 K/BB ratio. Limiting the walks will be key to getting him deeper into games and really nailing down his spot on this team for years to come.

2. Keibert Ruiz

Keibert Ruiz
Chicago White Sox v Washington Nationals / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

Will the real Keibert Ruiz please stand up? It was truly a tale of two halves for the Nats' young backstop, as he slashed .249/.279/.360 for a .639 OPS in the first half, and then hit .300/.342/.467 for a .809 OPS in the second half. During the second half, it really seemed like we saw Ruiz come into his own, as he showcased a knack for big hits, including a walk-off home run against the Oakland Athletics. The keys for him in proving himself as the true franchise catcher are going to be building upon his great second half offensively, and improving his defense, which was questionable at best throughout the 2023 season. One thing that will help him in achieving that goal is going to be fully unlocking his power, as out of Ruiz' 18 home runs this season, 17 of them came against right-handed pitching. Ruiz has the potential to be one of the better catchers in baseball, a thought that enticed all Nationals fans when he came over from the Dodgers in return for Trea Turner and Max Scherzer.

3. MacKenzie Gore

MacKenzie Gore
Washington Nationals v New York Mets / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

The 2023 season was a frustrating one for MacKenzie Gore. He had his flashes of brilliance, but also had his moments of inconsistency. This is evidenced by his back to back starts in the end of May, where he surrendered 3 runs on 7 hits and 4 BB's to 4 K's in just 4.2 innings in a revenge game at home against the team that traded him, the San Diego Padres, and then had his best start of the season giving up 1 run on 3 hits and just 1 BB while striking out 11 over 7 innings against the Kansas City Royals. Similar to Gray and Ruiz, the key for Gore will be to become more consistent, as the ace talent that the Nationals saw in him is very evident, but, similar to Gray, the 1.40 WHIP is going to be a number that needs to come down in order to firmly establish himself as a top-end arm in the rotation.

All stats in this article were provided by Baseball Reference.