The Nationals are now a week into Spring Training; we're getting closer to Opening Day!
With that, there comes plenty of speculation about what the Opening Day Roster might exactly look like. Sure, Mike Rizzo has a 40 man roster already, however that's not exactly set in stone. You can bet that guys like Josiah Gray, CJ Abrams, Joey Meneses, and more will be on the list, but there's still plenty of uncertainty this time of year. It's also likely that players like Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Rainey will hit the 60 day IL, clearing up a couple of spots on the 40 man roster, subsequently clearing the way for new additions.
There's a reason why the Nationals invited 27 other guys to Spring Training. They've had an eye on these players and want to take a look at them alongside established Major League Talent. It would be a surprise to see a couple of them crack the Opening Day roster.
You can find out more about these players from the Nationals twitter account above and PR release.
1. Sean Doolittle
Sorry, couldn't help myself.
Doolittle is entering his 12th season in the majors, and his 6th with the Nationals. The two time All-Star made himself a household name in Washington during his first tenure with the team that lasted from 2018-2020.
Doolittle was an integral part of the bullpen during the 2019 title run, tallying a league high 55 game finishes and a personal career high of 29 names. If signed to the active 40 man roster, Doolittle will join the bullpen that already hosts Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Henry, Carl Edwards Jr., and more. His chances are elevated as the competition for the LHP spot in the bullpen is not strong and Doolittle by far and away has the most experience of the lefty relievers.
DC loves Sean Doolittle, and Sean Doolittle loves DC. I'd expect him to be back in games for Washington this season.
2. Matt Adams
Adams is another Nationals' vet, spending 2 seasons of his 10 year career donning the Curly W. Another helpful contributor to the 2019 team, Adams has been in a bit of a slump the last two seasons; failing to bat under .185 and totaled 15 hits and 2 home runs in 85 at bats since leaving Washington. However, the Nationals sorely need power in this lineup, so if Adams can turn back the clock a bit, he has a shot.
It is worth noting that his usage dropped significantly. In his 2019 campaign, he appeared at the plate 310 times and collected 70 hits, 56 RBIs, and 20 home runs on a .226 average.
We know that Matt Adams is pumped for the opportunity to be back in DC. However, he's on a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training; so nothing is a given. I hope to see "Big City" back in Nationals Park this season.
3. Yadiel Hernández
Hernández is entering his fourth season in the majors; but don't get ahead of me here. There's something you need to understand...
Seemingly a staple of the Nationals lineup for the last two seasons, Hernández has been a serviceable outfielder for Washington. However, I believe that a combination of his age and the up-and-coming outfielders are the reason why he's going into Spring Training without a spot on the 40-man roster (as of now).
However, as I mentioned, Hernández has been a staple in DC as of late and the Nationals know what they are getting with him. So, if Mike Rizzo feels the need to add another veteran to the outfield, or another qualified pinch hitter to the lineup, don't be surprised to hear his name called over the loudspeakers at Nationals Park this year.
Are you starting to sense a trend here?
These three guys that I've listed are all veterans who have played for the Nationals previously.
Sure, the Nationals are a young team that is looking for talent. However, they're trying to win too. You can't win games in the majors when your entire roster is under the age of 25. Having a young core is great, but young players develop better when they can play in games that matter, and not walk out onto the field each day and think to themselves "I can't wait to lose by 10 again today!"
Mike Rizzo has emphasized the need for veterans this offseason; hence the signings of Corey Dickerson and Dom Smith, among others.
The Nationals have plenty of talent brewing in the minor leagues, and they'll get to the majors when they're good and ready. However, I believe that this season is about walking the fine line of trying to play the youngsters (Abrams, Cavalli, Gore, etc.) as much as physically possible, while infusing the lineup with veterans who are past the stage of making errors that developing players might make.
Obviously the Nats aren't pushing for the playoffs, however I can very surely say that they want to win more than 55 games this year.
All statistics via baseball-reference.com