All-Star Watch: Which Nationals Players Could Make the Midsummer Classic for the First Time in 2023?
While the pessimist in me is glad that every team is guaranteed one representative in the All-Star game, the optimist in me sees several players on the Nationals 2023 roster that we might be lucky enough to see at this year's All-Star game in Seattle.
1. Kiebert Ruiz
Kiebert Ruiz has the potential to be one of the better catchers in the National league in his career, but can he make the jump to the front of the pack this season? While Baseball Reference only predicts modest offensive improvement in 2023, I think our young backstop will take a bigger stride this season towards becoming the Nationals' franchise catcher.
Ruiz caught an impressive 20 players stealing in 2022, tied for 2nd best in the National League. He also drove in 36 runs over 112 games.
Kiebert Ruiz is the player I want to see succeed the most this season, and while he's not quite J.T. Realmuto or Will Smith at this point, I think his first two big league seasons have shown enough promise that we can reasonably hope to see Ruiz behind the plate in the 2023 All-Star game.
2. Kyle Finnegan
He's far from a perfect reliever, but I think Kyle Finnegan is due for a great season in 2023. After a lights-out shortened season in 2020, Finnegan fell into the "good but not great" category of reliever, the kind of pitcher who you trust, but who makes you a little nervous when he's called in to close out a game.
I say all that changes in 2023. This Nationals season is a time for growth, and I think Finnegan's experience in higher-leverage situations will begin to pay off this year. He has proven to be a very talented young player, and this should be the year that he finally learns to consistently repeat his best level performance.
Although his numbers are far from All-Star quality so far, this guy has 22 saves and even an immaculate inning under his belt. At 31 years old, in his 4th big league season, I think this is the year that Kyle Finnegan takes the big step from "decent" to the guy that gets Nats fans amped up when he takes the mound, and I'd be thrilled to see him take that energy to the All-Star game.
3. Joey Meneses
It's one of the of the biggest questions Nationals fans have been asking all offseason: Was Joey Meneses' 2022 dominance just a fluke, or is he the real deal?
Despite an out-of-this-world rookie campaign, fans have good reason to doubt that the 30-year-old hitter will be a serious piece of the Nationals' rebuild. That said, is it so crazy to hope his hot streak will last until July? He may not have cracked the bigs until last year, but based on his .324 batting average and .930 OPS in 56 Major League games, this first baseman and right fielder looks like he just might have the stuff to go toe-to-toe with baseball's biggest names, at least in the near term.
Prior to being called up to the Nationals after the Soto trade, Meneses put up numbers that makes one wonder why it took so long for him to get his shot in the Show, slashing an excellent .295/.346/.495 in three seasons at the AAA level. It isn't the same as exhibiting prolonged success in the Majors, but it is some indication that Joey has what it takes to keep it up, at least until opposing pitchers start finding better ways to get him out.
If he can manage to consistently repeat exemplary play in 2023, there is a serious chance he represents Washington in Seattle this July. Not bad for his first full season!