Being optimistic about the future is fun, especially when your team has finished in last place each of the past three seasons and the immediate future looks like that trend will continue. The Nationals are obviously still in the beginning phase of their rebuild as we head towards the 2023 season. With that in mind, we as fans should be able to have a relatively laid-back season and watch some young players show off their skillsets and give us a hopeful glimpse into the future. So, why not have some fun and be overly optimistic when looking at what this team can look like in a few years?
Every season since the 2019 World Series run hasn't been great for the Nats, finishing fifth in their division both the past two seasons and tied for fifth in the shortened 2020 campaign. Add on a couple of hectic trades deadlines where we watched fan favorites get shipped away and you have a completely new team with a completely different core, but a high upside future. It's no secret that the Nats used to have one of the worst farms in baseball, and while it still isn't anywhere near the top, it features a set of prospects that have Nats fans excited for what could be coming down the road.
As it currently stands, the Nationals roster is constructed with a mix of young players that hope to establish themselves in the major leagues, bounce back candidates the Nats hope to be trade deadline candidates, and a few stopgaps and holdovers. A big factor to whether or not this specific rebuild can be successful is if the group of young guys they have now can be the core of the future. One thing to keep in mind when looking at this roster is that we are being optimistic when viewing these prospects, hoping all of the Nationals' top prospects pan out. Additionally, players like Stone Garrett or Alex Call aren't really considered not because I don't want them to succeed, but I'm looking more into the Nationals top prospects with higher ceilings. So, let's take a look at what an overly optimistic and perfect roster this Nationals rebuild can create.
1. Catcher - Keibert Ruiz
Ruiz was one of the headliner pieces in the deal with the Dodgers during the 2021 trade deadline and has since become the starting catcher for the Nats. He's already become one of the top defenders behind the plate in the National League. On the other side of things, Ruiz's offense has been relatively inconsistent so far. While having elite contact skills, his over-aggressiveness and failure to consistently hit hard line drives has hurt him so far. Building on to his elite contact abilities with some patience and more steady power could cement him as one of the best backstops in the league.
2. First Base - Christian Walker
The future of the first base position for the Nationals is honestly one of the bigger question marks when analyzing this potential roster. They don't really have any prospects that can take over and hold that position down. 2022 NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt will be a free agent in 2025, but he'll be 38 by then. While that is right up the Nationals alley, it's safe to assume they won't open the checkbook for an aging first baseman who may very well be losing his battle against father time. Perhaps they move Trey Lipscomb, Carter Kieboom, or Jake Alu to first base and let them man the position. Or they could draft and develop someone else. In the meantime, I'm gonna say they sign Christian Walker, currently on the Arizona Diamondbacks. Walker provides a sure glove opposite of the hot corner with dependable power and plate discipline.
3. Second Base - Luis Garcia
Nats fans have seen bits and pieces of Garcia for a while now. Between a series of minor league highlights, a few stints in the major leagues, and now being the everyday second baseman, Luis Garcia has established himself as a fan favorite. His defense leaves a lot to be desired, but he has switched from shortstop to second base, so that defensive ability can come over time with experience. Garcia's bat has been inconsistent in his time in the show, but nonetheless has his fair share of highlights and looks primed for a breakout season in 2023. Garcia will build on to that and into the future, earning himself the starting second base gig.
4. Third Base - Brady House
Currently the 5th ranked prospect for the Nationals and the 11th overall selection back in 2021, I have Brady House turning into the Nationals' franchise third baseman. While his current position is shortshop, Washington may elect to move him over to the hot corner due to his size. Although he is dealing with a back injury right now, House has shown what he is capable of doing with his bat. His power is definitely there, and the rest of his game will grow with him, propelling him into the franchise third baseman for the Nationals.
5. Shortstop - CJ Abrams
When Juan Soto was sent to San Diego, it was almost certain CJ Abrams would be included in the deal coming back to Washington. Abrams has already stole the hearts of many Nats fans with his slick glove and tremendous speed. With an only improving bat, Nationals fans will have a show to watch up the middle with CJ Abrams and Luis Garcia.
6. Outfielder 1 - Elijah Green
The Nationals will need to work on Elijah Green in order to get the most out of him, but his ceiling is above and beyond. Green presents a 5-tool skill set that could easily translate smoothly out of the top of the lineup. Starting the outfield off with the former 5th overall selection is never a bad idea, and Green will just be the surface of a very stacked future Nationals outfield.
7. Outfielder 2 - Robert Hassell III
The highest rated prospect within the Nationals farm system will be a pleasure to watch in centerfield for years to come. Hassell III quickly cemented himself in the minor leagues both in the San Diego organization and in Washington. Hassell will provide a steady glove in the outfield and turn into the leadoff man of the future for the organization.
8. Outfielder 3 - James Wood
James Wood is a beast, enough said. The 6' 7" outfielder and number 3 prospect in the Washington system takes the crown as my current favorite prospect. James Wood hits tanks and will be a treat to watch in the middle of the Nationals lineup when he comes to the show.
9. Designated Hitter - Juan Soto
Since we're being optimistic... This one is my favorite and the most fun one of them all. The Nationals bring back Juan Soto in free agency and the cycle is completed. They traded him and got a massive haul for the future and compile a huge portion of this team, and they sign him back in free agency to complete the perfect roster. I don't have to say much about Juan Soto, we all know what kind of ballplayer he is. He's perfect, and he comes back to D.C.
10. Starting Pitcher 1 - Aaron Nola
This for sure is a bold take, but I am all for it and every Nationals fan should be as well. History shows the Nationals love spending money on pitching in free agency. With Aaron Nola hitting the market next offseason, the Nationals nab him from their division rival Phillies and make him the ace with a young staff behind him.
11. Starting Pitcher 2 - Cade Cavalli
Cavalli was finally promoted to the big leagues in 2022 and was unfortunately only able to make one start due to an injury. Regardless, Cavalli was able to tease his talent and potential to the Nationals faithful. His elite breaking stuff will prove to play, and with improving command Cavalli will fuse himself into this staff as a second ace.
12. Starting Pitcher 3 - Mackenzie Gore
Just in case there wasn't enough aces already on this pitching staff, Mackenzie Gore will become the Nationals number three starter. Similar to Cavalli, Gore had his season cut short due to injury. Leaving that aside, Gore impressed during his stint in the big leagues with the Padres in the 2022 season. Gore will finally be able to showcase that talent in his new home in 2023, where he finds his stride and becomes the southpaw of the future in this rotation.
13. Starting Pitcher 4 - Josiah Gray
I love Josiah Gray. I love his energy and the way he presents himself on the mound. While his home run numbers do tend to scare some people off, he's still been able to shut down offenses and show what he is capable of. After some work with his fastball, and potentially adding or tweaking another pitch, Gray is able to limit the home run ball and become what would be a number two or three in most other rotations.
14. Starting Pitcher 5 - Chase Dollander
With the assumption the Pirates select Dylan Crews first overall in the upcoming draft, Chase Dollander should expect to find himself in D.C. Dollander pumps gas with a nasty pitch mix that will play well in the big leagues. Dollander will obviosuly move up in the Nationals system over time, but when he arrives to the big leagues he compliments a nasty pitching staff that is hard to compete with.
Bullpens are always one of the most fluid part of any major league roster. Pitchers come in and go out season by season, and the Nationals are no stranger to that parade. Therefore, it is somewhat difficult to construct a complete bullpen for the future, but there are a couple names that can group together to create a strong group out in the pen. Prospects like Thad Ward and former starter Jackson Rutledge could find themselves pitching valuable innings out of the bullpen. Younger arms like Jarlin Susana, Tanner Rainey, Hunter Harvey, Matt Cronin, and Mason Thompson can merge into a taunting unit for opposing lineups.
Sadly, most major league rebuilds don't go this smoothly. That can't stop fans from looking towards the light at the end of the tunnel, teasing them on what could be at the other end. While much of this roster is full of hypotheticals, I created this with a hopeful state of mind. The Nationals have a group of guys that can band together and create an extremely competitive team, one full of talent and one that would be a luxury to watch for years.