The Nationals made a surprising announcement today regarding their plans for the pre-season. Instead of hosting their traditional Exhibition Game post-Spring Training and prior to Opening Day, the Nationals instead have opted to call up their top prospects for an exhibition match that will showcase their future in front of all of their fans.
Of course the initial thought by many is that this is a ploy to not have to split the gate revenue with another team, which may be true, but it does not change the fact that it is an extremely cool idea.
We don't have many details as of yet, but I would think this would be an intrasquad scrimmage of sorts where we see two teams comprised both of Major Leaguers and Prospects as they go head-to-head to prepare for the season. It won't be a straight up versus battle between the Nationals Major League team and the Nationals Minor League team, although I think that may actually be a battle to watch too.
Instead we are going to get to see players like James Wood and Dylan Crews mesh with current Nationals like CJ Abrams and Keibert Ruiz. The hype around the Nationals' farm system and their future has arguably never been higher, but certainly has never been higher in the past decade. Getting these players in front of fans, and in person at their home ballpark, only adds fuel to that fire. I'm sure it will subsequently give the Nationals coaching staff and Front Office a look at how these players fit in with some of the current roster.
Long story short, there is really no downside to this.
I'm sure we'll see some top prospects be Non-Roster Invitees to Spring Training when the Nationals head to Florida this coming February, but it does not necessarily mean the Nationals are ready to have them on their final 2024 roster as of yet. However, if we do see a James Wood or Dylan Crews earn their way onto the roster with a strong Spring, then this Exhibition game would only be more exciting to fans as it will be the first time they get to see these players as Major Leaguers.
If this event goes well, which in all likelihood it will as fans are already buzzing on social media about it, I would not be surprised to see more teams follow suit, especially teams with a stronger Farm System that fans are patiently awaiting to make their way to the big leagues. That would put the Nationals at the forefront of a great idea, which is honestly a new place to find ourselves in as a fan since we are so used to the Nationals being behind the times. A welcome change.
Here is the sizzle reel the Nationals released promoting the event:
If you were not already excited for these top prospects to debut, you sure are now. And if you were already excited, then March 26, 2024 at Nationals Park cannot come soon enough. I will see you there!