Overreacting to Nationals' Spring Training Game 1
The Nationals had their first official Spring Training game of the 2023 season yesterday, as they had a comeback 3-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Now the lineup and strategy we saw isn't necessarily any indication of the Opening Day lineup we will see, as the Nationals and all MLB teams will frequently mix and match players, blending experience, young prospects, and non-roster invitees into their Spring Training lineups. However, we did see some pieces of what projects to be the Nationals' Opening Day roster and lineup, including CJ Abrams leading off, Joey Meneses batting third, and MacKenzie Gore getting the start, cementing himself as one of the top arms in the rotation. After a win, with some impressive performances, I thought it only natural to react, or overreact, to some of what we saw yesterday.
CJ Abrams is unquestionably this team's leadoff hitter.
This is not an overreaction. I will die on this hill. I am also additionally passionate about this subject recently as it was reported yesterday that Davey Martinez was considering dropping Abrams in the lineup until he learned to "take more walks." A bit of a joke, as this is the same manager that gave 400 leadoff appearnaces to Cesar Hernandez just last season, who was statistically one of the worst leadoff hitters in baseball. Abrams is also a young, foundational piece. The Nationals should be doing everything they can to feature Abrams and give him the role they want him to fill, like leading off.
Moving on, Abrams really impressed yesterday. He led off the game with a single, followed by a stolen base. He later scored that inning on an RBI single by Stone Garrett. That is exactly the type of run manufacturing the Nationals need, and the type that CJ Abrams can bring to the table at the top of the lineup. He also later doubled in the game, showing he is not just a singles' merchant like Hernandez was last season.
Stone Garrett is the best option for the cleanup spot.
Now this one might be an overreaction, but it is also one I feel passionate about like CJ Abrams. I have been a huge Stone Garrett fan ever since the Nationals signed him this past offseason, and it seems like more and more people are joining the cause. I also predicted him to lead the Nationals in home runs this season. The Nationals starting him in game 1 in the cleanup spot only added fuel to that fire. While Garrett didn't light the world on fire in his Nationals' team debut, he fought off a pitch for a bloop single that scored CJ Abrams and the first run of the spring. It wasn't a 400 foot home run, but it was an impressive display of power.
The Nationals are severely lacking in the power department, and Stone Garrett is as good of a candidate as any to fill that role. If he can prove he can hold his own against righties and lefties alike, I see no reason he shouldn't be this team's permanent 4 hitter.
Joey Meneses is due for severe regression.
I know he was a feel good story last season when all was lost, but it doesn't mean he is a lock to continue his success. Meneses was a journeyman prior to landing with Washington with a questionable past that included performance-enhancing substances. It is because of this that makes it difficult to get an accurate read on him with such a small sample size. But what I can tell you is that multiple organizations wouldn't have let him go if they thought what he showed in 2022 was sustainable. I have been beating this drum for awhile, and I don't mean to be a downer, but I do think fans should adjust their expectations for Meneses to be much more reasonable.
This is where the overreaction comes in, as Meneses went 0-3 yesterday with two softly hit groundballs and a fly out to center while batting third. The Nationals have other options to hit in the heart of the lineup, so if Meneses struggles, he will be replaced.
Jeremy de la Rosa is the first man up in the Outfield prospects.
I mentioned this previously, but I do think it is possible that JDLR leap-frogs someone like Robert Hassell III for the time being even though he has not played over Single-A professionally. The Nationals have a lot of outfield depth in the major leagues, so it would take a lot of injury or underwhelming performance for de la Rosa or any prospect to get a shot this season, but he did get the first shot in game 1.
Jeremy de la Rosa was in the Nationals' starting lineup, batting 9th and playing Left Field. He went 1-2 with a single up the middle and a groundout to shortsotp. With the Nationals taking their time with Robert Hassell III after his hamate injury, it could be de la Rosa who gets the first shot at the majors when the time comes. He is the Nationals 9th ranked propsect after all, according to Keith Law of the Athletic.
MacKenzie Gore should be the Opening Day starter.
This is one I am trying to manifest for multiple reasons. The first reason is that Nationals' fans have yet to see MacKenzie Gore pitch in the major leagues, as he was sidelined with an elbow injury after the trade that brought him to DC. The Nationals opted not to put Gore at risk for additional injury, and rightfully so, which ended his 2022 season without an appearance for the Nationals.
All that considered, the Nationals still gave him the ball in game 1 of Spring Training and Gore delivered. Yes, it was only one scoreless inning, but it was an awesome scoreless inning, which included striking out the first batter he faced.
I am also trying to manifest this because I don't think Patrick Corbin should automatically get the Opening Day nod due to his contract or tenture with the team. I believe the spot should go to whoever is the most deserving due to their spring performance, especially when Opening Day is likely to be the only sellout crowd the Nationals have this season. Put your best foot forward.