The Nationals Have An Open Competition in Center Field - What About Dylan Crews?

?Nationals Manager Davey Martinez yesterday detailed the open competition for the starting Center Field spot between the incumbent Victor Robles and the newcomer Jacob Young. If there is already an open competition, could Dylan Crews win a starting spot?

Jul 22, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals outfielder Dylan Crews (3)
Jul 22, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals outfielder Dylan Crews (3) / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Nationals have several areas on their roster that need to be addressed. Entering the offseason, they needed to find solutions to three of their four starting infield spots as well as depth, and namely power, in the outfield. That does not even include the improvements they needed to make within their pitching staff and bullpen, which have gone largely unaddressed, but that is for another time.

One position that also needed to be resolved is Center Field, as the Nationals have a couple of options, but no one particularly rising above all of the rest.

Victor Robles has had the starting Center Field job for several seasons now, with ample opportunity to prove himself as a foundational piece for the future. Unfortunately for Robles, he has done all but that in his extensive time in Center Field. While Robles hit well prior to his back injury last season, which subsequently ended his season before the team even got to the halfway mark, the power has all but disappeared and while he is still above average defensively, it has fluctuated at times and is not leaps and bounds better defensively than some of the other Center Field options on the roster.

The primary challenger is Jacob Young, who debuted late last summer after a meteoric rise through the minor leagues, going from High A Wilmington all the way to the Majors in less than a full season. It could be argued that Young could do well with a little more time in AAA, but I like that he is getting a fair shot to compete with Robles. I also like that Young has seemingly surpassed Alex Call on the Outfield Depth Chart, as Young is (no pun intended) younger and offers more upside. Call is seemingly on the outside looking in as the projected roster currently sits. However, if Young gets assigned to AAA to further his short term development then I would not be surprised to see Call on the Opening Day roster.

Martinez admittedly said he thinks Robles still has the upper hand in the competition, which does make sense. If Robles is finally past his nagging back issues, his most recent performance when healthy was good. Going into a contract year, Robles undoubtedly wants to put up a strong, and full, season of work.

Nevertheless, Martinez seems very agreeable to an open competition in Centerfield, with Lane Thomas and Joey Gallo/Stone Garrett seemingly locked into the corner spots. If there is already an open competition going on, why not expand that competition?

Dylan Crews Could Be The Nationals Starting Center Fielder

Hear me out.

I know conventional wisdom says "Don't rush your top prospect to the Majors." For the most part, I agree, especially with the Nationals not competing for a playoff spot.

I think there are exceptions to this rule, namely if Crews joins this competition in Center Field and runs circles around his teammates. With both Robles and Young, your offensive upside is fairly limited. If Crews displays the ability to handle big league pitching with a strong Spring, there is really no reason NOT to have him as your starting Center Fielder as defense is not an issue with Crews.

The flip side of course is if Crews looks pedestrian in Spring, then there is zero reason to call him up. Crews will need to be convincing with the bat during Spring Training to really win the spot.

The Nationals could already be positioning themselves for an early Crews call up, if not an Opening Day spot altogether. Recently Crews was assigned #3 as his Spring Training number, which would not normally be news if it weren't for the historical trends of prospects, even top prospects, getting higher numbers as it is generally expected that those players will not make the team out of camp and those numbers are only temporary. Crews getting his personal jersey number right away is just more fuel to the fire that the Nationals have their sights on Crews manning Center Field sooner rather than later.

I am perfectly fine if the Nationals remain patient with Crews and their other prospects, but I have to admit that it would be awesome to see Crews make the Opening Day roster. And with the new rules encouraging teams to promote prospects instead of potentially engaging in service time manipulation, there may be further reason to promote Crews sooner rather than later and give him a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Dylan Crews wins NL Rookie of the Year AND the Nationals getting an extra top pick because of it? Sign me up.