Three Players to Watch During Nationals Spring Training
Nationals pitchers and catchers are set to report to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach for Spring Training on February 15th, followed by the rest of the roster on the 21st. Now is the best time to find key players to follow during the spring. The Nationals are plentiful in young talent this year and will be for years to come, giving fans many prospects to choose from. Some are fighting for second chances and others are looking to break through the door into the major leagues. Here are three prospects you should keep an eye on during Washington Nationals spring training.
Although Kieboom no longer holds his prospect status, the 25-year old third baseman has yielded just 355 career at-bats due to injuries and lack of production. Carter needs to come into 2023 spring training improved and ready to produce or he could be the odd man left off the regular season roster. Kieboom was the 20th overall prospect in baseball following the 2019 season and has not hit particularly well since that season in the minors.
Carter is in need of a productive season in the worst way, so I believe he is a great follow during spring training. He should be motivated to produce early on to solidify his roster spot heading into the regular season. With the signing of Jeimer Candelario, his chances to make the roster took a hit but were not diminished.
Designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox in December, the Nationals claimed middle infielder Jeter Downs and placed him on their 40-man roster. The former top-100 prospect is now in his fourth organization after being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, then traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox. Jeter is getting a fresh start in Washington where he has no pressure to produce, unlike in Boston due to being a part of the Mookie Betts trade that Red Sox fans grew to strongly dislike.
Downs, now 24-years old, has also struggled to hit since the 2020 lost season. He hit 24 home runs and drove in 86 runs with an .862 OPS in a really productive 2019 season. Since then the speedy middle infielder has struggled to hit for average, compiling an average less than .200 over the last two minor league seasons. Downs has just 39 career major league at-bats, so he is still very inexperienced at the highest level. He's going to get his chance this year, and that's why he made my list of prospects to watch during Nationals spring training.
I know Josiah is no longer a prospect, but he needs a bounce back year in the worst way. After leading the league in home runs allowed last season, the 25-year old has to develop fastball control for him to be successful in 2023. Gray's secondary pitches worked well last season, but it was the fastball that was flat and taken out of the park at an alarming rate. It's very obvious to Nationals fans what Josiah needed to work on heading into the offseason, it will be a matter of if he puts in the work to get the results.
This will be Josiah's second full professional season, and I expect the right-hander to improve in all aspects of his game. In the minors Gray never had an ERA above 3.20, so I expect with time and experience the right-hander will get his feet under him and throw the ball more effectively. Out of the three players listed in this article, Gray could be the most important follow in the 2023 season due to the Nationals reliance on starting pitching.