To many Nationals fans, 2023 may already seem like a foregone conclusion. After a dismal 2022 season in which the Nats finished in last place, 2023 doesn’t look much better. While they have added a few new faces such as Trevor Williams, Corey Dickerson, and Dominic Brown, they are still nowhere near playoff contention on paper. So what do Nats fans have to be excited about in 2023? Well, at least three things actually.
The Middle Infield Duo
After a few seasons of instability up the middle, it looks like the Nationals will have a formidable middle infield duo in 2023. Luis Garcia is entering his fourth major league season, which will be his first full season, and is primed for a breakout year at the plate. On the other side of second is C.J. Abrams, who is entering his second season. Abrams is not quite as polished yet as Garcia but should improve at the plate with a full season of major league opportunity. Both can field their positions well and Abrams has shown flashes of dazzling defense at times. Consistency and lots of playing time will help these two reach their potential.
The Young Guns
The Nationals have some exciting young arms in both the rotation and the bullpen this upcoming season. In the rotation you will most likely find both Mackenzie Gore and Cade Cavalli. Cavalli had a very solid season in Triple A last year where he posted a 3.71 ERA and should make the Opening Day roster this year. MacKenzie Gore is also primed for a big year after coming off of a minor arm injury. In the Juan Soto trade, minor leaguers such as Robert Hassell and James Wood were highlighted as the big names that the Nats got back in return. However, look for the former Padres 3rd overall pick Gore to be a very solid starter as he enters his prime. Then there is Josiah Gray who is not a rookie anymore but is entering a crucial year in his development. The Nats hope that he can take that next step and with the advancements in player development, he should. In the bullpen are guys like Mason Thompson, Jordan Weems, Thad Ward, and Hunter Harvey. Harvey is the most established of the four having had a great 2022 season with a 2.52 ERA in 38 games. Thompson, Weems and Ward are coming off of injury plagued seasons and hope to bring their high velocity to the Nationals bullpen and establish themselves for this season and beyond.
The Unexpected Contributors
One of the few bright spots of the Nationals 2022 season was Joey Meneses. After the Juan Soto trade, the 30-year-old went on a tear batting .324 with 13 homers in 222 at-bats. Meneses seemed like a major league veteran instead of the first-year rookie that he was. The Nats could use the same production from him in 2023. Two other players that could use a resurgence as they get older are 27-year-old Dominic Smith and 33-year-old Corey Dickerson. Smith was flat out awful last year and batted under .200, but has had success in seasons prior. Dickerson was serviceable but also not what he once was, but has had a long career of solid performance. The Nats signed the two to very small one-year deals and hope that they produce so they can become trade pieces at the deadline.
Victor Robles is also a part of this group as this will likely be his last season in a Nats uniform unless he returns to his 2019 self, which some fans might find exciting. Then there is the tantalizing upside of someone like former MLB top prospect Jeter Downs, who will most likely start the season in the minors. He too is someone who struggled mightily last year, but the Nationals claimed him with the hopes he could be the player that scouts once thought he would be as a highly touted Red Sox prospect.
Statistics compiled from Baseball Reference.