Washington Nationals Middle Infield Projections

The Nationals seemingly have their shortstop of the future in CJ Abrams, but who will his part be up the middle?
Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

With the Washington Nationals regular season beginning in just over a month, it is time for predictions. Today, we dive into the Nats' middle infield group. They are one of Washington's youngest positional groups, but have some of the most potential.

While there are projections from Fangraphs on each of these players, I think they are a bit conservative so here are my own projections.

Projected Starters

CJ Abrams, Shortstop

2024 projected stats: 154 games, .268 average, .330 OBP, .424 SLG, 22 home runs, 27 doubles, five triples, 68 RBI, 105 SO, 45 BB, 52 SB, 14 errors

The hopeful future shortstop, CJ Abrams, looks to build off his first entire season in the Majors. The 23-year-old hit .245 with 18 home runs and 64 RBI last season. His speed showed up big time, hitting six triples and stealing 47 bases, a Nationals franchise record. Consistency is the issue for the young shortstop. In June, Abrams struggled to a .216 average, striking out 21 times in 74 at-bats. He followed that performance with a .327 average in July with nine extra-base hits.

CJ also had some growing pains on defense, committing 22 errors. I expect CJ's error count to decrease in 2024 as he was much improved in the second half of the season. The game is quick for young players, and shortstop is no easy position. CJ had little minor-league experience compared to young infielders and he was essentially learning on the fly. Abrams has appeared in more Major League games(241) than he did in the minors(114), according to baseball-reference.com.

Comfortability at shortstop for Abrams will lead to freedom at the plate. A young shortstop hyper-focused on his mistakes in the field loses his prowess in the batter circle. An offseason of preparation as a starting shortstop should suit Abrams well.

Luis García Jr., Second Base

2024 Projected Stats: 152 games, .276 average, .315 OBP, .419 SLG, 13 home runs, 58 RBI, 19 doubles, two triples, 75 SO, 38 BB, 10 SB, seven errors

Luis García Jr. is a fascinating player to talk about. Once a top prospect with a reasonable amount of "hype," García Jr. has struggled to find his footing in the Majors. Last season, García Jr. was sent down to Triple-A Rochester for 25 games to work on his game. He returned to the Nats for September and hit .304 with three home runs and eight RBI in 69 at-bats. In 2024, he needs to prove he's the second baseman of the future in Washington. This is a crucial season for García Jr.

García Jr.'s lack of plate discipline is concerning. In 447 at-bats last season, Luis walked just 27 times. On the flip side, he stuck out just 60 times. García Jr. has incredible bat-to-ball skills but is incredibly impatient at the plate, leading to swings at pitcher's pitches which results in weaker contact and easy outs. In 2022, Washington tried to play Luis at shortstop, and his defense suffered. His transition to second base full-time allowed the 23-year-old to excel, committing just eight errors in 2023.

García Jr. has the talent to become the Nationals' franchise second baseman. Will he put it together in the 2024 season?

Illdemaro Vargas, Bench

2024 Projections: 70 games, .238 average, .292 OBP, .340 SLG, two home runs, 18 RBI, eight doubles, 18 SO, 16 BB

Last season, Illdemaro Vargas was the first man off the bench for coach Davey Martinez. Whether it was in the middle infield, third base, or the outfield, Vargas was available to play. Now 32 years old, Vargas may not be as quick on his feet. Vargas has yet to hit over four home runs in a season across his Major League career. Don't expect the 2024 season to be any different.

A decreased role for Vargas should be in place for the 2024 season. The Nationals Rule-5 Draft Selection, Nasim Nuñez, should be in line for a large portion of Vargas' playing time. It's known what type of player Illdemaro is; it would only be right to see what Nuñez can become.

Nasim Nuñez, Bench

2024 Projections: 90 games, .235 average, .300 OBP, .325 SLG, three home runs, 25 RBI, ten doubles, one triple, 42 SO, 29 BB, 15 stolen bases

Another wildcard in the Nationals' middle infield is 23-year-old Nasim Nuñez, Washington's selection in the 2023 Rule-5 Draft. The quick shortstop stole 52 bases last season in the minor leagues. The 5-foot-9, 168-pound Nuñez struggled to get on base consistently with an OPS of .627. For Nuñez to be successful in the Majors, his bat skills must improve.

Nuñez hit just 18 extra-base hits last season over 490 at-bats. The Nationals seem to find players who hit ground balls. Hitting coach Darnell Coles should have a field day with Nasim Nuñez. In all seriousness, Nasim's power numbers must increase to earn playing time in Washington. His speed is compromised if he cannot get on base.