Opening Day is just days away at this point and the 26 man roster is just about set, but there are still final spots on the bench and in the bullpen to be decided, not to mention an official rotation spot to be named. We know Patrick Corbin will be starting on Opening Day against the Braves and we know most of the starting lineup. What don't we know? Let's dive in.
"Which player that didn’t make the team out of Spring Training, do you think will have the biggest impact on the team this year?" - @reverrsse
This is a bit of a cop out, but I think it is Paolo Espino. He was reassigned to AAA Rochester, but that was more so he could be stretched out to cover multiple innings, something he wouldn't have had the opportunity to do at the Major League level right away. I expect Espino will be back with the big league club sooner rather than later as he has performed admirably in the long-relief, spot starter role. With a young rotation that struggled last year, Espino might frequently find himself in that role again this season.
"Based solely on their 2023 spring training performances. Who should be the 3 starting outfielders?" - @KennethRott
If you're going solely on Spring Training performances, we have more outfielders that shouldn't make the roster than should. But it is important to not be too reactionary over Spring Training performances, whether good or bad.
To answer the question, Victor Robles and Alex Call definitely earned starting spots with their performances. Lane Thomas and Corey Dickerson really struggled this spring and personally I don't want them near the top of the order, something Davey Martinez seems intent on doing. Stone Garrett didn't have an other-worldly spring either, but he was slightly better than Thomas and Dickerson and has more upside in the power department.
"Which young guy takes the biggest step forward?" - @erom_mo
I'm giving two answers: Josiah Gray and Luis Garcia.
Gray has been exceptional this spring, lowering his ERA to 0.55 after a 4 inning performance today. His performance last year leaves a lot to be desired, but that's also why I think he takes one of, if not the biggest steps forward this year; he has a lot of room to improve.
Garcia is a player I am very bullish on this year. I may just be trying to manifest it into existence, but Garcia has a ton of offensive potential and now that he won't be asked to play shortstop full time, a position he was clearly in over his head playing, I think he will settle in nicely as an everyday player.
"Think that Abrams takes a nice step forward as a starter?" - @TBU51
Speaking of guys who I think will take a step forward, CJ Abrams is among them. I do encourage fans to temper their expectations a bit with Abrams, but I think you see clear signs of improvement this season. He flashed defensively and the speed was noticeable, but he needs to put more balls in play and walk more. With the ban on the shift, I think he can do it. Ryan from our site recently compared him to JP Crawford of the Mariners with more speed, which I think is a fairly accurate comparison at this point.
"Who can make the jump from AA to DC this year?" - @jburroughsa
So I don't think anyone makes the jump from AA to the Majors this year, but I do think there are a couple of prospects to keep an eye on. Mainly I think Jeremy de la Rosa and Robert Hassell III deserve close attention. This is not necessarily because their play has demanded it, but I think the Nationals outfield situation at the Major League level is deceptively thin. Robles has struggled offensively for years, Thomas and Call were castaways from teams trying to contend, and Dickerson seems closer to retiring than being a middle of the order bat Davey Martinez is trying to make him. If any or all of those players struggle, the Nationals have a lot of depth in the outfield in the minors to call upon.
"Who are some pieces who could be dealt at the deadline this season?" - @natsdegrom
Basically everyone on an expiring contract. The Nationals don't have anymore Trea Turners or Juan Sotos to trade for a haul of prospects anymore (they don't exactly grow on trees) so they'll be left selling off the expiring deals for more controllable assets. I think Candelario and Dickerson are the most likely candidates to be traded if they performa well. Dom Smith could be another, but I think the Nats opt to keep him around if he performs well since they don't have much first base depth in the minors and he is still just 27 years old. My hot take is Kyle Finnegan could be traded. He's 31 but still has a couple of years of control. If he's our closer and racks up some saves, he could be an attractive bullpen piece in a seller's market.
"Has Stephen Strasburg thrown his last pitch as a major league baseball player?" - @VALambeauLeaper
No, but only because I think they will bring him back for a celebratory appearance, à la the Mets with David Wright. But I do think the days of Stephen Strasburg being a member of the Nationals rotation are over. It is unfortunate, but Strasburg had an amazing career and deserves to be in the Nationals ring of honor.
"How have we already been eliminated from the playoffs?" - @SadderWashFan
"With masn being such a sh*t show, when will this team try to win again?" - @Sciolist_Steve
"What are some of the high points we can look forward to as we look up the roster on Google?" - @jonfeng1
I am grouping these three questions together as I think they are all going to be similar answers. You cannot expect playoffs from the Nats, not for the next couple seasons. Instead, you have to try to focus on the little things. Things like player development or even something as trivial as new uniforms or merchandise. At the very least, the Nationals have several young exciting players that will be fun to watch. There will be growing pains, but it doesn't mean they won't be exciting in the meantime. There is also the fact that the Nationals extended Keibert Ruiz to a 10 year deal, further committing to their young core.
The Nationals won't be competing for an annual playoff spot like they were in the 2010s, which means we won't be deriving our happiness from the wins. We have to find other ways to find our happiness from the team, and it comes in different ways for every fan. For instance, I found lots of joy and laughter from this particular twitter question.