Nationals fans have had a slow couple of years. As the front office has torn everything down, we have spent our time and energy as fans on players like Lane Thomas and Joey Meneses. We have enjoyed Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, we have argued over Victor Robles and Alex Call, and we have clenched our teeth through numerous Patrick Corbin starts. Ultimately, we’ve supported our team through a down period while peering over at other fanbases seeing their teams surging out of tanking periods.
When a team is down in such dumps, there’s one thing the fanbase puts their sights on: the future. If we are bad now, the loyal fan thinks, we’ll have our turn in a few years. The competitive window is cyclical, and we’ll be back on top soon. Indeed, every team will eventually climb out of their last-place phase in one way or another. For the Nationals, that’s exactly what we’re waiting for. Let’s talk about what that will realistically look like.
2025 Starting Lineups
Here’s a recipe for a trendy, attention-grabbing post about the future of your sports team. One part of the top young and fan-favorite pros, one part top prospects and recent draft picks, and one part league veterans that sound exciting to maybe, potentially, someday sign in the future. This is a ritualistic exercise for any fanbase, whether it’s overzealous Yankees fans expecting an All-Star only lineup or a tanking team making wishes about prospects in the low minors.
I’ve seen many eager attempts at baking this recipe recently, and reasonably so, now that the Nationals have a brand new prospect of enormous hype and close proximity in Dylan Crews. In my mind, here’s what the 2025 Nationals look like in my 100% accurate evaluation of the bright, shining future.
SS CJ Abrams
LF Juan Soto
1B Christian Walker
RF James Wood
CF Dylan Crews
C Keibert Ruiz
3B Brady House
DH Yohandy Morales
2B Luis Garcia
SP Marcus Stroman
SP MacKenzie Gore
SP Josiah Gray
SP Yusei Kikuchi
SP Cade Cavalli
CL Hunter Harvey
Quibble with this lineup at your leisure. The reality is that this lineup, featuring the unthinkable inclusion of Juan Soto, will never exist. It’s nice to look at, and I do enjoy daydreaming about my favorite player returning to my favorite team, but everyone knows you can’t get everything right.
Here's one thing to note: if it was currently March of 2025 and this was our real projected starting lineup, it would mean something different then compared to what it means now. We have a decent idea of what CJ Abrams, Josiah Gray, and Luis Garcia are right now, but everything changes over time. Two-ish years from now, our opinions will surely have flipped on several of these players. Looking at the projected Opening Day lineups for this season, its evident that teams are constantly shifting and dipping into their depth by midseason. Injuries, promotions and demotions, trades, and various roster shuffles occur every day. In the 2023 Nationals case, several presumed regulars from March have been DFA'd and demoted, and their roster has changed less than the average team in the past few months.
Actually Predicting The Future
It may be obvious, but there are simply too many variables at play to really see the future of Major League Baseball. In broad strokes, you can predict the way a team is trending. For example, the Orioles have been able to make serious gains in both prospect acquisition and player development, so their current form was predictable to a point. However, no expert could have predicted the actual way things played out, or even come especially close to predicting what their 2023 lineup would look like had you asked them a few years ago. The same goes for teams like the Reds and Diamondbacks right now, who have been noted to have plenty of future talent, but who have succeeded in sudden and extreme ways that were impossible to foresee.
The Nationals hope to soon emulate the successes of those franchises. To do so, they’ll need to work hard to carve out each individual successful career, season, month, plate appearance or batter faced from whatever players they have on hand. It’s a zero-sum league, for every surprise resurgence from a veteran, a veteran across the league has an early downfall. For every electric rookie pitcher dominating lineups, there’s a fresh call-up getting shelled weekly, and so on, and so forth.
It's pointless to set your mind on one specific lineup to someday come about, and then expect the competitive window to be flung open thusly. There are more realistic ways to understand and analyze the system and the organization that fuels the big league roster, though. While players like Brady House, Robert Hassell III or Yohandy Morales have no guarantee of a future everyday role, they possess the tools to provide depth to the organization. Depth is everything in building a strong roster: when any number of injuries and slumps and trades and off-field issues and age-related declines may happen, the strength of the next player on the depth chart can make all the difference.
On top of organizational depth, there are always unpredictable and unprecedented performances from some of the most obscure players in a given year. When the Nationals won the World Series, key veteran free agents and trade acquisitions elevated the team beyond another early postseason exit, but they weren’t the hottest commodities at the time they were acquired. The next Nationals competitor will need to find a Howie Kendrick, an Anibal Sanchez, and a Daniel Hudson to complement the budding stars on the roster. There wasn’t a soul who had thought “man, teams really need to go get Daniel Hudson to lock down World Series saves” until the World Series was won, and it was clear in hindsight. The year prior, the World Series MVP was Steve Pearce. Baseball is weird.
Finally, let’s talk about the cream of the crop of the Nationals prospect lists. Right now, James Wood and Dylan Crews are thought to be players of incredible talent who will be ready to join the majors sometime in 2024. Crews checks approximately every conceivable box that a prospect could to signal major league success. Even somebody with consensus plus tools across the board, a history of eye-popping performances and top marks from every possible evaluator doesn’t succeed at the highest level with 100% certainty.
Crews, as exciting as he is, is not an exception to the process of player development. Every prospect down the Nationals list and across the league faces steep odds of actually, legitimately doing it in the majors. There are far more top prospects who are either complete busts or who struggle immensely early on than those who are immediate superstars. When James Wood makes the bigs, he will fall somewhere on the spectrum of similarly hyped prospects. When the time comes he'll exist somewhere among Mickey Moniak and Jarred Kelenic to Byron Buxton and Aaron Judge or another dozen guys who turned out considerably worse.
We’re rightfully excited about Crews, and I personally think drafting him was the best possible outcome for the Nationals, but it’s always important to remember how baseball works. Fans should never put all their eggs in one basket, or even a majority of their eggs in the best-looking couple of baskets. When 2025 comes around, there will be dozens of successful players that we never would have thought about, and far more disappointing players we once thought could never fail. It’s a flawed system, really, when we spend so much time meticulously evaluating human beings aged 17-21.
James Wood could hit 50 home runs some day, Brady House could be a baby Nolan Arenado and Dylan Crews is almost certainly coming to a ballpark near you with as much kinetic energy as a young Bryce Harper. There’s still no clear path for the team to have an actually good pitching staff in the future, but we shouldn’t fret the little things. I’ll consider this my final answer . As is the case with anybody's forecast of 2025, we can look back in two years’ time and say, wow, this was all entirely wrong.