What Would A Good Season From CJ Abrams Look Like?

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals
Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

When it was announced that Juan Soto would be traded to the San Diego Padres, it was a near guarantee that San Diego's former top prospect CJ Abrams would be included in the return to Washington. Through his first 109 games wearing the Curly W, it's safe to say Abrams has had an up and down start to his Nationals career. As all prospects do, CJ has flashed the aspects of his game that got him his former high level prospect status. On the contrary, there have been a number of issues that haunt Abrams and his potential to reach his ceiling as a major league shortshop. Despite these ups and downs, Abrams is still in his first full year in the big leagues after being rushed through the minors, so let's take a look at what would be considered a good season for the 22-year old shortshop.

What is a good year from Abrams with the bat?

Abrams' bat was always considered one of the weaker parts of his game, but that hasn't prevented him from having a fair share of signature moments early in his Nationals' career. His biggest one yet may have been one in Queens against the division rival Mets, where he slammed a hanging breaking ball from fellow lefty Brooks Raley over the right center wall for a go-ahead grand slam.

At bats like these have Nats fans excited for what Abrams can become, but he still has a number of offensive aspects to improve upon. His 2023 slash line is a rather unimpressive .228/.272/.388, adding up to a lackluster .660 OPS and 83 OPS+.

A big reason for Abrams' struggles at the dish can be attributed to his tendency to chase pitches out of the zone. His chase rate ranks in the 7th percentile in the majors this year, thanks to his 40.8 O-Swing%, or percentage of pitches outside of the zone that he swings at. Combine that with the Darnell Coles philosophy that has been installed in the Nationals' lineup leading to his 47.3 GB%, it isn't much of a surprise he has struggled at the plate the way he has.

Now, with that being said, Abrams has more than enough talent to improve and reach the offensive level of an average major league starter. Mike Rizzo and company most likely don't expect Abrams to be a major offensive force going into the future, but rather a nice compliment that adds depth to a lineup and provides elite speed and defense.

So, what would a good offensive season from him look like?

To begin, improvement in the metrics mentioned above would help immensely. Nationals fans would like to see an increase in his line drive percentage and decline in his ground ball percentage would be a good start. His speed allows him to get away with some ground balls, as he can turn weak dribblers into easy infield singles, but he profiles as much more than that. On top of that, Abrams really needs to work on his plate discipline, helping him draw more walks and increase his on base percentage while limiting himself to swinging at pitches he can actually do damage against. Another offensive aspect that has been limited so far this year has been CJ's speed on the base paths, as he only has 7 stolen bases so far this year. Given the fact he has elite speed, the Nationals should capitalize more when he gets on base and let him run free, helping the lineup generate more offense all together.

To put it into numbers, an OPS in the mid .700s would be more than acceptable. His SLG is already .388, so it's his .272 OBP that is really dragging his current OPS down. A reasonable gradual increase to an OBP of around .330 alone would bump his OPS to the .700s. Those numbers with a home run total around 12-15 and a RBI count somewhere in the 60s would suffice for 2023.

How about Abrams with the glove?

Abrams' defense has always been the part of his game that was advertised and displayed the most, and for good reason. Abrams has the ability to make plays that no other shortstop can make, something that can be attributed to his elite speed. Despite his elite playmaking abilities, Abrams finds himself with a -11 OAA this year.

His main struggles in the field come when he's either coming in on the ball, moving to his left, or simply when he tries to do too much. CJ tends to find himself getting stiff feet when he's moving to his left, leading to inaccurate throws and errors. Smaller elements of his game like that are simpler things that can and will improve with better coaching and continued experience in the big leagues. Similar to that, Abrams will often bobble or misplay a ball when moving to his left, as seen in this play below:

Just like he has with the bat, Abrams has displayed a phenomenal skillset in the field, but it's all about consistency with the young short stop. Whether it be the bobbles, stiff legs, or error of any kind, Abrams has hiccups to grow through and improve as an overall fielder.

In terms of what is to be expected from CJ to be considered a good season defensively, a mixture of highlight reel worthy plays and more consistent overall defense would be combine to make a successful year for him. If his offensive output isn't as extreme as others in the lineup, the defensive side of the ball is where Abrams can more than make up for it.

CJ Abrams is quite similar to any other prospect in the Nationals' system, having a profile that includes both a range of positives and negatives that need to be worked upon and balanced out. He may not be an instantaneous sensation the way Bryce Harper and Juan Soto were for the Nationals, but there is little to no reason to give up on the 22 year old shortstop who is still playing in his first full major league season.