In the case of the 2024 Washington Nationals, most of their offseason has been signing minor-league flyers in hopes of finding some upside for the ball club. Right-handed pitcher Hobie Harris, left-hander Anthony Banda, right-handed starter Chad Kuhl, and infielder Michael Chavis were minor league hopefuls who earned spots on the Opening Day roster in 2023. So, who has the best chance of making the roster in 2024? Here are 4 minor league flyers that could see themselves walking the red carpet at Nationals Park on opening day.
OF/DH Travis Blankenhorn: The best minor league player in the Nationals’ 2023 system, Travis Blankenhorn re-signed with the ball club and hopes to make an impact on the team in 2024. Blankenhorn, 27, made his Nationals debut after the major league rosters expanded from 26 to 28 in September. Blankenhorn introduced himself to the fanbase by hitting a towering home run in his first Nationals at-bat. Davey Martinez has preached all off-season that the team was looking for a corner outfielder with decent pop. In steps Travis Blankenhorn, who fits that bill to the best. Blankenhorn only played 10 games with the Nationals in 2023 before suffering a season-ending foot injury. Blankenhorn destroyed Triple-AAA pitching for Rochester, hitting .262 with a system-leading 23 homers and a .877 OPS.
1B Lewin Diaz: The former Marlins infield prospect has bounced around the league since being released from Miami in 2022. Diaz spent the entire 2023 season with Triple-AAA Norfolk, an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Diaz hit .268 over 118 games, with the most notable moment coming in August when he delivered the walk-off single in MLB’s minor league game of the year. Diaz has a decent shot of making the roster as Joey Meneses’ backup at first base. Another left-handed power bat that Davey can choose from.
DH Juan Yepez: The first minor league flyer of the off-season, former Cardinals DH Juan Yepez signed a minor league deal with the club after 2 seasons in St. Louis. Yepez had a decent 2022 season with the Cards, slashing .273 over 76 games. Yepez had a notable postseason as well delivering a go-ahead 2-run shot in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series. 2023 was a much different year for Yepez, only appearing in 28 games and holding a .183 average before getting replaced by Nolan Gorman & Brendan Donovan at the DH position.
RHP Spenser Watkins: The only pitcher that has been added this offseason (aside from veteran right-hander Dylan Floro), Spenser Watkins could have the best chance at making the roster as a reliever. The former 30th-round pick has not had much of a successful career up to this point. Watkins last appeared in August of 2023 where he made 1 start for the Oakland A’s. That start was anything but pretty, as Watkins gave up 5 runs over 4.1 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Based on the information given, and the lack of transactions the Nationals have made this offseason, I think that Juan Yepez has the best chance of making the roster, with Travis Blankenhorn coming in at a close second. If the Nationals add more outfield depth, Stone Garrett would become the DH, and Yepez would likely hit the bench or Triple-AAA. Until then, Juan Yepez looks to be the best choice for Davey Martinez this coming season. Of course, there could be a diamond in the rough hidden within the organization as well.