For the first time since the United States' emotional championship win in 2017, the World Baseball Classic will be played. 20 teams will compete for glory over the next two weeks and, consequently, all players participating will be absent from Spring Training during that time.
There aren't many Washington Nationals players taking part in the worldwide tournament which could be due to the impressive depth of each roster or the unusually high number of players hoping to win a roster spot during Spring Training. However, similar to every other headline nowadays, there are a handful ex-Nats in the spotlight.
Leading the charge for Dominican Republic's juggernaut lineup is Juan Soto and, his new San Diego Padres teammate, Nelson Cruz. Trea Turner will man shortstop for Team USA and, fellow Phillie, Kyle Schwarber will be behind him in left field.
Playing for The Kingdom of Netherlands is a player many Nationals fans remember as "The Shark". No, not Gerardo Parra, but Roger Bernadina.
Bernadina, a seven-year major league veteran, played six seasons for the Nationals as a speedy pinch runner and reliable defender in the outfield. While he hasn't made an appearance in MLB since 2014, The Shark is back for the WBC.
Among the many superstars on Dominican Republic's initial roster was Vladimir Guerrero Jr. However, following a knee injury Guerrero sustained in Spring Training, Jeimer Candelario will take his spot. The Nationals' expected Opening Day third baseman will move to first base for the tournament with Manny Machado playing the hot corner.
Headlining Team Mexico is Nats fan favorite, Joey Meneses. The 30-year-old first baseman took the league by storm in 2022 after batting .324 in 56 games as a breakout rookie. He'll be joined by Rays' outfielder Randy Arozarena and Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo in a solid Team Mexico lineup.
For the first time in history, Nicaragua will make an appearance at the World Baseball Classic and they'll be doing so with two Nationals on the pitching staff. Erasmo Ramirez, a Nationals bullpen piece, will represent his country alongside 23-year-old prospect Rodney Theophile.
Ramirez earned a one-year major league contract over the offseason following a 2022 campaign where he tossed 86.1 innings and maintained an impressive 2.92 ERA. He will surely be a reliable arm for Team Nicaragua and the Nationals in the 2023 season.
Theophile made headlines in 2022 as well, but in the prospect world. In 9 games started for Single-A Fredericksburg, the tall right-hander struck out 62 batters and pitched to a dominant 1.29 ERA. He wasn't nearly as effective after his promotion to High-A Wilmington, but last season was a step in the right direction regardless.
The last few Nationals that you might see playing for their country at some point over the next two weeks are Andres Machado (Venezuela), Albert Baldonado (Panama), and Tito Polo (Colombia).
While the number of Nationals playing in this year's World Baseball Classic isn't particularly high, it is an entertaining tournament that every baseball fan should consider watching. Especially those who do not care for Spring Training gameplay. When you do see a Nat making the big play at some point over the next two weeks, don't be surprised!
You can find the full World Baseball Classic schedule here.