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The Future for the Nationals on paper is bright. There’s a lot of young talent already in the MLB and scheduled to be in the MLB within the next three years. As of the New Year, the Nationals jumped eight positions in farm system ranks, all while having four top prospects graduating to the majors. CJ Abrams made the leap to becoming the everyday SS and really seemed more comfortable at the plate the last month and a half. He was batting a respectable .304 average, .312 OBP, and .402 slug while only striking out eight times in the month of September in 92 ABs. With only five games being played in October, he also had a .294 average, .294 OBP, and added two more strikes outs to the list. Abrams seemed he was starting to adjust to the pitching at the MLB level. If he can work on being more selective at the plate to draw some more walks moving forward would be a massive step in the right direction for this young man. He only had five walks throughout the whole season between the Padres and the Nationals. Ranking in the 91st percentile in speed, more walks could lead to more stolen bases or advancing from first to third with balls being put into play. Improving his arm strength moving forward should be a priority, and he ranked in the 51st percentile. With the other talent the Nationals have in their farm system with true SS, learning a new position like second could also be in the cards. Brady House, who is also a true SS, is expected to make his MLB debut within the next year or two and is a top 5 prospect in the Nationals organization. House is known for his ability to hit the gaps, and his arm strength is his most significant upside. House could also Transition into 3rd base, given the gap the Nationals have at that position. Carter Kieboom, a top Prospect for the Nationals for a couple of years and a true 3rd basemen, has been more of a bust at the MLB level not panning out the way fans or the organization would have liked to fill the void left by Tony Two Bags at third. There’s also Armando Cruz, who also has a stronger arm than Abrams having a 92 MPH throw from the SS position to first. Cruz has more speed than house and would make him more ideal than House at SS if Abrams's arm strength doesn’t improve. Abrams could transition over to 2nd base giving his arm strength. This would make the middle of the infield extremely fun to watch, with Cruz at short and Abrams at second, covering the gaps up the middle. It will just leave one hole at the first base position and knock out my current Nationals player Luis Garcia who as well is a true SS but does not have the arm strength or speed to play the position. Hints at why the farm system moved him over to 2nd base before calling him back up to the MLB. Why not try first? Learning a new position again and adequately one of the hardest positions to learn in baseball. The 22-year-old has a lot of upside with a lot of heart. Start giving him practice reps this year while having Smith handle the day-to-day.
The National's outfield is should be fun to watch soon as well. Lane Thomas and Victor Robles are the two notable outfielders in the league right now. Robles has had horrible back-to-back years, but theres a chance maybe he turns it around this year and gets back to his old self. He was never a top hitter, but his ability to track balls down in the center and his arm strength made him a valuable tool during the 2019 World Series season. Lane Thomas is another outfielder with great speed and a slight improvement on with the bat during the 2022 season. The real excitement comes from the prospects who should be breaking into the show within the next couple of years and could steal these jobs away. James Wood, who was acquired from the Padres in the monster Juan Soto trade, has one of the most explosive bats in any farm system out there. He batted .293 with a .829 in 21 games for the National's high A ball team. His speed isn’t too shabby either, ranking in the 80th percentile. Another great prospect that the Nationals acquired from the Padres who could make the move up to the bigs by the end of the 2023 season is Rober Hassell. With a slight edge on the bat-to-ball compared to Woods, this young man could be a stud at the plate with excellent arm strength and accuracy. Hassell didn’t set the world on fire in his short stint in AA ball in 2022 with a .222 average, .311 OBP, and a .607 OPS, but he only had 27 games in AA without any real time to adjust to the level he was now facing. Hassell is currently the top prospect in the Nationals Organization going into the 2023 season. Now onto my favorite outfield prospect the Nationals have right now. Elijah Green, who was drafted in 2022 by the Washington Nationals, on paper, this young man looks to be another once-in-a-lifetime talent. He has excellent speed, a great arm, and great fielding ability to track the ball down, and the ball really pops off his bat with power. The 6-3 225 19-year-old outfielder already has the body size to be in the MLB, not to mention we share the same birthday. We only got a small sample size from Green this year of 12 games, where he was a .302 average, .404 OBP, and a .939 OPS—hitting two home runs and walk-in six times. The downside is out of those 43 AB’s he had, he struck out 21 times. With more time working his way through the system and with coaching, he should be able to get his strike outs under control. With just being drafted this past year he ranks 2nd in the Washington Nationals pipeline.
Here’s where the Nationals run into problems and it’s with their pitching. Mackenzie Gore has already graduated to the MLB level, where him and Josiah Gray could become a scary 1-2 punch in a the five man rotation. I don’t think we will ever see Strasburg pitching again in a Nationals uniform or, if we do, possibly out of the bullpen or not his normal self fighting to stay at the 4-5 man with Corbin, who can’t possibly get worse than he did during the 2022 season. Cade Cavalli made a short appearance in the 2022 season, not showing anything to special, but he is the Nationals top pitching prospect as of now and the way the rotation is could easily start this season in the rotation as the number 3-4 arm depending or how Corbin is doing. On paper Cade has all the tools to be a very good pitcher at the MLB level. A midrange fastball, a solid curveball and slider. His control is his downside and something the coaches will need to work on with him to get him to that next level and become a permanent spot in the rotation. Then theres Jarlin Susana who was picked up in the Soto trade from the Padres as well. The kids got one electric fastball and a decent slider. His curveball and change up are middle of the road and his command is bottom of the barrel. He’s going to need to get those few things under control to make his way up to the bigs, he won’t be able to just blow fastball by MLB batters like he has been doing down in the lower levels. If he can get the change up under control and become a pitch he is comfortable with throwing and can throw effectively, he will leave batters extremely off balance from his high 90’s-100’s fastball he has. This could lead him to be a very effective bullpen arm as a long reliever or closer for the future.
One things for sure though, the Nationals have a lot of young talent in their system with a ton of upside if this talent can develop. Pitching will need some help over the years, but they can always go out and sign some starters or more importantly some bullpen arms to help out. I am excited for the future of this organization and can’t wait for the years to come.