Who would have expected exactly two months ago when the Washington Nationals were 19-9 in the month of June and surging towards first place — just 2.0 games behind the Mets, that this team would be where they are today? Then two injuries happened to start July and their fortunes would change so significantly. Maybe we can look back to the swoon after June as a blessing in disguise.
General Manager Mike Rizzo would make some deadline trades exactly a month ago that would turn this team around with five of the team’s top-7 players were traded and the team received back a dozen players in all, two of which would rank as Top-50 prospects in all of baseball — and both of those players will form tonight’s battery for the Nats. Tonight marks the Nats’ debut of their top prospect Keibert Ruiz who will be catching starting pitcher, Josiah Gray. The pair were Dodgers’ teammates at Oklahoma in Triple-A. Reunited again.
Ruiz, 23, is the consensus top prospect in Nats’ Minor League system and № 13 overall per Baseball America, and № 19 prospect per MLB Pipeline.
“We’re getting a chance to see some of the guys we got,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I’ll give them opportunities to play. I want to see them play. And it’s been a lot of fun getting to know these guys.”
The changes are so significant on the Nats’ roster that today there is only one player in the starting lineup who the Nats do not control past this season, and that is Alcides Escobar. Looking at Martinez’s lineup, every player in this lineup is team controlled for at least three more years except for Escobar and Josh Bell. Because the team will most likely spend in the off-season, it is hard to say whether or not this would be the team’s starting lineup on Opening Day — and you just never know if Escobar’s deal was extended.
Maybe the greatest area of need in this lineup is a left-handed centerfielder plus one more upgrade for the infield. We can dream, can’t we?
In order to make room on the roster for Ruiz, the Nats went the simplest path and optioned Tres Barrera back to Triple-A. The team could have held onto three catchers but the team really wants make sure Ruiz, Barrera, and Riley Adams are all getting playing time.
This is definitely a better look at these players then you get in Spring Training because now you face starters like Zack Wheeler instead of a Double-A pitcher in the late innings in a Florida town that could give results that are more difficult to assess. We have already seen that outfielder Lane Thomas is struggling against right-handed pitching for instance and that has to raise a red flag. The final 32-games of the season will be very telling on what Rizzo will do in the off-season.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN, NBCSports Philly, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® ( Streaming Internet 869)
Line-ups subject to change without notice: