The 2023 MLB Draft was a smashing success for the Washington Nationals with two elite players in Dylan Crews and Yohandy Morales, and that can change all the strategies on how general manager Mike Rizzo approaches his off-season. If you go by Baseball America’s final rankings of the draft class, they ranked Crews as the №1 player overall, and Morales at №27. Two clear first round talents. By the way, Bleacher Report ranked the Nats’ draft as the best with an A+. After adding two skilled bats like this to the mix, the Nats focus in free agency should put almost all of their financial resources into securing a true ace of the pitching staff for the long-term, via free agency.
“I feel like Washington got two of the best college hitters in the Draft [with Dylan Crews and me], if I’m being honest. I’ve played with Dylan since I was younger, so I played with him a lot, so that’s going to be a special group when we go out there and get ready to hit some baseballs.”— Morales said in his media session after the draft
With the current position players in-place, the team will not have to pursue a bat in free agency like Rhys Hoskins, and the attention should focus squarely on that ace for the pitching staff and the bullpen. Three names that have to be at the top of the list for the Nats in free agent starting pitchers are Lucas Giolito, Aaron Nola, and Japanese RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
While Yamamoto is a long-shot, Giolito and Nola seem to fit the Nats’ needs for the near-term. For those who forgot, Giolito was the Nats’ first round draft pick in 2012 out of high school at Harvard-Westlake in California. Nola was a first rounder out of LSU in 2014 at №7 overall, and he will be 31 next spring while Giolito is just turning 29 on Friday.
A 2025 starting rotation could be:
- Lucas Giolito/Aaron Nola RHP
- MacKenzie Gore LHP
- Josiah Gray RHP
- Cade Cavalli RHP
- Jake Bennett LHP/Jackson Rutledge RHP
A 2025 lineup could be:
- CJ Abrams, SS (L)
- Dylan Crews, CF (R)
- James Wood, LF (L)
- Yohandy Morales, 1B, (R)
- Brady House, 3B, (R)
- Joey Meneses, DH, (R)
- Keibert Ruiz, C, (S)
- Luis Garcia, 2B, (L)
- Lane Thomas, RF (R)
That lineup is constructed from all players currently in the system, and really none of them are a stretch to see them starting the 2025 season with the Nats. Additional players could have Robert Hassell III, Trey Lipscomb, T.J. White and Drew Millas as your bench or some of them could compete to be starters. Of course Meneses and Thomas could be gone. There is additional positional depth as top prospects will be close to ready. Many players like Daylen Lile, Elijah Green, Cristhian Vaquero, and Jeremy De La Rosa will want to push on to this list. We still need to see where players like Jake Alu, Blake Rutherford, and Carter Kieboom fit. As they say, these are good problems to have.
“Dylan is potentially a guy that moves relatively quickly [through the system] … and gets there, and is here in D.C. fairly soon.”— Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops Kris Kline told the media
For the 2024 roster, there could certainly be some holes to start the season, but the team still has players like Dom Smith, Alu, Alex Call, and Riley Adams for position players under team control while the starting rotation still has Patrick Corbin and Trevor Williams with Cade Cavalli returning in 2024 from his UCL surgery on this pitching elbow. Now if the team can bag either Giolito or Nola, this 2024 team could make some noise with players like Wood so close to making a real bid to make the opening day roster.
By the way, Baseball Prospectus ranked Wood and Crews at №3 and №4 respectively of all prospects. With House as a mid-60’s ranked prospect and several around the Top-100, this farm should rank Top-5 to Top-7 by the end of the season.