The Washington Nationals will begin their 2024 season on the road in Cincinnati on March 28. That will be a short three-game road series with the Reds through that weekend with the Nats’ home opener on April 1 against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday. Could we see Paul Skenes against Dylan Crews in a matchup? You have to wonder given the new CBA’s rules on what is known as the Prospect Promotion Incentive (PPI). Just ask the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles how that worked out or did not work out respectively.
All of this PPI talk is more about really determining when your player is ready. You almost have to decide if your player is ready for Opening Day or hold them off to late August to preserve their “prospect status” with the 45 day/130 at-bat rule. But what if your team needs great players because they are fighting for the postseason?
The Orioles lost a full year of service time for Adley Rutschman when he was voted second in the Rookie of the Year (ROY) under the new CBA rules even though he only played in 113 games in 2022, the Orioles did not take advantage of the PPI. In the current CBA, a player who finishes in first or second place in the Rookie of the Year voting, who does not otherwise qualify for a full year of service time, will be awarded the full year.
The MLBPA in the last CBA wanted to change the perceived manipulation by teams of top prospects’ service time which had been an issue for years, and one of the biggest issues for the players’ union when negotiating the most recent CBA in 2022. Qualified prospects who win Rookie of the Year earn their team a draft pick (PPI) at the end of the first round and the Mariners selected Jonny Farmelo from Westfield high school because Julio Rodriguez won the Rookie of the Year. The second place finisher in the ROY can earn an international pick. Players must be Top-100 ranked in two of the lists compiled by MLB.com, Baseball America or ESPN to qualify.
Should the Nats have Crews on their Opening Day roster or wait for late August? What about James Wood who is ahead of Crews in development and could be called up to the Nats in late August or early September 2024? Brady House has an ETA of 2025 but could he come up in late August or early September of 2024?
“There is never a blueprint for when a player gets to the big leagues. [The players] make sure that we know when they’re big league ready …”— GM Mike Rizzo said earlier this week on when Crews will be ready for an MLB debut
August 20 could be a date to draw a big circle on the calendar for a home series that is within the 45 days to the end of the 2024 season when these top prospects could be added to the Nats’ roster and limited to that 130 at-bat limit. Rutschman was drafted in 2019, and he spent 2019 to 2021 in their minor leagues when he certainly looked more than ready at the age of 23 to be called up in 2022. Now his final year of team control is through the 2027 season because of the PPI rules to protect the player from service time manipulation.
The PPI could be a key decision from Rizzo in his 2024 roster construction. It is also reasonable to think that Crews could use some minor league work in 2024. Determining when to call him up to the Majors will be one of the toughest decisions on the front office to make. If the Nats shock the baseball world in 2024 like the Reds are now doing, do you bring Crews up earlier? The Reds will most likely lose a full year on Elly De La Cruz as he looks like a lock for the first or second spot in ROY voting.
The rest of the 2024 schedule is just about the teams the Nats’ play at home like the New York Yankees which could sell-out Nats Park in late August. Hopefully there is no football conflict with pre-season games on those nights involving the Commanders, Giants, or Jets.
Of course there could be a Shohei Ohtani effect wherever he is playing in 2024. The Angels are playing in Nats Park in early August. Could the unicorn sign a new deal with the Angels? Most experts do not think so.
The Nats entire April home schedule is against teams that are expected to be good to very good like the Astros who are back in Nats Park, and of course the Dodgers are totally played out for the entire season in a road then home series in April. The only easy part of this rough March/April schedule is three games with Oakland. Another tough test to start a season with series from Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, six games with the Dodgers, Houston, Miami and Texas to finish the month of April. Brutal.
Maybe the 2024 Washington Nationals will surprise in a positive way.