The combination of power/speed with being a premium defender are three of the most prized weapons in baseball when one player possesses all of those. With one more home run, CJ Abrams would join an exclusive club in Washington Nationals history for players who have hit at least 15 home runs with at least 30 stolen bases in a season. The only two players in that club as of yesterday are Alfonso Soriano and Trea Turner in Nats’ history. Consider this, Abrams is just 22 years old! Turner did it in his age 25 and 26 seasons, and Soriano at age 30 had that incredible 40/40 season.
There are certainly areas of growth for Abrams as he improves in his career. He only has a total of 209 games in his big league career after only 114 games in the minor leagues. A first round pick in 2019 going at 6th overall out of high school in Roswell, Georgia, Abrams had such a short minor league indoctrination that he has really been learning at the MLB level. Yesterday was a game of lows and highs — he didn’t run a “hard 90” on a groundball that was booted by the Yankees’ shortstop which resulted in Abrams being thrown out because he didn’t run hard, and in the same game he blasted a mammoth home run that was a key to the Nats win. Abrams spent all of April and May as a negative WAR player, and since then has turned into the Nats second most valuable player this season, only trailing Lane Thomas in WAR on FanGraphs for players on the Nationals roster because Jeimer Candelario was traded.
Last year, I wrote an article an article to mark CJ’s birthday on October 3, naming him as a player that should be signed to a long-term deal. Surprisingly, there were some harsh comments at the time, and even harsher when Abrams struggled early in the season. It became a joke in early in the season, well, the jokes on you now. As I reminded people, seasons and careers aren’t determined by a checkered start. Long-term deals are about seeing the future. I did the same with Turner back in 2016 and was criticized then, so why would it change now? Obviously the Nats did not extend Abrams, and maybe that was a mistake by the team. This, yes this, should have been the first priority to get done. The team did get Keibert Ruiz extended after he changed agents — and that was a wise move. This is why you evaluate based on process and not results early in a career. The same goes for drafting players. There is actually a skill to it. Few have it. The great ones just do it more consistently than others.
Some of the amateur scouting reports are right on high school players — but most are wrong. It is very difficult to assess a teenager playing in limited game action. Derek Jeter‘s scouting report was published by the Hall of Fame. Nobody is saying Abrams will be a Hall of Famer. He has not even reached All-Star status yet. He has reached the realm of that he is going to be a good and productive player with star potential. His slash in the past 50-games is .280/340/.451 with a .790 OPS. While that OPS doesn’t blow you away, think about the fact that in that span Abrams stole 26 bases and was only caught one time. Those steals are like turning 26 singles in 26 doubles. Abrams is a havoc wreaker. He has changed the game with his bat with two walk-off hits, and with his legs as he is a run scorer.
With just 34 games remaining in this 2023 season, there is no telling where Abrams finishes his year. The sky’s the limit for this young man.