The future of the Washington Nationals has been on full display at Double-A Harrisburg as well as with the Major League club, and unfortunately on the IL (injured list). We brought up before how sorely missed Stone Garrett was after he broke a bone in his leg last month. The soon-to-be 28 year old was a difference-maker in the lineup as the team had a potential playoff-bound record with him at 47-42. Extrapolate that for a full 162-game season and that would be 86-wins which might get you a Wild Card. Without him, an horrific 18-40 record.
For the season, Garrett finished with an .801 OPS, and he was a bright spot in left field where the team has played seven others this season. Three of them are batting in the .100’s, and two of those Mendozians are still on the Nats’ roster. This is why it is time to call-up the future in outfielder James Wood, the Nats №2 ranked prospect, to see what he can do, and finish this 2023 season with another look at the future. Put Wood in the outfield with Jacob Young, and Lane Thomas.
In the not too distant future, the Nats outfield should be:
Of course Robert Hassell III LH is getting close as he is in Double-A, but he will need to show more in 2024. He has been hot lately and hopefully he finishes strong in final games in Harrisburg. The team could decide to keep both Crews, their top prospect, and Wood in the minor leagues to start the 2024 season. That could open up two more spots.
The current infield really only has one future piece in CJ Abrams as a starter. In Double-A, third baseman Brady House is getting closer, and so is Yohandy Morales who will need a position change to first base. That would set 75 percent of the infield. The team does not have the future second baseman with clarity, unless someone(s) steps up. It might be Luis Garcia for the time being, but long-term you would think someone else will be there.
Obviously Morales and House probably are not ready for Opening Day of 2024, and the team has one additional year of control of Dominic Smith who adds another lefty bat and great glove for this team. That is a future infield, and hopefully as soon as the end of 2024 if all goes well.
As things look now, neither Jake Alu or Carter Kieboom have shown enough in this low leverage opportunity to be a factor for a future Nats team. That is what the rebuild is largely about to see who sticks and who does not.
This might surprise you, but this is where I have the Nats bringing back Jeimer Candelario back as a free agent. He could start at third base until House is ready then shift to first base until Morales is ready, and then shift to the DH as versatile switch-hitter. Of course Joey Meneses is still under team control for another five years.
- Jeimer Candelario DH SH
This is where ownership is really going to have to open up that wallet wide. This team is in need of an ace, and they do not have that pitcher in the system. There are some promising pitchers in the system. Jackson Rutledge got his MLB debut yesterday, the team acquired lefty DJ Herz in the Candelario trade in July, Cade Cavalli is recovering from UCL surgery and should be ready to return in the summer of 2024, and deeper in the minors is Jake Bennett and Jarlin Susana. The team drafted first round talent, Travis Sykora, in this year’s draft out of high school, and there are other interesting pitchers in the Nats Top-30 prospects.
The pitcher who might best fit the Nats for a big payday could be Blake Snell and he is headed to free agency. The lefty could certainly be the Cy Young Award winner in the NL this year, and regardless will be in high demand in free agency.
There are plenty of names to put here for the eight names to comprise a bullpen. But a championship team needs that prolific shutdown closer who can have a High-K and miss a lot of bats with swing-and-miss stuff.
- Robert Garcia LH
- Jordan Weems RH
- Jose Ferrer LH
- Mason Thompson RH
- Amos Willingham RH
- Kyle Finnegan RH
- Tanner Rainey RH
- Hunter Harvey RH
This is a lot of names and information to absorb. If the Nats are spending this offseason, it should be a fun offseason and outlook on the 2024 season and beyond. Here is a Top-10 listing of free agent starting pitchers with an honorable mention list. The competition will be fierce for these top players. The Nats might be in a second tier starter, but if they can get anyone to lead this staff in ERA with a number that starts with a 3.XX, that would really help.
Trying to score 5+ runs on offense due to poor pitching just is not a sustainable strategy. The Nats success has been built around great starting pitching, and that is the smart strategy for the future.