Individual player recaps for your 2023 Nationals -Infielders!

Infielders – MLB

1B Dom Smith, 28

How Acquired: Signed as a free agent (1/$2), 01/04/2023

Prospect Rank: N/A

2023 Level: MLB

The Numbers: 0.1 fWAR/0.9 rWAR


What We Learned: That Dom is what he is, a solid to good defensive first baseman with the bat of a fourth outfielder, and a good clubhouse guy. For a team starved for power, getting a mere dozen home runs (and many of them of the lowest possible leverage) from the everyday first baseman is not what fans pay to see. They prefer to see lefty hitters with the #22 on their back adding red seats to the third deck in right field.

40-Man Odds: 99% – the team loves his vibes, and it was rather telling that he was one of the players picked to represent the Nats at Commanders Crossover Night last Thursday.

2024 Outlook: Likely more of the same until and unless the Nats promote aggressively next summer and he gets usurped by Yohandy Morales sometime after the All-Star break. I would bet that Meneses is more likely to be replaced than Smith.

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: Not unless he’s nothing more than the lefty bench bat and late-inning defensive replacement, assuming that the primary DH is someone who can competently wear a glove somewhere besides first base.

2B Luís García, 23

How Acquired: Signed as an international free agent, 7/2/2016

Prospect Rank: N/A

2023 Level: MLB, AAA

The Numbers: 0.1 fWAR/0.6 rWAR


What We Learned: That García apparently felt entitled enough to an everyday spot as a 23-year-old sub-league average hitter that he was out of shape and not working very hard off the field, resulting in an unceremonious demotion in August that lasted five weeks. It was hopefully a wakeup call for a young player who has clearly lacked discipline or an organized approach for parts of four major league seasons now.

40-Man Odds: 75%. This number would have been a lot lower had they not brought him back in September, but that decision means that they are likely to keep him around.

2024 Outlook: García will enter spring training with no more options and likely a clear directive that this is his last chance to hold down a job as a regular. He will be pushed by Trey Lipscomb and whatever flotsam and jetsam Rizzo signs in the offseason. Can Luís spend the winter figuring out an approach at the plate that isn’t “swing at everything within two feet of the plate” and maintain focus in the field? We will find out in March. If not, he will probably be DFA’d, because he doesn’t have the positional versatility or defensive chops in general to stick as a utility guy.

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: There’s enough talent in there to say he can, but his apparent unwillingness to get the most out of his abilities suggests that – despite being (still) the second-youngest everyday player on the team – he might be a placeholder for someone else at the end of the day. Whether that’s Lipscomb or someone from another organization (the middle infield situation in the minors is pretty bleak), who can say, but I would be mildly surprised at this point if García finally becomes a league-average regular on a good team.

SS CJ Abrams, 22

How Acquired: Traded by the Padres for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, 8/2/2022

Prospect Rank: N/A

2023 Level: MLB

The Numbers: 2.1 fWAR/3.4 rWAR


What We Learned: That Abrams probably made the biggest leap forward of any core young player, and that there is still more potential to tap into. Last year he was forced into the Padres’ lineup very early because of the injury to Fernando Tatís and did not look ready for the bigs. There were some early hiccups like the three errors on Opening Day, and he looked like no more than a mediocre hitter towards the bottom of the lineup throughout the first half of the season. Shortly before the All-Star break, however, Davey moved him to the leadoff spot and he responded with a .327/.391/.500 July while stealing bases with abandon (the bat cooled off in August and September), and now instead of a potential average regular looks like a potential star. He’s ahead of where Trea Turner was at the same age while displaying many of the same abilities both on and off the field.

40-Man Odds: 100%

2024 Outlook: The two biggest remaining challenges for CJ; can he overcome his allergy to walks (which he showed signs of doing in September, when he took 12 of his 32 free passes), and can he hit lefties at a more acceptable rate (.166/.240/.272)? If he conquers the first challenge he should be one of the more dynamic leadoff hitters in the game, capable of 25+ bombs and 70+ steals on a high efficiency. If he at least passes the second (even a .220/.290/.360 line would go a long way) he can remain in the lineup against anyone.

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: Yes to both counts. If I’m Mike Rizzo, I would offer him somewhere between 7/$90 and 8/$120 tomorrow – he’s not arbitration-eligible for two more years and so this should be the optimum time to work out an extension that works out for player and team.

DH/1B Joey Meneses, 31

How Acquired: Signed as a minor league free agent, 1/7/2022

Prospect Rank: N/A

2023 Level: MLB

The Numbers: -0.2 fWAR/0.5 rWAR


What We Learned: That Joey’s 33-homer output between Rochester and DC might have been his high-water mark, but his ridiculously high .460 BABIP with runners in scoring position was enough to keep him in the lineup all year. 

40-Man Odds: 99% – it’s possible that Rizzo signs a thumper who makes Joey an extra guy, but I have a hard time seeing the Nats not at a minimum hold onto him through spring training.

2024 Outlook: The power that he displayed last year and in the World Baseball Classic this spring will have to come back in order for him to hold onto a regular job, particularly as he is not good defensively either in the outfield or at first base

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: Eh, likely not. Unless he bounces back to 30-homer power, he should get squeezed out by younger, better, and/or more expensive talent by then. He could be a bench bat on a good team, but with only four bench spots and his lack of defensive versatility, he would have to really hit to hold that down.

UTIL Ildemaro Vargas, 31

How Acquired: Signed as a minor league free agent, 5/27/2022

Prospect Rank: N/A

2023 Level: MLB

The Numbers: 0.1 fWAR/0.8 rWAR


What We Learned: That Vargas has inherited Gerardo Parra’s mantle as the voice of leadership for the Latino players, and that he can capably handle six different positions, including as the designated blowout pitcher (he’s also the emergency catcher). Vargas is perfectly cromulent in that role, especially because he is a competent backup shortstop.

40-Man Odds: 100%

2024 Outlook: More of the same as this year and last. At some point he might cede his super-utility role to a younger player (Trey Lipscomb?), but I doubt that happens before 2025.

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: Yes. He’s a professional, and while he wouldn’t do much more than come in as a defensive replacement in a playoff game, the team clearly values his clubhouse contributions, and every team these days needs a multi-positional Swiss Army Knife like him.

UTIL Michael Chavis, 27

How Acquired: Signed as a free agent (1/$1), 1/6/2023

Prospect Rank: N/A

2023 Level: MLB

The Numbers: 0.1 fWAR/0.5 rWAR


What We Learned: That he looks enough like Bryce Harper that he could be the film version of him (equivalent to Daniel Jones looking like the guy who would play Eli Manning on screen, or Bobby Portis looking like an AI-generated basketball player from any basketball movie you can think of). Signed to a cheap deal over the winter, Chavis made the Opening Day roster and hung around all season, occasionally pinch-running or appearing at any of five positions in the field. He’s a likable clubhouse guy whose player type can be found on any street corner throughout the year.

40-Man Odds: 40%. He’s arbitration-eligible and definitely a fungible player (I love that word), but he’s not in the top ten Nats most likely to get DFA’d or non-tendered.

2024 Outlook: If he’s back, it’s probably because the Nats picked him over Alu as the last position player on the bench (which, why not when Alu still has options?). I can’t imagine that he cracks 150 PA unless the Nats suffer a swath of injuries.

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: I feel like if the Nats are truly contending in 2025, the 26th man is going to be someone with one major carrying skill that can get them into a playoff game, like Jacob Young’s speed. I just don’t think Chavis is good enough at any one particular thing to warrant that.

3B Carter Kieboom, 25

How Acquired: 2016 Amateur Draft, 1st round (28th overall)

Prospect Rank: N/A

2023 Level: Minor league rehab, MLB

The Numbers: -0.1 fWAR/-0.1 rWAR


What We Learned: That it’s just not going to happen for Kieboom, at least not here. After a long recovery from Tommy John surgery that included some setbacks along the way, Kieboom finally made it back to the majors in late August and hit a couple early home runs before settling back into what he’s always been at the major league level.

40-Man Odds: 10% – it would kill Rizzo to admit failure on a first-round pick, but I don’t see how they keep both him and García around.

2024 Outlook: He will probably be someone else’s problem, with Vargas more likely to keep third base warm for Brady House or Yohandy Morales to start the season. I found it telling that the Nats did not experiment at all with Kieboom at second base as a possible utility man.

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: No, his days in this organization are numbered, and third base is one of the two organizational bright spots with three prospects already at Harrisburg.

3B/2B/OF Jake Alu, 26

How Acquired: 2019 Amateur draft, 24th round (723rd overall)

Prospect Rank: N/A

2023 Level: AAA, MLB

The Numbers: -0.4 fWAR/-0.1 rWAR


What We Learned: That contrary to a lot of the bleating on TN and whatever the hell Twitter is now, Alu is eminently replaceable. Called up briefly early in the season, he came back for good after the trade deadline to take Jeimer Candelario’s spot on the roster. He wound up playing much more in left field (207 innings) and at second base (160) than at his nominal primary position of third base (35), and while he had a few nice plays in the outfield, there’s not much room on an MLB roster for a guy who can’t hit and also can’t play shortstop or center field.

40-Man Odds: 99% – he still has options remaining, so why not?

2024 Outlook: If there are any position players signed to major league deals this winter and/or any of Crews, Wood, or House makes the Opening Day roster, Alu will be back where he belongs at AAA as occasional MLB filler if someone gets hurt.

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: I’m going to say no. The hitting line is bleak and the defensive capabilities are not enough to be a Vargas-type utility player. His best skill is his base-running, but on a good team Jacob Young will be the pinch-running weapon.

2B/SS Jeter Downs, 24

How Acquired: Claimed off waivers from the Red Sox, 12/22/2022

Prospect Rank: N/A

2023 Level: A+, AAA, MLB

The Numbers: 0.1 fWAR/0.1 rWAR


What We Learned: Poor Jeter is destined to go down as the key piece of the weaker end of one of the most lopsided trades in MLB history. He appeared in all of six games at the major league level, and at least his one RBI was a memorable one, a walk-off single against the A’s on August 13th.

40-Man Odds: <1% – even with the dearth of middle infielders in the organization, I don’t think he’ll be back.

2024 Outlook: As minor league filler somewhere, whether in Rochester or for another organization.

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: No. He’s probably in the 99th percentile of guys whose careers were affected negatively the most by the pandemic.

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