Didn’t the 1971 Washington Senators just win the World Series? To see two of baseball’s Top-7 overall prospects donning Senators jerseys has to bring back some visions of grandeur. The 2024 Washington Nationals will almost certainly be tapping in on the two top outfield prospects, Dylan Crews (No. 4) and James Wood (No. 7), in the upcoming season — and maybe one of them makes the Opening Day roster.
While FanGraphs gives both Crews and Wood little playing time with 98 and 56 plate appearances respectively, they actually project Darren Baker with more PAs than Wood for 2024. Today, FanGraphs has the Nats in 2024 regressing to a 69-93 team record with a combined WAR of 22.6. Part of that is a -1.5 WAR regression for Lane Thomas from his +2.7 this season, and they also have Crews and Wood at 0.00 WAR. Of course this is all before free agency signings, and ACTUALLY playing the games. Thomas, 28, might have the most to prove in 2024, but truthfully, it is a roster that almost across the board has a lot to prove.
Another player that FanGraphs has on regression is Josiah Gray going from +1.6 this year to +1.1 for next year. While FIP says Gray was luckier than good in his career, he seemed to hit the wall with his stamina in the second half of the 2023 season. It is MacKenzie Gore at the top of the Nats’ pack in pitching WAR at +2.1. Clearly, the need for a true No. 1 pitcher is a top priority for the Washington Nationals, and you have heard that before — many times. To think that FanGraphs expects a regression in Nats pitching is a bad sign considering that the starting staff finished the season at an awful 5.02 ERA which matched the bullpen’s 5.02 ERA.
There are no hidden aces tucked away in the Nats’ farm system. The closest the team might have is Cade Cavalli who is recovering from TJ surgery. The team will have to rely on progression of their current staff, and additions from free agency. This probably is not the time to deplete the farm system to make a trade.
Perfect timing that Baseball America just reseeded their Top-10 prospects for the Nats, and also did their top tools, and a projected 2027 lineup and starting rotation glimpse into the future. Robert Hassell III and Elijah Green remain in their Top-10 for the team, even though both dropped out of the MLB Top-100 rankings. Jackson Rutledge jumps up the rankings to No. 6, and Yohandy Morales to No. 5.
One player who has to be jumping up the rankings is Jacob Young, who FanGraphs sees as a fringe starter, for 2024 at a +0.3 WAR. If Young flashes the hit tool with his speed and shows an OBP in the .340-ish range, he could be a game-changer for the Nats with his speed and defense. He will be 24 ¾ on Opening Day and could open camp as the starter if the team does not retain Victor Robles.
The four Nats who have to re-establish themselves for 2024 are Hassell, Elijah Green, Jarlin Susana, and T.J. White. Under the guidance of new VP of Player Development, Eddie Longosz, these are the players to keep eyes on. And of course Crews, Wood, Brady House, and Cavalli, could be key parts of the Nats’ 2024 roster at some point. FanGraphs does not have House in their projections at all.
On FanGraphs, it is CJ Abrams who they see as the Nats best player on the team for 2024. Surprisingly, it is Luis Garcia as they see as the team’s second best position player followed by Keibert Ruiz. While many, including myself, see Abrams as potentially the team’s best player, there is much to prove across the board for this team.
We will revisit these projections over and over again, and FanGraphs will update these numbers over and over again. They are not done tweaking the numbers. Mike Petriello of MLB.com took the FanGraphs WAR numbers to see the teams, and the Nats are third to last in the Majors — somehow behind the Oakland A’s. They are at a 25.0 projected WAR compared to the Nats’ 22.6. Go figure — garbage in, garbage out. I would not worry much about any team until after the dust of free agency settles, and of course until they start playing actual games.