Opening Day is right around the corner!

It’s time Nats fans. Opening Day is right around the corner. What should we expect from our Nats, or better who should we expect? The Nationals opening day roster is nothing but up in the air. It is going to come down to spring training to determine who is healthy, who will perform, and who will outperform. There could be a few position battles this spring. Some players like Keibert Ruiz, CJ Abrams and Lane Thomas are automatic to be in the lineup — but who will fill those other spots, and how will they perform?

These are my projections on our Washington Nationals batting order, starting pitcher, and performance of those players.

CJ Abrams – SS CJ Abrams is a lock for the shortstop position as well as the Leadoff spot. Last year the Nats experimented with a couple of leadoff hitters including Alex Call, and Lane Thomas. CJ was definitely the best slashing .258/.316/.433 in the leadoff spot. Abrams, going on his 3rd season for the Nats, has improved tremendously. He has the fire that the Nats need in the locker room. There are some points of improvement that Abrams struggled with last year. One of those being his success vs. Lefties. Abrams slashed only .166/.240/.272 against lefties last year while striking out nearly 25% of the time. Another area where we saw struggle was in his fielding ability. Not the overall ability but his consistency. Sure, Abrams was able to make some terrific plays but it seemed the easy ones weren’t so easy. Abrams posted a -8 OAA which ranked 32nd out of 35 players qualified at the Shortstop position. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this trend continue but Abrams makes the tough and flashy plays which will cause us to disregard the errors. I also expect Abrams to make a jump forward this year especially in the power department. 2023 STATS: .245 AVG | .300 OBP | .712 OPS | 18 HR | 64 RBI |2024 PROJECTION: .265 AVG | .315 OBP | .760 OPS | 22 HR | 65 RBI |

Lane Thomas – RF Lane Thomas had a career year last season. Although he started slow, once he got going he was able to put up very impressive numbers. Thomas was able to slash .268/.315/.468 respectively. Thomas was the second hitter for the majority of the year and performed slightly above average. His problem in the second spot was getting on base. He was only able to put up a .269 OBP in the second spot which is not a number that we want to see in the future. When looking at the rest of the roster, we don’t have a lot of experience with players in the 2 hole. Thomas might not be the only option, but that is what it is looking like for opening day specifically. If Abrams doesn’t work out in the leadoff spot, I would fully expect Thomas to take over the leadoff role again because of how well he did perform last season. 2023 STATS: .268 AVG | .315 OBP | .783 OPS | 28 HR | 86 RBI |2024 PROJECTION: .255 AVG | .308 OBP | .780 OPS | 25 HR | 80 RBI |

Joey Meneses – DH Joey Meneses has been a special surprise for the Nats. Arriving on the scene in 2022 after the Juan Soto trade, Meneses made an instant impact in 2022. Last season he could not meet his 2022 stats with a .275/.321/.401 slash line — but then again — nobody expected he could do that. We did see some decline in his power compared to last season, and that could have been due to an injury. Meneses only hit 13 HR last year which was the same as what he had in ⅓ of the 2022 season. Meneses has played outfield in 2022, first base, and last year he was primarily the DH, and he only appeared in the field 19 times (mostly to give Dominic Smith rest). This year, with the signing of Joey Gallo we should expect to see the same trend as Gallo only was the DH for 1 game last year, and Gallo can play the outfield and first base. The only question we have to ask with Meneses is how much longer he can keep it up especially being at the age he is, and wondering when we see age regression. 2023 STATS: .275 AVG | .321 OBP | .722 OPS | 13 HR | 89 RBI |2024 PROJECTION: .255 AVG | .310 OBP | .740 OPS | 17 HR | 82 RBI |

Joey Gallo – 1B Joey Gallo just recently signed with the Nationals. Last year, Gallo was with the Minnesota Twins and appeared in 111 games. Gallo has never been considered as someone who hits for average. The last 3 years for Gallo have been below the Mendoza line with last season being at .177. Despite that he still managed to put up a .741 OPS. Gallo recently said that he doesn’t look at average, he looks at OPS and Isolated power. What goes along with the low Average however is a High strikeout rate. Last season Gallo struck out 43% of the time which was the worst in MLB (MIN. 300 PA). Gallo has always been an above average fielder in terms of his arm but has regressed recently. He can play almost anywhere in the outfield along with first base. I think he will spend most of his time at 1st base however. 2023 STATS: .177 AVG | .301 OBP | .741 OPS | 21 HR | 40 RBI | 2024 PROJECTION: .180 AVG | .318 OBP | .752 OPS | 32 HR | 62 RBI |

Nick Senzel – 3B Nick Senzel might raise a bunch of questions because of his mediocracy. Senzel was signed this offseason and I believe Senzel can win the everyday 3B spot. Senzel posted a .236/.297/.399 slash line last season but where I want to look is how he performed to end the year. In September Senzel hit .366. He was a clutch part of the Reds push for the playoffs. Senzel is also a tremendous hitter vs. lefties hitting .347 last year. If Senzel doesn’t perform well to start the year, I do see him moving to a platoon spot against lefties. 2023 STATS: .236 AVG | .297 OBP | .696 OPS | 13 HR | 42 RBI |2024 PROJECTION: .237 AVG | .300 OBP | .710 OPS | 12 HR | 38 RBI |

Keibert Ruiz – C Keibert Ruiz last year had an outstanding season. We were able to count on him to provide a spark when we needed it. Last year Ruiz hit .260 with 18 HR. We saw him become able to hit for power and he also performed well behind the plate. Riley Adams also had an outstanding year but didn’t get a lot of chances to prove himself because of Ruiz’ performance. I expect Ruiz to have a similar season to last year with a slight regression. 2023 STATS: .260 AVG | .308 OBP | .717 OPS | 18 HR | 67 RBI |2024 PROJECTION: .253 AVG | .305 OBP | .707 OPS | 16 HR | 65 RBI |

Luis Garcia – 2B Luis Garcia was able to show his young promise and progression last season. Garcia slashed .266/.304/.385 last season despite a demotion to Triple-A Rochester for a few weeks. After his recall he hit .304 in September and hit 3 of his 9 HR on the year. Garcia is still really young and we will see him progress more and more as time goes on. I full expect Garcia to keep on that right trail and have a breakout season where he puts everyone on notice. 2023 STATS: .266 AVG | .304 OBP | .689 OPS | 9 HR | 50 RBI |2024 PROJECTION: .275 AVG | .312 OBP | .714 OPS | 14 HR | 62 RBI |

Victor Robles – CF Victor Robles is a giant question mark. We don’t know what to expect out of him this year after a short-lived season last season due to a back injury. We don’t know the long-term effects of his injuries and if he will stay injury prone, mostly because of his back. When Robles did play last season, he performed well offensely. In his limited experience, he managed to hit .299 with a .749 OPS. The reason I believe Robles will start on opening day is because of his seniority. He has lots of seasons under his wing already and he is still young. Jacob Young should be the everyday start or maybe even Alex Call if he performs well in spring training. Questions were raised last season on Robles’ effort in some games. This caused him to experience less playing time before the Injury. If Robles does put it all together and stays healthy I think that he will have a slightly above average season but Robles has never hit for power. 2023 STATS: .299 AVG | .385 OBP | .749 OPS | 0 HR | 8 RBI |2024 PROJECTION: .243 AVG | .302 OBP | .687 OPS | 2 HR | 33 RBI |

Alex Call – LF Alex Call was set to be the everyday LF last season after an impressive spring training performance. After Robles’ injury Call took over the everyday CF roles. Call did not put up generally impressive numbers with his bat and this lead for him to be sent down to Triple-A Rochester. After being recalled Call saw some promise but ultimately did not perform to the standards. One thing with Call is that he is a tremendous fielder. He ranked in the top of the league in OAA last year and was making a highlight reel play almost every night. In order to secure an opening day position Call will need to have another good spring training or the opening day job is going to go to Jake Alu with Stone Garrett‘s health coming back from a broken leg and ankle injury could keep him on the IL for opening day. 2023 STATS: .200 AVG | .307 OBP | .614 OPS | 8 HR | 38 RBI |2024 PROJECTION: .230 AVG | .320 OBP | .700 OPS | 13 HR | 52 RBI |

Josiah Gray – SP Josiah Gray seems like the most likely to start for the Nationals on opening day. Last season Gray had a solid season last year with a 3.91 ERA with an 8-13 record. Obviously there are other options but this seems like the most obvious to start in my opinion. Gray is still a young pitcher and has lots of room to develop, but if we don’t see that happen this year, we might not see it happen at all. 2023 STATS: 3.91 ERA | 159 IP | 143 SO | 22 HR |2024 PROJECTION: 4.01 ERA | 158.2 IP | 152 SO | 21 HR |

This is how I believe the Nationals roster will look on opening day. There are a lot of questions about the long term, as well as the performance of the team. If these players perform how we know they can then I think the Nationals can be a middle of the pack team. We will see a brief insight during spring training but what really matters is the season. Let’s hope these players perform and we can be back on track to another division title in the coming years.

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