Another round of cuts, and a few surprises!

We all knew this third round of cuts would part ways with a most of the top prospects, and dreaded the inevitable. The surprises were that the Washington Nationals cut James Wood at this point. Other surprises were Richard Bleier, and the release of Zach Davies. The rest were expected.

In Wood’s case, what happened to general manager Mike Rizzo’s comment that if you kicked the door down that you could make the roster? Wood kicked a reinforced door down. His .341 batting average and 1.198 OPS was impressive, yet he was cut. It calls Rizzo’s words into question.

While the dream is still alive for some, there are 31 healthy players remaining in camp. The team could still sign or claim a player so you never know where this all goes by next week when final rosters must be shaped by Thursday morning on Opening Day.

There are six NRIs still on the roster, and they are Jacob Barnes, Matt Barnes, and Derek Law for the pitchers. One NRI infielder remains with Trey Lipscomb. Two outfielders are looking like locks with Eddie Rosario and Jesse Winker. Figure that the Nats will keep 4-to-5 NRIs on the Opening Day roster. There is currently one open spot on the 40-man roster. That means 3-to-4 spots have to be made available. Expect Stephen Strasburg, Mason Thompson, and Cade Cavalli to all be moved to the 60-day IL. If general manager Mike Rizzo keeps five NRIs, then he needs to find one more spot. Zach Brzykcy and Jose A. Ferrer are potentially two more 60-day IL candidates.

Here are the 11 remaining 40-man pitchers currently healthy in camp: Patrick Corbin, Kyle Finnegan, Dylan Floro, Robert Garcia, MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray, Hunter Harvey, Jake Irvin, Tanner Rainey, Jordan Weems, and Trevor Williams. That is 11 pitchers, and all are expected to make the team if Floro is deemed ready. That will leave two spots open for NRIs. That is six NRIs competing for two spots. One of them could go to Davies as a starter which would push Williams to the bullpen.

There are 15 position players still active on the 40-man roster with Stone Garrett headed to the 10-day IL. One catcher will not make the Opening Day roster, and most feel like that will be Drew Millas as the odd man out as Riley Adams is healthy and ready to go. Alex Call is leading camp on offense with his .414 batting average and solid defense. Most feel that he could hit .500 and won’t make the team. What Call has done is probably guaranteed that he won’t be DFA’d if general manager Mike Rizzo needs an extra 40-man spot.

Here are the 14 healthy position players from the 40-man roster remaining: Adams, Millas, and Keibert Ruiz for the catchers. For the infielders, CJ Abrams, Luis Garcia Jr., Joey Meneses, Nasim Nunez, Nick Senzel, and Ildemaro Vargas remain. Nunez is a Rule-5 draftee who has to make the roster or else be offered back to the Marlins. The outfielders are Call, Joey Gallo, Victor Robles, Lane Thomas, and Jacob Young.

With Davies released, the rotation looks set with Gray, Corbin, Irvin, Gore, and Williams. Unfortunately, Williams has struggled in most of his chances — and now has no competition to go up against him with Davies gone with Jackson Rutledge included in the previous round of cuts which begs the question, why? Well, the competition could be Cade Cavalli who is expected to be ready to pitch in June as he comes off of the 60-day IL.

The bullpen is a pick ’em of the nine remaining relievers of which eight will make the roster. We expected Bleier to make it, and now it might come down to health and contract status to determine the final eight.

With Rosario and Winker looking like locks to make the team and Lipscomb as the only remaining true top prospect, there is now a new twist to this — not in the outfield except between Robles and Young, but between the infielders and bullpen arms. Could Vargas be the odd man out if they go with Lipscomb?

The other interesting part is that team owner, Mark Lerner, kind of threw in his 2¢ when he published a letter to the fans:

“Two players I’ve especially enjoyed watching are Trey Lipscomb and Jacob Young. Trey had a great year last year and came into camp eager and willing to do anything Davey Martinez asked of him. We’ve seen him make plays all over the diamond while hitting .367 with just four strikeouts. We saw Jacob in the big leagues last year, and that experience looks to have paid off. He’s played all three outfield positions and has hit safely in eight of his 13 games.”

— Lerner wrote in his Curly W Live blog

Does Lerner’s comments have consequences? Can Young make the roster over Robles, and can Lipscomb make the roster over Garcia, Vargas or Nunez? Is this a green light that Rizzo could cut Robles and eat most of his $2.6 million salary? Same with Garcia’s $1.95 million salary. Maybe the bigger question goes back to whether Robles should have been re-signed given all of the center field depth on the team with Young, Call, Wood, and Crews.

Opening Day is just six days away. All of the answers and creativity will be seen in the final roster construction. As mentioned, there are 39-men on the 40-man roster currently. Maybe there will be a surprise IL move, who knows. Expect the unexpected because there is always a surprise or two when making these rosters. Health is a key, of course, when creating the final roster.

“I won’t say anyone doesn’t have a chance [to make the Opening Day roster], but they have to kick the door down — and force us to put them on the team.”

“It’s not the best guys long-term, it’s the best guys right now, and it has to make sense for their development. We’re here with few positions set in stone … ”

— Rizzo said on the Grant & Danny Radio Show on 106.7 in early March

The best stats won’t guarantee a player an Opening Day spot. Call leads all players with that .414 BA and Wood led everyone with an 1.198 OPS — and he’s been assigned to minor league camp. Dylan Crews, Robert Hassell III, and Brady House are all with Wood now.

And besides Lipscomb, the only other prospects left are Millas, Young and Nunez in the Nats top-30. Rizzo’s speech about “kick the door down” didn’t get Wood a spot. Lipscomb is still competing, and he’s batting a very respectable .364 with a .952 OPS. Lips is the only player remaining in “Hope Row.”

“I like watching them play, I’m not going to lie to you, and I want to keep them here, and keep the conversations going as long as I possibly can.”

“They’re doing well, and they’re playing the game the right way. We’ll keep them here as long as Rizzo allows me to keep them, and then we’ll do something else.”

— Martinez said about the “Hope Row” prospects still in camp

There are not enough spots with a finite 26 active players at any one time. Lipscomb is the last of those top prospects, but you would think many of the top prospects will debut in 2024 in the Major Leagues for the Nationals.

While Rizzo said there were “few positions set in stone”, they have only acknowledged by name that Young and Robles are in the only competition. Did Lerner’s words add Lipscomb and Garcia to the list in competition? The Davies and Williams competition for the fifth rotation spot is officially over. But should that competition have ended? Why not bring back Rutledge?

“That’s really like a competition there. Jacob did well for us last year, and Vic maybe has a little bit of the upper hand, but right now they’re both in the mix.”

Martinez said earlier in the month on 106.7 radio

Here is a stats guide to help you out for the position players. Here is one for the pitchers too. A word of caution on the stats is that they are still small sample sizes, and we have seen many questionable umpire and official scorer calls that greatly affect these small sample sizes.

We know there are more cuts to come, what does your final roster look like?

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