What’s the Ceiling for CJ Abrams

One of the highlights for the Washington Nationals early in the 2024 season has been the play of shortstop CJ Abrams. The centerpiece of the Juan Soto trade has continued to build off of a promising end to the 2023 campaign. He’s certainly made it clear that he intends to be Washington’s shortstop of the future.

Abrams’ ability to collect extra-base hits, draw walks, score runs, and drive in runs has also helped him to become a great option for fantasy players. The best DFS sites are available in dozens of states and offer a variety of games for fantasy baseball, as well as other sports.

But what about Abrams’ future with the Nationals? Just how good can he be in the years to come? What’s his true ceiling as an MLB shortstop? Should he be, as TalkNats suggested in 2022 — a candidate for a lengthy contract extension? Let’s take a closer look at what Abrams has done thus far and what he still has left to do.

The 2023 Season

Abrams kicked off the 2023 season batting ninth on Opening Day, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout and committing three errors in a 7-2 loss to the Braves. It was a rough start for a player with such high hopes and expectations. But even if the first day of the 2023 season was rock bottom for him, Abrams had completely turned this around by the end of the year.

The line of demarcation for his season is when Abrams was moved into the leadoff position. Manager Davey Martinez held off on the switch until he saw encouraging signs of progress from Abrams, especially in his approach at the plate. Initially planning the move after the All-Star break, Martinez was swayed by Abrams’ strong performance in June and July, prompting an earlier switch.

Abrams responded well to the change. In his first 63 games of the season, Abrams slashed .215/.259/.365 with eight walks and six stolen bases. However, over his final 88 games, his numbers soared to .265/.325/.442 with 24 walks and an impressive 41 stolen bases (with only two caught steals), breaking the club’s single-season record set by Trea Turner.

Not only did Abrams excel at the plate but he also improved defensively. During the second half of the season, Abrams became one of the most sure handed shortstops in baseball, committing just eight errors in his last 71 games. Routine plays became effortless while Abrams regularly delivered highlight-reel defensive performances, turning himself into a shortstop who can play both sides of the ball.

What to Expect Moving Forward

After his strong second half in 2023, Abrams’ potential seemed limitless heading into the 2024 season. He looked poised to refine his skills even more and round out his game. But during the first few weeks of the new season, Abrams has been even better than expected. He ranks near the top among all MLB players in slugging percentage, extra-base hits, and OPS. Abrams is also in pole position to lead the big leagues in triples this year.

Meanwhile, Abrams continues to show a patient and mature approach at the plate. His on-base percentage of .300 last year has jumped up by more than 50 points. Even in the second half of 2023, Abrams had an on-base percentage of just .306. He’s looked even more comfortable in the leadoff spot and is able to use his speed on the basepaths to greater effect.

Washington’s hopes that Abrams could be a top-10 shortstop now seem modest. He’s playing like he could be an all-star shortstop, as well as a serious Gold Glove candidate. In fact, Abrams looks like he could reach those heights this season at age 23.

Of course, Abrams has to prove that he can keep up his current pace over the course of a full season. But he’s done enough thus far in 2024 for the Nationals to set his ceiling higher than initially expected. After all, Abrams is still a few years from reaching his prime. Based on what we’ve seen this year, the sky’s the limit for him, which is great news for Washington’s future.

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