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Washington Nationals Season Preview - Youth Revolution

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Overview


The Washington Nationals enter 2023 in a deep developmental stage, looking to grow into a team that can be ready to win big in the coming years.


Last year, Washington was the worst team in baseball. The Nats finished 55-107, equaling the worst season in franchise history and its worst since moving to D.C. in 2005.

The Nats gather at 2023 Spring Training with a completely overhauled roster / Photo: Washington Nationals


Last year's lack of success has led to the second roster overhaul in as many seasons. Entering 2022, the Nationals had the third oldest roster in the MLB. They enter 2023 with one of the youngest.


The NL East division had two teams that won over 100 games in 2022. Only four total teams across Major League Baseball won over 100 games.

If there was ever a time to rebuild, now certainly isn’t the worst. The Braves won the World Series just two years ago and beat out the Mets last season for the division title, both finishing 101-61, 46 games better than Washington.


And yet, it was the third-place Phillies, who finished 87-75, advancing to the World Series before ultimately falling to the Houston Astros.


The NL East is loaded and the Nats are rebuilding. They have a young core in the minors that can grow talent for the future, including several players that came over in the Juan Soto/Josh Bell trade this past August.


Paired with the young core are veterans such as Corey Dickerson and Dominic Smith, who will provide veteran leadership in a clubhouse where expectations are as low as they’ve ever been entering a season.


Everyone’s saying the same thing about these Nats; they’re rebuilding and this season might be worse than the last.


It’s a long season, so we’ll have to wait and see. The 162 game campaign kicks off Thursday against the defending division champs, Atlanta Braves.

 

Nuts & Bolts

  • 2022 Record: 55-107 (5th in NL East, worst record in MLB)

    • Tied for worst record in franchise history (1976 Montreal Expos)

  • Manager: Dave Martinez (6th season, 321-387 as manager)

  • Stadium: Nationals Park (Since 2008)

  • Full Schedule: HERE

  • History:

    • World Series Champions: 2019

    • National League Champions: 2019

    • National League East Division Champions: 1981, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017

    • Playoff Appearances: 1981, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019

  • 2022 Stats:

    • Full season stats available HERE

  • Follow Along on Twitter

 

Last Season


It was a season to forget in Washington in 2022.

The Nats finished a league-worst 55-107, equaling the worst record in franchise history while losing its star player and releasing others that were supposed to be big contributors.


The Nats signed veterans Nelson Cruz and Alcides Escobar before the season. Cruz is now a San Diego Padre and Escobar was cut in August.


The big splash was in August when the Nationals traded perhaps the best young player in baseball in Juan Soto to the San Diego Padres, along with Josh Bell.


Just a couple of weeks earlier, Soto won the Home Run Derby at the MLB All-Star Game, solidifying himself on a national stage. Not to mention that he was undoubtedly Washington’s most important offensive player in the 2019 World Series run, when he was just 20 years old.


In the trade, Washington acquired pitchers MacKenzie Gore and Jarlin Susana along with position players Robert Hassell, CJ Abrams, James Wood and Luke Voit.

Full trade details of the August 2 deal between Washington and San Diego / Graphic: MLB.com


The post-Juan Soto Nats went 20-38 over the final two months of the season for a winning percentage of .345, which is actually slightly better than the total for the season (.340).


Washington closed out the season with five straight losses and entered an offseason of tremendous uncertainty.


Surely, a revolving door of roster moves was coming and that is exactly what happened. When you’re the worst team, there really isn’t any other option.

 

Who’s Out

*Not on the 2023 Opening Day Roster

  • Erik Fedde - SP

    • Became a free agent in November 2022

  • Anibal Sanchez - SP

    • Elected free agency in November 2022

  • Steve Cishek - RP

    • Elected free agency in November 2022

  • Patrick Murphy - RP

    • Signed with Minnesota in December 2022

  • Austin Voth - RP

    • Released by Nationals and signed by Baltimore in June 2022

  • Josh Bell - INF

    • Traded to San Diego on August 2, 2022

  • Nelson Cruz - INF

    • Signed with San Diego in January

  • Alcides Escobar - INF

    • Released by Nationals in August

  • Maikel Franco - INF

    • Released by Nationals in August

  • Cesar Hernandez - INF

    • Signed minor league contract with Chicago White Sox in January

  • Yadiel Hernandez - INF

    • Sent off 40-man roster in November

  • Juan Soto - OF

    • Traded to San Diego on August 2, 2022

  • Dee Strange-Gordon - OF

    • Released in August 2022

 

Who’s In

*Was not on 2022 Opening Day Roster

  • Cade Cavalli - SP

    • Will miss 2023 season due to Tommy John surgery

  • Sean Doolittle - RP

    • Signed minor league contract to start 2023 season

  • Carl Edwards Jr. - RP

    • Signed a one-year contract on January 13

  • Erasmo Ramirez - RP

    • Signed a new one-year deal in 2023

  • Hunter Harvey - RP

    • Recalled back from Triple-A Rochester

  • MacKenzie Gore - SP

    • Acquired in the Juan Soto/Josh Bell trade from San Diego in August 2022

  • Stephen Strasburg - SP

    • Made one start in 2022, starting 2023 on IL

  • Paolo Espino - RP

    • Optioned for Triple-A Rochester to start 2023 season

  • Andres Machado - RP

    • Sent to Triple-A Rochester in January

  • Thad Ward - RP

    • Spent most of 2022 in the minors

  • Trevor Williams - SP

    • Signed a two-year deal in December 2022

  • Israel Pineda - C

    • Spent most of 2022 in the minors

  • Carter Kieboom - INF

    • Coming off Tommy John surgery from May 2022

  • CJ Abrams - INF

    • Acquired in the Juan Soto/Josh Bell trade from San Diego in August 2022

  • Dominic Smith - INF

    • Signed one-year deal in January 2022

  • Ildemaro Vargas - INF

    • Signed minor league contract in May 2022

  • Jeimer Candelario - INF

    • Signed one-year deal in November 2022

  • Lucius Fox - INF

    • Spent most of 2022 in minor leagues

  • Joan Adon - SP

    • Spent most of 2022 in minor leagues

  • Luis Garcia - INF

    • Spent most of last three seasons in minor leagues

  • Alex Call - OF

    • Claimed off waivers in August 2022

  • Corey Dickerson - OF

    • Signed a one-year contract in January 2023

  • Joey Meneses - OF

    • Spent most of 2022 in minor leagues

 

Who’s Back

*Was on 2022 Opening Day Roster

  • Patrick Corbin - SP

    • Opening Day starting pitcher in 2023

  • Josiah Gray - SP

    • Beginning his third season in Washington

  • Victor Arano - RP

    • Signed a one-year contract in January 2023

  • Kyle Finnegan - RP

    • Signed a one-year contract in January 2023

  • Tanner Rainey - RP

    • Will miss all of 2023 due to Tommy John surgery

  • Mason Thompson - RP

    • Beginning his third season in Washington

  • Riley Adams - C

    • Beginning his second full season in Washington

  • Keibert Ruiz - C

    • Signed eight-year contract extension on March 11, 2023

  • Victor Robles - OF

    • Signed one-year contract extension

  • Lane Thomas - OF

    • Signed one-year contract extension

 

This Season

A roster overhaul and a whole lot of new faces will take the field for the Nationals in the first full season of the post-Juan Soto era in Washington.


Without the young star, there’s a legitimate question of who is going to lead this team. The Opening Day starting pitcher, Patrick Corbin, is a contender but is also coming off back-to-back career worst seasons.


In 2022, he went 6-19 in 31 starts and had an ERA of 6.31. His overall numbers have declined four years in a row, which is not a huge surprise for the 33-year-old left-hander. However, the Nats will need much more consistent production out of their ‘ace’ if they want to climb out of the depths of the league.


Looking at the 2022 Opening Day starting lineup vs. the projected Opening Day lineup below, only Keibert Ruiz, Lane Thomas and Victor Robles appear on both, while Corbin is once again the Opening Day starter, as he was a year ago.

Patrick Corbin will start Opening Day for the Nationals for the second straight year / Photo: ESPN


Of the other six in the starting lineup from last year, none are on the team entering 2023.

The Nats went 13-12-3 in Spring Training, which is usually far from an indicator of what is to come in the regular season. However, the team won just four games in Spring Training last season and that was certainly an indicator of what was to come.


Maybe the 2023 Nationals will surprise us all. The biggest reservation I have with the team is simply a lack of knowing how the team will gel and how it’ll all look.


With so much uncertainty and with less star power than last year, it only makes sense to expect similar, if not worse results.


However, there is precedent for a worst-to-first scenario.


In 1991, the Minnesota Twins won the World Series after finishing with the worst record in baseball the prior season.


It’s happened before…it COULD happen again.

 

Prediction

  • It doesn't happen again. 61-101 overall record, 5th in NL East Division, miss postseason

 

Projected Opening Day Lineup

  1. Lane Thomas - RF

  2. Joey Meneses - DH

  3. Jeimer Candelario - 3B

  4. Dominic Smith - 1B

  5. Keibert Ruiz - C

  6. Alex Call - LF

  7. Luis Garcia - 2B

  8. Victor Robles - CF

  9. CJ Abrams - SS

Starting Pitcher: Patrick Corbin


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