2023 Washington Nationals Season Preview — The Rebuild Progresses

Dave Martinez instructing members of the 2023 Washington Nationals in the dugout during spring training
(Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

2023 Washington Nationals Season Preview

The 2023 Washington Nationals are in a rebuild phase and starting from the ground up, which may not be what fans want to hear — or see. Emphasis right now is on the team’s younger players and their up-and-coming prospects and getting them ready to be a solid group in the near future.

Offense

It is hard to predict, but this offense will most likely be in the bottom five in several offensive categories. They do have some players who can hit for power and drive in some runs. Expected to put up big numbers is last year’s big surprise, Joey Meneses. He came out of nowhere as a 30-year-old rookie and came away with 72 hits and 16 home runs in 56 games. He’s set to play first base and DH. There’s also outfielder Lane Thomas, who hit 16 home runs in 2022. Thomas simply needs to be more selective at the plate and cut down on his strikeouts.

Victor Robles is only 26 but has been with the team since 2017. It’s been six years since his arrival to the big leagues, and the Nationals still don’t know for certain whether he should be a part of their long-term future. The centerfielder was considered a five-tool player when he arrived. There is no question about his power and speed; he simply needs to be more consistent.

They have some other prospects — shortstop CJ Abrams, second baseman Luis Garcia, catcher Keibert Ruiz — who will be counted on to provide some offense while gaining MLB experience. As with any young player/prospect, they will have the typical ups and downs, but they will also have some great moments during the year.

Veterans

The Nationals have added some veteran hitters—Jeimer Candelario, Corey Dickerson, and Dominic Smith—who can assist the younger players, offering them support, guidance, and the wisdom of their experience throughout the season. Former teammates say all three players are excellent teammates and great players to have around the clubhouse. Solid players, Candelario, Dickerson, and Smith also provide options for the team to deal to contending playoff teams at the trade deadline. If the opportunity arises, the Nationals should be able to get some valuable future prospects.

Starting Pitching

Overall, this probably won’t be a very good pitching staff and will get hit hard on many occasions. Opening Day starter Patrick Corbin has certainly not lived up to his contract. Though eyeing a turnaround in 2023, the lefty is coming off his third consecutive losing season.

Right-hander Josiah Gray finished his first full MLB season with 148 2/3 innings and a 5.02 ERA over 28 starts. Like many young pitchers, consistency was his problem. He needs to work on that and get it under control. He did had an excellent Spring Training and developed a cutter pitch. Coaches have mentioned that he has renewed confidence, due to an excellent camp. What remains to be seen is whether or not Gray can translate that performance and confidence into the regular season, remaining consistent and improving.

MacKenzie Gore is considered one of the Nationals top prospects and is part of their starting pitching plans for the future. The lefthander was acquired from the San Diego Padres last August in the Juan Soto blockbuster trade. He was on the injured list at the time of the trade because of left elbow inflammation and finished the season making rehab appearances with Triple-A Rochester.

Rounding out the starting rotation are right-handers Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams. Both were acquired as free agents in the offseason.

Bullpen

The 2023 bullpen won’t have many leads to protect but will probably be used quite a bit this season. Depth is going to be a concern and could lead to many pitchers coming up from the minors to give the other relievers a break. Hunter Harvey was depenable last year in his 39 1/3 innings and will be the set-up man. If veteran Alex Colome finds his groove after a couple of lackluster seasons, he will provide some help.

Kyle Finnegan is the closer. He was okay last season, with 14 holds and 11 of 15 save opportunities converted. However, he struggled with the home run pitch. If Colome is pitching consistently well, we might see him replace a struggling Finnegan.

The Nationals signed Sean Doolittle, who rejoins the team after a couple of years away. He, however, is not expected to be ready for Opening Day.

Tanner Rainey, who was the closer before his injury, is out with Tommy John surgery. He’s looking at a minimum 12 months before he can pitch again.

Stephen Strasburg

Finally, there’s the status of Stephen Strasburg, which is almost a mystery at this point. He has had issues with thoracic outlet syndrome and had surgery and attempted a comeback last year but was shutdown. He worked out in the offseason but after throwing a second session, he experienced a nerve issue that has sidelined him again. As of now, there is no timetable on his return.

Surprise Player

The surprise player for the Nationals just might be CJ Abrams. He has the tools to become a top player in the big leagues. The infielder is already being considered a Gold Glove candidate with his excellent defensive skills. While he does not have home run power, he will get on base regularly and can steal bases. Hitting for average will come with time. What the team — and the fans — can look forward to is the upgraded defense Abrams brings to the position. He is a cornerstone the Nationals can build around.

2023 Washington Nationals Outlook

We see the win total as not a pleasant one. They are predicted to be the worst team in the majors this season and could lose 100+ games. The roster comprises mostly unproven players and veteran role players. Any breakdown of this season should not be viewed by how many losses they end up with, but by the performance of the youngsters and getting them ready for the future. Still, the team could be a fun one to watch. Without the pressure of playoff contention, the players may take chances (base stealing, for example) while showcasing their talents. It could bring some excitement to an otherwise lackluster season.

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James Marshall

James Marshall

Jim Marshall has lived in Phoenix, AZ for 50 years. He is an avid baseball fan, but enjoys all of Arizona's local sports teams, including Diamondbacks, Suns, Cardinals and Coyotes. In addition to the four major sports, he closely follows the Phoenix Mercury, Arizona Rattlers and Arizona State Sun Devils. Jim's passion for baseball continues beyond the field as he is an avid collector of baseball memorabilia. His favorite athlete of all time is Baseball Hall of Fame member Harmon Killebrew. In addition to watching, reading and talking about sports, he takes time to travel and appreciate the great state of Arizona with his lovely wife, Patti.

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