The Washington Nationals finished last in the NL East yet again in 2023. However, progress was made. The Nats won 16 more games in 2023 and saw several players on the team break out. Here’s our recap of the Nationals’ 2023 season.
The Nationals’ crop of young players took over in 2023, particularly Keibert Ruiz and CJ Abrams. Ruiz, acquired in 2021 in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner deal, hit .260/.308/.409 with 18 home runs and 42 extra-base hits in what was his first season after he signed a multi-year extension.
The power stroke always seemed like it was going to come for Ruiz, as he finished 2023 tied for second on the team in home runs. Ruiz was tied with Abrams, who hit .245/.300/.412 and showcased some impressive athleticism. The young shortstop also stole 47 bases.
However, the star of the show for Washington was Lane Thomas. Thomas hit .268/.315/.468 with a team-high 28 home runs and 67 extra-base hits. The 28-year-old was a nightmare for left-handers, as he hit .331 (.948 OPS) over 192 plate appearances against them in 2023.
Pitching-wise, the Nationals bullpen was not as bad as the team’s ERA might have indicated. Both Kyle Finnegan (3.76 ERA, 28 SV) and Hunter Harvey (2.82 ERA, 67 K in 60.2 IP) were excellent, while Jordan Weems (3.62 ERA, 60 K in 54.2 IP) and Carl Edwards Jr. (3.69 ERA, 24 K in 31.2 IP) provided steady results.
In the rotation, both Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore flashed good stuff. Gore struck out 151 batters over 136.1 IP, while Gray pitched to the tune of a 3.91 ERA and gave up 16 fewer home runs as compared to 2022 in a season where he threw 11 more innings.
Jake Irvin also provided relief for a Nationals team that had problems filling out the rotation. The 4.61 ERA isn’t impressive on paper, but the 26-year-old did have a stretch between July 3 to September 9 where Irvin went 2-1 with a 3.82 ERA and 55 strikeouts over 66 innings.
Even though the likes of Jeimer Candelario, Abrams, Ruiz, and Thomas looked good, the reality is the Nationals didn’t get much from the rest of the offense. Several of the Nationals regulars and semi-regulars, like Dominic Smith, Luis Garcia, and Alex Call all had OPS figures less than .700.
Corbin actually had a better season in 2023 as compared to ’22, when he owned an ERA of 6.31 and led the Majors in hits and earned runs allowed. The left-hander gave up fewer earned runs and the same amount of hits in almost 30 more innings. Nonetheless, the strikeout numbers went down and Corbin’s ERA sat at 5.20 for the season.
As for Williams, the veteran righty moved into a permanent role in the rotation after he was a spot starter/reliever in Queens a year earlier. Williams did give the Nats adequate results (4.45 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 68 K in 91 IP) in the first half. However, the 31-year-old had a second-half ERA of 7.43 ERA over 53.1 IP.
What to Look For in 2024
Things certainly look up for the Nationals, a team that traded away Juan Soto a year earlier and won just 55 games. This past season, Washington won 71. The team’s 35-37 record in the second half and 28-21 record in one-run games proved that the Nats could stay competitive, and reinforcements are on the way.
The big piece of the Nationals’ future is Dylan Crews. The former LSU had himself an incredible season both in the NCAA and Minors last season, and the bat is much closer than some might think. It’s certainly not farfetched to think that Crews could be in the Majors in May 2024.
In addition, James Wood — one of the players acquired by Washington in the Soto deal — could join Crews and Lane Thomas in D.C.
As far as the pitching goes, Gray and Gore proved to have good raw stuff, but it still needs refinement. Gore was prone to walking batters and the same could be said for Gray.
The two, though, are still major pieces as the Nationals continue their rebuild. And, Cade Cavalli could join them in 2024.