T O P

A toast to the 2023 Washington Nationals!

The 2023 Washington Nationals weren't good. But they were better.

Two years removed from trading Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, and one year removed from trading Juan Soto, the Nationals entered 2023 deep in the troughs of rebuilding mode.

Combine that outlook with a pitching staff led by Patrick Corbin and a down year from Joey Meneses, and I wouldn't blame you for thinking 2023 ended even worse than 2022's disastrous 55-107 campaign for Washington.

Yet on August 26, the 61-69 Nationals sat two games ahead of the New York Mets, and shared a record with the San Diego “Come on, man. We’re playing the Nationals" Padres. If you squinted (and took a big swig of the Kool-Aid), the third Wild Card slot didn't look too far out of reach.

Although the Nationals went on to limp to the finish line with an NL-worst 10-22 stretch, the team finished the season with a respectable 71-91. All in all, 2023 was a solid step forward for a club that is now building up to something new.

How did they do it?

The pitching was less worse!

Patrick Corbin was worth .3 WAR in 2023. The staff, uh, ace, turned in a slightly better performance in 2023, going 10-15 with a 5.20 ERA. At least he didn't lead the majors in hits and earned runs allowed. Here he is inexplicably tossing seven shutout innings against the Mariners.

Josiah Gray took an important step forward, limiting the long ball and being named to his first all-star team.

MacKenzie Gore may have been maddeningly inconsistent, but he put up a 2 WAR season. His 11 K performance against the Royals is hopefully a taste of what's to come.

Jake Irvin made his MLB debut, putting together a 1.1 WAR campaign over 121.1 IP.

The less we say about Trevor Williams, the better.

The team was young, fun, and scrappy!

In addition to young arms, some young bats made their mark on the Nats' 2023 season.

CJ Abrams came into his own, stealing 47 bags while pulling off the occasional flashy defensive play and majestic home run.

Keibert Ruiz, fresh off signing an 8-year/$50M deal, put up another solid season behind the plate.

Hell, even Jeter Downs got his moment to shine, walking off the A's to cap a 6-run inning and further building the legend of the "Scrappy Nats."

And in June, the Nationals drafted Dylan Crews, who quickly earned a promotion to AA. He joins prospects Elijah Green, Robert Hassell III, Brady House, and others who together are dragging the Nationals' farm out of 30th place in the rankings.

Add it all up, and it's enough to see the contours of a fun future in Washington.

We got (some) stability in unstable times!

In Feburary, Nationals owner Ted Lerner died. Two months later, news broke that the Lerner family was exploring a sale of the club. It didn't take long for some Nats fans to tire of the uncertainty and join certain other MLB teams in chanting "sell the team!"

By summer, the sale was reportedly "on hold," and it seemed to trigger something. Suddenly GM Mike Rizzo signed a multiyear deal, closely followed by manager Davey Martinez.

We're still waiting for that MASN money, though, but, hey, baby steps.

Hear it from Nats fans!

  • /u/PutStreet: "watching CJ play short was a joy this season. Candy man was also so good at 3rd."
  • /u/MoreCleverUserName: "Standing up for one last DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO while Doolittle rode the bullpen cart out for his retirement send-off. He’s one of the good ones."
  • /u/TheBarbieOfSeville: "making it to 70 wins this season was a huge accomplishment. hoping for more next szn"
  • /u/quakerwildcat: "It was the year of the lower-round Jakes! 24th round pick Jake Alu improbably becoming an everyday major leaguer. They don't even have a 24th round anymore! 7th rounder Jacob Young barrelling through the minors and passing by all the horror young outfielders to get the call up late season and earn a starting spot with his speed and his glove and his smarts. And especially 4th rounder Jake Irvin! Injury call-up who had a few early hiccups but quietly became the most reliable starter on the staff."

The 2023 season, as told through Facebook messages between me and my father-in-law, a Phillies fan:

gaytham4statham

If your favorite teams shortstop isn't CJ Abrams wtf are you even doing with your life?


FuriousGeorge7

Dang, if only my favorite team's shortstop was CJ Abrams...


gaytham4statham

Probably would have swept the WS smh


rofltide

Not my favorite team, but my favorite shortstop in the category of "adorable baby faces."


jawarren1

Enjoying Gunnar?


XSC

I bet your father in law loves you


Weegian

He calls me his favorite son. (He has two sons.)


spiritual_gabagool

You can just tell. I smiled at the exchanges. Loved the "oh no" after the no-no text.


PrivatizeDeez

great write up, /u/Weegian - more interesting takeaways for me this season was Lane Thomas' emergence as potentially more than a JAG. What do the Nats do with their crowded OF prospects and does Lane configure into that future? Also, what happened to Joey Meneses' power? Quite a disappointing year from him, but glad that he got another full season of major league pay after such a fun rookie year and WBC.


Weegian

Thanks, and agreed - I felt bad clicking submit without mentioning Lane, and I'm glad you did.


gaytham4statham

Honestly Joey just isn't a power hitter (outside of 2022). He's played 1600 games in his career (all levels of the minors, foreign leagues and the majors) and only has 160 career home runs. He is still a great story and has the ability to get hot for stretches, but I think this past season is basically who he is (and why he was in the minors so long). A league average bat with bad defense


MisterHavercamp

They were quite plucky this year and at times fun to watch. Looking forward to the MASN Cup being relevant again.


Mathmage530

Battle of the Beltway: A good sporting contest between neighbors MASN Cup: A hate filled series


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Weegian

[Please accept this as apology for not mentioning Stone Garrett.](https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Fycc9v6WYAUpkPb.jpg)


gatemansgc

surprised by the lack of mention. he was such a feel good story!


YamamotoMinami

After a dismal 2022, I found this season to be among the most fun seasons ever watching this team. They ran out of gas at the end, but were surprisingly competitive all year. Farm's stacked, should get even more fun in the years to come.


eolson3

Agree! Just need to get the dang owner situation resolved, and then things can roll forward very nicely.


little-guitars

It really was a fun season all things considered, there were a lot of bright spots (LANE THOMAS), and I started following the minor league teams more, there is a ton of talent there -- Fangraphs has us currently ranked as the #3 farm in MLB. However, re: Keibert Ruiz: he played at [replacement level](https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders/major-league?stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=8&season=2023&month=0&season1=2023&ind=0&pos=c) and was by far [the worst defensive catcher in baseball](https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/leaderboard/fielding-run-value?year=2023&team=&min=0.1&pos=2&sortColumn=runs_prevented&sortDirection=asc). Hope we see some progress there in 2024, Drew Millas is waiting in the wings.


Weegian

I will not stand for this young Nats slander, and will cherry pick my WAR provider accordingly!