Aug 10, 2022 - Sports

How the Nats will rebuild after Juan Soto

Planes lift off in formation above the Washington Nationals marquee at Nats Park in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Though Juan Soto’s departure is still raw and seeing him in any uniform but the Curly W stinks, the Nats' future is actually brighter today than it was before the trade deadline, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

Why it matters: Our home club is currently baseball’s worst team. We could use the silver lining!

Catch up quick: Before the drastic slide of the past three seasons, the Nats spent a decade as one of baseball's best teams, culminating, of course, with the magical 2019 World Series run.

  • That didn't happen by accident, as GM Mike Rizzo made numerous shrewd trades and signings to build a winning ball club.
  • But since 2018 we've watched five superstars named Bryce, Anthony, Trea, Max, and Juan leave in succession. Meanwhile, Rizzo's win-now trades left our farm system barren of many top prospects.
  • On top of that, the franchise has become hamstrung by the mega contracts of Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg: Corbin’s been the worst pitcher in baseball since 2020, Strasburg’s future is in doubt after thoracic outlet surgery, and they're owed nearly $200 million combined through 2026.

Yes, but: The five prospects the Nats just received for Soto and Josh Bell are so talented that their arrival improved Washington’s farm system from MLB's seventh-worst to its eighth-best, per FanGraphs Prospects.

Let’s meet them:

  • MacKenzie Gore: The 23-year-old left-hander was the top pitching prospect in all of baseball two years ago. He'll join the rotation when he comes off the injured list for elbow soreness and could be the staff ace in just a couple of years.
  • C.J. Abrams: The 21-year-old who entered this year as the “best hitter” with the “best speed” in the minor leagues, per Baseball America, could become our new Trea Turner. He's expected to be the starting shortstop before this season ends.
  • Robert Hassell III: A speedy 20-year-old outfielder with no real weaknesses, he’s now the Nats' number-one prospect and will probably debut late next year or in 2024.
  • James Wood: At 6’7” and 240 pounds, the 19-year-old outfielder could one day lead the league in home runs with a left-handed bat that, if all goes right, could call to mind current Astros superstar Yordan Álvarez. He’s a local, too, having grown up in Olney.
  • Jarlin Susana: The tantalizing young talent from the Dominican Republic is 6’6”, throws 100 mph, and was the consensus best pitcher among this year’s international signing class.

Between the lines: Pair those five guys with Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz acquired in last year's Max Scherzer/Trea Turner trade, plus Luis García, and you can see more than a faint outline of a promising core.

The intrigue: The Lerner family is expected to sell the team by the end of this year. Will the new owner be willing to write some big checks to complement this young core with a few established stars? TBD.

Jeff’s thought bubble: If you’re looking for a date to circle on your calendar, make it Opening Day 2025.

  • I know that’s not a short wait, and I hate that this team may not look much better in the meantime. But Soto — as much as I miss him — is happier and better off thanks to this trade, and someday soon the Nats and their fans will be too.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected by taking out a reference that James Wood graduated from St. John's College High School and adding that he grew up in Olney.


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