Washington Nationals 2024 MLB Season Preview

With a blend of young studs and grizzled veterans, the Washington Nationals look to strive for another year of improvement in 2024.

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: CJ Abrams #5 of the Washington Nationals flips his bat after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 11, 2023 in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Despite their 71-91 finish to close out the 2023 season, the Washington Nationals managed to rise above most expectations and take lots of small organizational developments and victories last year. They look to take those same victories entering 2024.

Washington was active in the offseason when it came to their starting nine. Dave Martinez now gets to plug in some legitimate veteran bats on top of their young foundation, adding an element to Washington’s lineup that was not present last year.

Throw in some of the top prospects in baseball making their way towards an MLB debut, such as Dylan Crews, James Wood and Brady House and suddenly a core could be forming in the nation’s capital.

Projected Starting Lineup

1. CJ Abrams – SS
2. Lane Thomas – RF
3. Jesse Winker – LF
4. Joey Meneses – DH
5. Joey Gallo – 1B
6. Keibert Ruiz – C
7. Nick Senzel – 3B
8. Luis Garcia Jr. – 2B
9. Victor Robles – CF
*courtesy of Fangraphs’ Roster Resource

This offseason, the Nats came to terms on four deals with Joey Gallo, Eddie Rosario, Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel this offseason, filling gaps on the corners of the infield and left field.

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Paired with another 25 or more homers from Lane Thomas and 40 or more steals from CJ Abrams, suddenly the Nationals have a lineup with multiple players holding separate values.

There is also a possibility of Joey Meneses driving in over 80 runs again and the hope that Stone Garrett can return after fracturing his leg last August. Veteran Jesse Winker will take his spot in the meantime, looking to have a bounce back season in left field.

Behind the dish the Nationals have Keibert Ruiz, who they hope can continue to build off a strong season in 2023, where he hit 18 home runs and drove in 67 from the catcher position.

After posting strong defensive numbers in 2022, Ruiz graded out as a negative defender in 2023, leading to his 0.0 fWAR for the season. Signed to a long-term deal, the Nationals hope Ruiz can bounce back defensively and continue to improve with the bat. Riley Adams will serve as his backup.

Long story short for the first time in a long time, there is excitement in Washington’s build up for the regular season.

The highest upside player in the Nationals lineup is clearly CJ Abrams, who has taken the mantle from Trea Turner as their franchise player at shortstop. Abrams may need to take a step forward at the plate, but he flashed real promise with 18 home runs and 47 stolen bases last year.

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Projected Starting Rotation

1. Josiah Gray – RHP
2. Patrick Corbin – LHP
3. Jake Irvin – RHP
4. MacKenzie Gore – LHP
5. Trevor Williams – RHP

It seems as though Mike Rizzo’s goal here is to run it back with the same pitching staff that posted a 5.02 ERA in 2023. Rizzo wants to increase command in this group in hopes that they take a step forward in 2024. “I don’t care how fast you throw the ball,” said Rizzo, according to Jack McKessy of USA Today.

So the game plan for this staff is clear. Throw strikes and trust in the same guys as last year.

Josiah Gray, 26, highlights the top of this very familiar rotation in Washington. Gray posted the lowest ERA of his career in 2023 (3.91) along with 143 strikeouts. Eating some more innings and limiting walks should be the goal for Gray this year, as that would seriously propel him in the direction of being a validated ace for the Nats.

MacKenzie Gore established himself as a big league starter last year with 27 starts and a 4.42 ERA across 136 1/3 innings pitched. With Gore there is still optimism that he could be even better moving forward, as he was once the No. 3 overall pick in the draft and top prospect in baseball.

Jake Irvin returns for his second tour of duty in the Nationals rotation, after a rookie season last year where he pitched to a 4.61 ERA in 24 starts in 121 innings pitched. Trevor Williams will once again be asked to eat innings for the Nationals again, but expectations can’t be too high after he pitched to a 5.55 ERA in 30 starts last year.

Finally, this marks the last season of Patrick Corbin’s six-year, $140 million contract with the Washington Nationals. Corbin was worth every penny of that deal back in 2019, when he pitched to a 3.25 ERA in 202 innings pitched, while helping the Nats win the World Series.

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Since then, he has statistically been the worst starting pitcher in all of baseball. At least he provides veteran leadership and an arm to go every fifth day. Although who knows. Maybe in a contract year, Corbin turns back the clock. He is still only 34 years old.

Projected Bullpen

We need not spend too much time discussing the bullpen of a Nationals team that is not expected to make much noise in the NL East this season.

Hunter Harvey will play the eternal stud in this bullpen on top of Kyle Finnegan’s 28 saves in 2023, which provides the surface layer of protection deep into games for the Nats.

The expected pen for Washington includes new additions Dylan Floro, Matt Barnes and Derek Law. Having eight to nine years of big league experience in Floro and Barnes certainly provides a more established look to the bullpen compared to previous years in D.C..

So the question for the Nats pitching in comparison to the lineup and bench is this. Can they limit runs to a close enough efficiency to the rate in which they will be scoring runs? 

If the answer is yes, D.C. could be looking at a considerable increase from the 71 wins they posted in 2023. If not, it could very well be another year of the same baseball played in the nation’s capital.

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However, there are variables in Washington’s farm system that have a chance at making big league impact at some point this season.

Top Prospects to Keep an Eye On

That first variable is Dylan Crews. Drafted with the second overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, the center fielder from LSU already ranks at No. 11 on our Top 100 Prospect Ranking by Aram Leighton.

Crews likely will see a considerable amount of at bats in AA and AAA before his inevitable call-up, but if Victor Robles goes down during the season or Crews lives up to expectations in the minors, his first major league appearance could certainly be in 2024.

Then enter James Wood. The 21-year-old stands at 6’6 and 240 lbs and contains more potential power than anyone currently in the Nationals starting lineup. And Wood wasted no time to showcase that in Spring Training.

Wood posted an ops of 1.214 with four homers and seven runs driven in. An argument can be made that Wood would instantly be the top run producer in the Nationals’ lineup if he was promoted right now. And no one in D.C. will be unhappy with that argument, especially if the front office decides now is Wood’s time to show it at Nationals Park.

For now the No. 6 prospect in all of baseball will wait in Triple-A, but a call-up could be coming soon.

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In 2024, the Washington Nationals have their first serious chance to display the talent and future that has come from trading stars like Trea Turner, Juan Soto and Max Scherzer.

Being at the bottom of the NL East the last three years, Washington is looking to be competitive and a thorn in the side of notable contenders like the Braves and Phillies.

Coming off a season where they increased their win total by sixteen from the previous year, there is reasonable expectation that the Nats can live in that 75-80 win range, with a ceiling of being over .500 and a floor of returning to that 71 win marker.