Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

2022 Nats Season preview


Soto may be the sole bright spot for the 2022 season. Photo via

Short version of this post: we are going to be absolutely awful this year.

Longer Version….

At the end of Spring Training, the 2022 Nats are heading into battle with a 28-man roster that breaks down like the following:

  • 4 NRIs signed to minor league deals this past off-season (as per the most recent post: (Sanchez, Arano, Franco, and Strange-Gordon)
  • 2 Waiver claims (Fox, Murphy)
  • 8 players who are essentially rookies: (Ruiz, Thomas, Adams, Grey, Adon, Thompson, Machado, Espino)

And, despite playing this many brand new players … we’re NOT going to be playing either of our top two positional rookies (Garcia, demoted mid-spring, and Kieboom, who may miss the entire season with a blown UCL) or any of our top pitching prospects (Cavalli got lit up, Henry wasn’t even at Spring training, Rutledge was an NRI for some reason but, lest we forget, was in LowA last year, etc).

A huge chunk of our likely opening day lineup are guys signed to one-year deals, who have no history with the franchise and whom most fans couldn’t pick out of a lineup. We know who Nelson Cruz is of course, but could you name our starting infield? If i stood Cesar Hernandez, Alcides Escobar, Maikel Franco, Lucious Fox, and Ehire Adrianza in a row could you put the correct name with each face? Every one of these guys seemingly was signed with the 2022 trade deadline in their minds … the likelihood of ANY of these guys finishing the year with the Nats seems very slim.

Our rotation includes an NRI (Sanchez), a guy who I thought was going to get non-tendered (Fedde), a Rookie with one MLB start to his name (Adon), a $30M/year guy who looked completely lost the last two seasons (Corbin), and a promising prospect who has a career 5.48 ERA in 14 MLB games (Grey). Strasburg may not pitch until July.

If i’m reading the Big Board correctly, just 6 of our opening day 28 man roster was originally drafted and developed by Washington (Robles, Soto, YHernandez, Fedde, Adon, and Voth). A damning indictment of our last decade of drafting and player development, especially in the top 2 rounds.

Not that spring training records matter … but we finished 4-11 and were outscored by 28 runs in the process (nearly 2 a game).

Its going to be a long season. We have the defending WS champs, a Mets team that’s going to spend $300M on payroll this year, a Phillies team that had a softball beer league lineup of sluggers who might average 8 runs a game, and a Marlins team that, well who knows what they’ll do but it won’t matter because we’re likely losing 100+ games with this lineup.

Discuss. Is anyone out there really optimistic?

Written by Todd Boss

April 6th, 2022 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Nats in General

11 Responses to '2022 Nats Season preview'

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  1. Too much ‘whoa is us’ for me. Are the Nats going to be competitive? No.
    There will be some very good storylines most every game, however. Soto, Ruiz,Gray.

    Let’s see who is on the roster July 1, then we can reasses.

    Mark L

    7 Apr 22 at 6:13 am

  2. “Happy” Opening Day, which begins under a dark cloud, both figuratively and literally. The more rainouts until Stras is ready, the better.

    As I’ve noted, the infield looks like something the Orioles would sign. Despite that, and despite the seeming insistence that Robles is MLB-ready after a gosh-awful spring, I still think the offense will score decently. But the pitching could be epically bad.

    How is Adon more “ready” than Cavalli? Adon spent most of 2021 at A+, where he posted a 4.97 ERA. He’s now one of the starting pitchers, as is the carcass of Sanchez, as is Fedde, who as Todd notes should have been non-tendered.

    Strange-Gordon had a good spring (MUCH better than Robles), but he hasn’t been good at the MLB level since 2017.

    This is depressing, the most depressing outlook since 2010. At least in 2011, there was the hope of a bunch of young talent. Most of the young talent the Nats have right now is failing, which is a significant part of the problem. About the only thing to look forward to is Ruiz, who I think will be one of the better hitting catchers in the game almost immediately.

    My prediction: the fight will be to win 73 games and avoid a 90-loss season. I’m not even sure they can do that. Sigh.


    7 Apr 22 at 8:09 am

  3. There will be plenty of time to dissect the front office malpractice, but the biggest immediate problem was failure to sign starting pitching. The signing of a couple of starters in the $10-15M AAV range would have significantly improved this team. Two from the $3-8M range would have at least made them more viable. There were 20 starters who signed for between $5M and $15M per year. The Nats got none of them.

    The Nats also spent nothing on relief pitching. Cishek at $1.75M was the “highest” they paid. If you spend nothing, you get nothing in return. And that’s what this year’s ‘pen is going to be worth: nothing.

    Yet they spent $15M on a 60-year-old DH. But almost nothing else. Hernandez at $4M probably was good value. But consider that the Nats didn’t spend even half that on any pitcher.

    So we’re in a bizarre state. They’re not truly tanking, as the payroll is far too high to be tanking. But it’s also impossible to see how they’re really trying, at more than $50M below the cap, with disastrous pitching issues, and with an infield recycled from the Orioles.

    Many of the current problems are driven by disastrous drafting and poor player development of both domestic and international talent. That’s a whole other story. I’m just pointing to how little was done to put Band Aids on the most glaring problems. It’s particularly head-scratching when you consider that in the past, Rizzo was often prone to sign or acquire an extra starter we weren’t even quite sure we needed — EJax, Haren, Fister, et al., even Corbin. This offseason, he didn’t even lift a finger in that area.


    7 Apr 22 at 10:03 am

  4. It’s going to be bad – and I think from a team perspective, KW identifies the right goal: can they avoid losing 90 games?

    I am looking at three factors to evaluate whether the rebuild can happen quickly or if it is going to take years (hopefully not “forever” like the Phillies post-’11 rebuild that hasn’t resulted in anything actually being built): (1) Can Robles be a 90 WRC+ hitter again; (2) Can Corbin pitch 180 innings at a 4.00 ERA/FIP level or close to it; (3) Can Strasburg pitch 150 innings at the same 4.00 level.

    I am not going to defend the Nats’ drafting or player development, but they have a lot of pitching prospects. With just ordinary luck, one or two of those guys is a league average starter. But to be a viable playoff contender, they need three (ideally four) good starters. If Stras/Corbin/Gray are three of those four, that would spell great things for the rebuild. I am not bullish, especially on Stras.

    Robles’s lack of development is just crushing. But if he can get back to his 2019 performance, that’s an important position you can fill cheaply and don’t have to worry about. I’m more bullish on Robles finding it again than I am about Stras.

    It’s all pretty depressing. But after an actual decade of having playoff aspirations on Opening Day, it’s kinda nice to think about watching the games more casually and not caring so much about the outcome.

    My bold prediction: Soto finishes the year with a .500+ OBP.


    7 Apr 22 at 11:09 am

  5. Judged by both hard contact and ISO, Robles has lost the ability to hit the ball hard. Unless and until that returns, he’s not going to return to any sort of viability. The Nats certainly need him to, he still has a heck of a lot of talent, and he won’t turn 25 until next month. But I’m still pretty skeptical.

    Robles, Kieboom, and Garcia are lineup pieces who would have to find themselves for the Nats to rebuild from within during the “Soto window.” I have more confidence in Ruiz and Thomas, the latter of whom looks like a steal if he can be a quality everyday player. Ruiz has all-star potential. Beyond these guys, the next wave of potential field prospects is a long way away. (I refuse to count Antuna, who never has been particularly good, at any level.) House has the ability for a Soto-like run through the minors, but it’s unreasonable to really expect to see Halley’s Comet again this soon.

    It’s reasonable to expect/hope for Stras and Corbin to turn around, eventually, but not guaranteed. Poor Joe Ross can’t catch a break, and he hasn’t been that great even when he can. Fedde is 29 now, so it’s really unreasonable to expect him to ever be more than what he is (career ERA 5.25). So the pitching hope is more with Gray, Cavalli, and Henry. As noted above, I’m very skeptical that Adon belongs in this group, based on his actual performance, but I hope he proves me wrong. Cronin is the only high-end bullpen piece in the upper minors.

    Not all of these guys will fail, but not all will succeed, either. The Nats are already suffering from not getting more from Robles, Kieboom, and Fedde, not to mention some other draft picks who have been even worse. I’d love to see them turn it around, but I’m really skeptical. And the next wave of real potential help internally most likely is three to four years away.


    7 Apr 22 at 1:49 pm

  6. And the 2017 walking disaster of a first round pick goes on the 60-day IL with a calf strain. The 60-day with a STRAIN?!? Klobosits, who has significantly more value to the organization, has been DFA’d. Sure hope he makes it through waivers.


    7 Apr 22 at 2:44 pm

  7. Derek, you’ve got a believer in the Soto possibility at ESPN:

    One (realistic) bold prediction: Soto’s final line of .352/.527/.644 wins him unanimous MVP honors. What, that doesn’t sound realistic? It should — that’s what he hit over his final 78 games in 2021. — Schoenfield

    [It should be noted that no one other than Bonds (three times) has finished over .500 OBP since Williams and Mantle both did it in 1957, 65 years ago. Soto’s .490 in the truncated 2020 “season” is the highest non-Bonds number since that time.]


    7 Apr 22 at 9:41 pm

  8. Just noticed that Soto’s final 78 game OPS is about what Babe Ruth’s career 1.164 OPS is.

    Mark L

    9 Apr 22 at 2:30 pm

  9. A few quick early observations:

    – Ruiz looks like he could have star potential. He looks good both offensively and defensively
    – Adams is not the same caliber of defensive catcher as Ruiz. I haven’t seen enough to think Adams is bad, but he’s clearly a step down from Ruiz
    – Robles has made several good plays in CF that nobody else on the roster can make
    – I’m already tired of watching Franco play.
    – the starting pitching is what we thought it was. It’s gonna be a long year


    10 Apr 22 at 9:03 am

  10. I agree on the excitement about Ruiz. His defense was supposed to be suspect, but he’s obviously been working hard on improving it. He gave Corbin a lot of confidence to bury the slider. Ruiz has a chance to be an all-star caliber player, which is the type of deal the Nats need more of to get back into contention.

    Other than Ruiz and Babe Soto (three months younger than Ruiz), though, it is indeed already looking like it’s going to be a long season. I guess we have to root for Cruz and Bell to be good enough to bring something at the trade deadline. I’d at least be curious at how reasonable Bell would be in extension talks.

    It’s hard to see the Nats being able to acquire the amount of starting pitching to cure what ails them, so they’ve really got to hope that they can finally develop what they’ve got: Gray, Adon, Cavalli, Henry, et al.


    10 Apr 22 at 1:14 pm

  11. I know that I’m probably just hoping that the Titanic is a stable ship, but there have been some encouraging signs from some sections of the bullpen. Doolittle consistently was hitting 94/95 yesterday, which hasn’t happened since 2019.

    Here’s an important measure: the Nats won the first game in which they scored four runs. In the stretch last season, they lost nearly every game in which they scored probably five or less. Their pitching isn’t going to be good enough to win many games in which they score less than four, but if they can win more than they lose when they score four or five, they can be semi-respectable. Not expecting miracles, just semi-respectability.


    11 Apr 22 at 9:27 am

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