2022 Washington Nationals Season Preview

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2022 Washington Nationals Preview

With Opening Day fast approaching, the 2022 Washington Nationals are looking to start another season in the nation’s capital. After a 65-97 record in 2021, the Nationals are looking to the future. With Max Scherzer gone and Stephen Strasburg injured to start the season, the Nationals, once reliant on their starting pitching, will rely on Patrick Corbin and Paolo Espino to carry the load. This season’s theme is young players and allowing them to play in big games as the Nationals begin the first full season of their rebuild. 

The Nationals still have Juan Soto who at 23 years old is an MVP level player. Soto could win the National League Most Valuable Player and the focus is to build a lineup around him for when the team wishes to contend in the future.

Off-Season Additions 

This past off-season the Nationals have acquired experienced veterans to help the team in the short term. Players like Ehire Adrianza and Steve Cishek have been given contracts to bolster the roster. In addition to those players, the Nationals have also signed Aaron Sanchez, Gerardo Parra, Dee Strange-Gordon, and Maikel Franco to minor league contracts. Most of these players have the opportunity to prove that they are still Major League ready. It could be beneficial for players like Sanchez and Franco who have yet to turn 30. 

Nelson Cruz, 1 year- $15 million 

Nelson Cruz is the biggest acquisition for the Washington Nationals heading into 2022. Now at 41 years old, a spot opened up for him when the National League instituted the Designated Hitter. He still swings a dangerous bat. During his time with the Twins, he hit .304/.386/.598. He provides the Nationals with a power bat in the middle of the lineup and he will be a great mentor to younger hitters like Soto and Josh Bell. Nationals fans can expect someone who is in the lineup for 130 games and likely become the team’s designated hitter. It’s also possible that if the season does not go well for the Nationals, he can be traded to a contender for more prospects. 

Cesar Hernandez, 1 year – $4 million 

One of the biggest needs for the Nationals this off-season was to acquire another infielder. Cesar Hernandez is a 31-year-old veteran who spent seven years with the rival Phillies. Although 2021 was an off-year for Hernandez, he looks to bounce back in 2022. He will likely be the second baseman for the Nationals and will play a handful of games at shortstop. 

Sean Doolittle, 1 year – $1.5 million

This is a player that needs no introduction for Nationals fans. After four seasons with the Nationals, Sean Doolittle started 2021 with the Cincinnati Reds. After a season away, the fan-favorite is back with the Nationals and hoping to be an asset in relief. The 35-year-old lefty still has a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and may be used in nearly 55 innings this season. The Nats will likely use Doolittle in the 8th and 9th innings. 

Subtractions 

Starlin Castro, Free Agency 

Although fans outside of the fanbase may not have noticed, Starlin Castro spent the 2021 season with the Nationals. He appeared in 87 games with the Nationals before they released him in July. With the signing of Hernandez, the Nationals are looking to fill the void that Castro left. 

Ryan Zimmerman, Retired 

After 17 seasons with the Nationals, Ryan Zimmerman has decided to retire. While he will return to the Nationals, it is only for his jersey retirement ceremony on June 18. In 110 games with the Nationals in 2021, Zimmerman hit .243/.286/.471 with 14 Home Runs and 46 RBI. Excluding the 2020 season, this will be the first time the Nationals will not have Zimmerman in their lineup since 2004 when they were in Montreal. 

Potential Prospects

There will be a few key prospects that will make their Major League debut in 2022. Cade Cavalli has been a highly-touted prospect within the Nationals organization since he was taken 22nd overall by the Washington Nationals in 2020. The six-foot-four right-handed pitcher has a fastball in the upper nineties. Last season in the minor leagues, Cavalli had 175 strikeouts in 123 1/3 innings pitched. After finishing the 2021 season in Triple-A Rochester, the Nationals’ top prospect will play in Washington in 2022.

Another Nationals prospect who will make their debut in 2022 is Lucius Fox. As a native of the Bahamas, he was named to the Nationals’ 40-man roster in November 2021. He is known as a middle infielder who can start in the outfield. Scouts say that his above-average speed, arm strength, and fielding abilities set him apart from other prospects. After a good season with the Royals Triple-A team, Fox is ready to make his debut in 2022.

Prediction Time

The National League East is a tough division to win. With the New York Mets adding Scherzer to their roster, that’s going to be a new challenge this season. The Phillies have strengthened their pitching and lineup and the Atlanta Braves just won the World Series keeping the core intact. It’s not likely that the Nationals will pass any of those teams in the standings this year. Since the 2021 Nationals finished 67-95, the team has improved on paper. While there are plenty of short-term veterans on the roster; they will most likely go younger as the season progresses.

All signs point to the 2022 Nationals finishing fourth in the National League East with a record of 70-92.  Winning will not be the focal point of the season, but the development of young players to build for the next great contending team. The Washington Nationals will start their 2022 season on Thursday April 7 at home against the New York Mets.

Main Photo:
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Players Mentioned:

Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Paolo Espino, Juan Soto, Ehire Adrianza, Steve Cishek, Aaron Sanchez, Gerardo Parra, Dee Strange-Gordon, Maikel Franco, Nelson Cruz, Cesar Hernandez, Sean Doolittle, Starlin Castro, Ryan Zimmerman, Cade Cavalli, Lucius Fox