Thursday, May 23, 2024

To Be Young at Heart


It felt like eternity waiting for the Nationals to go from plugging replacement players into big positions to actually trusting their young players to inherit the team. It was only like 3 years but it felt like way longer. 

And yes, the Nats still have some seat-filler guys around this roster, but A.) not as many, and B.) some of them are actually playing well. Jesse Winker, Trevor Williams and Ildemaro Vargas are among the best players on this team. Trevor Williams, who has not been this relevant since his Pirates years, is 4-0 with a 2.35 ERA. He's really earning his obligatory status as a starter here, unlike some Patrick Corbins on this team. Winker's one of the best producers on the team, even if he's not exactly at 2021 Reds levels. And Vargas is hitting .300 filling in at third, and...honestly, they'll take it I guess. Yes, there's still people like Joey Gallo, Eddie Rosario and Patrick Corbin who are being paid to eat shit out there, but that kind of player isn't overpopulating the team like it used to.

Look, the way I've weighed this team since like 2017 is 'how much of the weight is on Victor Robles'. When they relied on someone like Robles to be great, and he wasn't, the team struggled. Then in 2019 when the team was great, the pressure was off Robles and he was much better. But then people started leaving and Robles was now needed in a more permanent role, so he struggled again. Now that people like Jacob Young, C.J. Abrams, MacKenzie Gore and Keibert Ruiz are actually dominating this team, Robles can do his thing, hitting like .091 and taking up roster space, and it's not even that big of a deal anymore. Oh well. They can just cut him now. Wouldn't that be the biggest 'change of the guard' move? Robles, Carter Kieboom and Patrick Corbin all getting cut at some point this year?

Meanwhile, Jacob Young, a year after a rookie peek, is making a case for his legitimacy going forward in Washington. Already he's hitting .270 with 11 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and 31 hits. Young is a speedy, contact-friendly swiss army knife of an outfielder, and having a guy like him in addition to Abrams and Ruiz boosts the versatility of the lineup. Similarly, having Mitchell Parker showing up to the bigs ready to go also helped, as he's got a 3.32 ERA in his first 7 starts, with 32 Ks [for reference, Corbin has 29 Ks in 9 starts, what HAPPENED to this man?]. Jake Irvin is also a steady starting option right now, even if he's not as showy as someone like Gore. 

So there's just so much more homegrown or young stuff happening with this Nats team, and that does a lot to explain why they're in third place as the Mets and Marlins flounder. They're not the best, they're not over the top, they're just a steady, decent enough team who might not compete but aren't gonna lose 100 games. And considering where the Nats where just recently, that is some nice progress.

Coming Tonight: If any other team drafted this guy, he'd already be a veteran starter for 10 years by now. But as such, the Royals are getting a year like this now rather than the Mets getting 5 of them in his prime.

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