Breaking down Nats' roster options for '22

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WASHINGTON -- Comparing the Nationals’ 2021 Opening Day roster to that of Game No. 162 tells the story of two halves of the season. Following an overhaul at the Trade Deadline that shifted the direction of the team, assessing potential roles for the 2022 season shows a different approach to the roster than recent years.

Take a look at 35 players who made meaningful contributions to the Nationals this season and a glimpse into the roles they could have in 2022. Note, there are some players not included on this list because decisions or roster moves have already been made: catcher Alex Avila (retirement), reliever Sean Nolin (outrighted to Triple-A, elected free agency) and reliever Alberto Baldonado (outrighted to Triple-A). Contract statuses are per the Cots Baseball Contracts site.

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CATCHER

Keibert Ruiz (pre-arbitration eligible)
Ruiz was the centerpiece of the megatrade with the Dodgers. He appeared in 23 games for the Nationals this season and is poised to be their everyday starting catcher moving forward.

Riley Adams (pre-arbitration eligible)
The Nationals traded a pitcher in Brad Hand to the Blue Jays and acquired a catcher in Adams in return. Adams pairs well with Ruiz as the backup catcher, and he also put in work doing drills at first base.

Tres Barrera (pre-arbitration eligible)
Barrera started in 27 games this season amid injuries and trades, but he was optioned back to Triple-A as the Nationals turned to Ruiz and Adams behind the plate. He proved he can step in when needed, a role he could be called upon for next season.

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FIRST BASE

Josh Bell (third-year arbitration eligible)
After a slow start, Bell picked up offensively in the second half of the season while improving on the defensive end, too. Look for him to return as the starting first baseman in 2022.

Ryan Zimmerman (free agent after the World Series)
Zimmerman’s future is one of the biggest questions faced by the Nationals this winter. The 37-year-old thrived in a backup first-base role, and there is a spot for him on the 2022 roster should he decide to return for a 17th season.

SECOND BASE

Luis García (pre-arbitration eligible)
García appeared in 70 games for the Nationals and became their starting second baseman along the way. Only 21 years old, García already proved he can handle the starting role and still has potential to develop.

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SHORTSTOP

Alcides Escobar (signed through 2022)
Escobar joined the Nationals mid-season and he was such a quick fit, the team already re-signed him for 2022. The Nats could utilize him again as the starting shortstop, or move him around the infield in the case of an offseason acquisition.

THIRD BASE

Carter Kieboom (pre-arbitration eligible)
Kieboom made strides at third base this season but not enough to lock in the starting role next year. He will vie once again for the starting job in Spring Training.

UTILITY

Jordy Mercer (free agent after the World Series)
Mercer appeared in games at every infield position, left field and as the designated hitter in a season limited by injuries. He could be a fit as a fill-in-wherever-needed veteran presence in 2022.

OUTFIELD

Juan Soto (second-year arbitration eligible)
The 22-year-old slugger turned a slow start into an MVP-contending season. The biggest question surrounding Soto in 2022 is, will he and the Nationals reach an extension or will Soto’s long-term future remain up in the air?

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Victor Robles (first-year arbitration eligible)
Robles began the season as the starting center fielder and ended it in Triple-A. The Nationals have expressed the former Gold Glove Award finalist is a piece of their future, but room for improvement and the emergence of Lane Thomas (see next) have put what that looks like in question.

Lane Thomas (pre-arbitration eligible)
After being acquired from the Cardinals, Thomas quickly emerged with the Nationals and earned the starting job in center field, which had been held by Robles. It remains to be determined who gets that role in 2022.

Yadiel Hernandez (pre-arbitration eligible)
Hernandez went from playing 12 games in 2020 -- his first season in the bigs -- to 112 in ‘21. There are several options for Hernandez’s future with the Nats, including starting left fielder, backup outfielder/pinch-hitter or designated hitter, depending on that role in the National League next season.

Andrew Stevenson (first-year arbitration eligible)
Stevenson continued to make a case for a starting role in the Nationals outfield, proving to be clutch when called upon off the bench. Look for him to contend again in Spring Training to earn a place in the starting lineup.

Gerardo Parra (free agent after the World Series)
Parra returned to the Nationals after a season in Japan, and he brought the same energy, enthusiasm and veteran presence that made him a key piece to the 2019 championship. He appeared in only 53 games, though, amid injuries and outfield depth, leaving a return for ‘22 less likely.

STARTING PITCHERS

Stephen Strasburg (signed through 2026)
Strasburg was limited by injuries for the second season in a row, pitching only 21 2/3 innings before being shut down due to thoracic outlet syndrome. He is slated to begin throwing in early November, and the Nationals expect him to be healthy for Spring Training.

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Patrick Corbin (signed through 2024)
Corbin accumulated a league-high 5.82 ERA in an inconsistent season. He will look to bounce back as he returns to the starting rotation in 2022.

Joe Ross (fourth-year arbitration eligible)
Ross earned a spot in the starting rotation and appeared in 20 games (19 starts) before his season ended because of a partial UCL tear in right elbow. He did not require surgery, and he is anticipated to be ready for Spring Training.

Josiah Gray (pre-arbitration eligible)
Gray, like Ruiz, was a headliner in the Trade Deadline deal with the Dodgers. He made 13 starts in his age-23 season, and he is a key piece in the Nationals’ starting rotation moving forward.

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Paolo Espino (pre-arbitration eligible)
After spending the majority of his career in the Minor Leagues, Espino had a breakthrough year in his age-34 season, earning a spot in the rotation and starting 19 games. The Nationals will have to determine if he remains a starter, returns to the bullpen or plays a dual role.

Josh Rogers (pre-arbitration eligible)
Rogers was out of the bigs for two years rehabbing from Tommy John surgery before he made his mark on the Nationals’ rotation in September. He will contend for a starting role in Spring Training.

Erick Fedde (first-year arbitration eligible)
Like he did in 2020, Fedde began the season in the bullpen and quickly stepped into the starting rotation amid injuries. His efficiency as a starter dipped in the second half of the season, and his role on the pitching staff will be determined this offseason and in Spring Training.

Joan Adon (pre-arbitration eligible)
Adon, ranked the Nats’ No. 22 prospect per MLB Pipeline, made his Major League debut when he got the start in the regular-season finale. The Nats will consider his nine-strikeout performance when they deliberate his role on their pitching staff.

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RELIEF PITCHERS

Will Harris (signed through 2022)
The veteran late-inning reliever made only eight appearances in a season marred by injuries. He underwent surgery in June to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, and he is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

Kyle Finnegan (pre-arbitration eligible)
Finnegan was named the Nationals closer after the roster overhaul at the Trade Deadline. Look for him to factor into late innings next season, but likely not again as the appointed closer.

Tanner Rainey (pre-arbitration eligible)
Rainey dealt with injuries and ups and downs in 31 2/3 frames out of the bullpen in 2021. The Nationals will look for him to return to his 2020 form and shut down late innings.

Austin Voth (pre-arbitration eligible)
Voth returned to the bullpen after struggling as a starter in 2020. He could be an option as a multiple-innings reliever in 2022.

Andres Machado (pre-arbitration eligible)
Out of the Majors since 2017, Machado re-established himself in the Nationals' bullpen in 40 appearances. Machado earned praise for having a fearless mentality, and he will look to earn a role in the ‘pen next season.

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Wander Suero (first-year arbitration eligible)
Suero has shown what he can deliver over the last four seasons with the Nationals, but he ended the season with the Red Wings after his ERA jumped to 9.72 in the second half. Suero’s future with the Nats could go in different directions: He could be a non-tender candidate, or he could make an offseason turnaround and make an impact in the bullpen.

Mason Thompson (pre-arbitration eligible)
Thompson pitched in 27 games after being acquired from the Padres, his first year in the Majors. The 23-year-old is expected to factor into the Nats’ bullpen next season as he continues to develop.

Sam Clay (pre-arbitration eligible)
Clay made his Major League debut in April at age 27 and appeared in 58 games. He ended the season in Triple-A and will look to make offseason improvements to rejoin the bullpen.

Ryne Harper (first-year arbitration eligible)
After spending the 2020 season in the Major Leagues, Harper appeared in 13 games in Triple-A and 34 in the bigs this year. He could be one to watch as a non-tender candidate after his post-All-Star break ERA jumped from 0.69 to 5.96, but the Nats have two seasons to assess his fit for the future.

Kyle McGowin (pre-arbitration eligible)
McGowin appeared in 27 games before his season was cut short in September because of a right elbow UCL strain. He began his offseason rehab program and is expected to return to the Nats’ bullpen when healthy.

Patrick Murphy (pre-arbitration eligible)
Murphy made 17 relief appearances after being claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays on Aug. 14. Look for Murphy to contend for a spot in the bullpen.

Gabe Klobosits (pre-arbitration eligible)
Klobosits made his Major League debut on July 30 and made 11 appearances before being optioned to the Red Wings a month later to finish the season. He will vie for a role in the bullpen in Spring Training.

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