Nats set goals to improve in all areas for '23

October 6th, 2022

NEW YORK -- The Nationals’ 2022 season ended on Wednesday night at Citi Field with a lineup that included only three players from the Opening Day starting nine on April 7.

In the six months since then, the season has been divided into two clearly defined chapters: pre- and post-Trade Deadline. The roster that is heading into the winter looks far different than the group that reported to Spring Training in West Palm Beach, Fla.

As the season concluded with a 55-107 record following a 9-2 loss to the Mets, the list of ways to improve in 2023 already had boxes to check.

Longer outings from starters
The Nationals’ relievers finished the season ranked fourth in the NL in most frames pitched (632 1/3), including 7 2/3 in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader. 

“Honestly, if they could give us five-plus, get us into the sixth inning, I think we’re going to be OK,” manager Dave Martinez said. “And that’s not asking a whole lot compared to what we saw starting pitching do back in the day … even in ‘19, where we had guys going six-plus into the seventh, sometimes eighth. We’ve got to go deeper in games. Our starting pitchers have to go deeper in games.”

On that note, add to the starting rotation
The Nationals’ starting rotation was hit hard by injuries. Joe Ross did not appear in a game, Stephen Strasburg was shut down after one start, and Cade Cavalli, Evan Lee and Jackson Tetreault ended the year on the IL. (Cavalli and MacKenzie Gore, who was on the IL when acquired from the Padres, finished the season healthy and throwing.)

“We’re going into the winter with a lot of different areas that we need to fix,” Martinez said. “But what I do love is that we get Cade healthy, MacKenzie Gore, who’s going to leave here healthy, they’re going to get a chance to come into Spring Training and compete. You’ve got Josiah [Gray], who learned a lot. You have Patrick [Corbin], who I really felt like over the last six or seven starts he was getting back to what he was.

“So you’re talking about adding maybe one or two more starters, and I think with doing that, with CJ [Abrams], Luis [García] in the middle, Victor [Robles] playing center field every day, I think we’re definitely going to get better.”

Win within the division
The Nationals finished 17-59 against the National League East, including a season-ending series sweep in New York. The Braves, Mets and Phillies all earned postseason berths. 

“I look back, a lot of games other than these last few we played in our division, we were right there, we competed,” Martinez said. “But we’ve got to get back and we’ve got to finish some of those games and get to our bullpen and get those guys to hold them down. This division’s good. I’ve always said, this division’s going to be tough. 

“In order to compete, we need some pieces. But we’re going to give opportunities to our young players, and what I saw from our younger players, they’re not afraid, and they’re going to go out and compete.”

Add power
Washington ranked 26th in baseball in runs scored (603) and 28th in home runs (136). The Nationals would like to add more offensive spark to their lineup, and rookie Joey Meneses showed early potential. 

“Some of our younger guys, you’ll start seeing a little bit more of the power come out,” Martinez said. “…  I’ve seen teams back in the day … the St. Louis Cardinals stick out to me -- they had Jack Clark, who drove in all the runs. But those other guys who got on base were athletic. For me, it’s about doing all the things, being more athletic, which we try to do. We ran a lot more. We did a lot more hit and run, and we bunted some. If you had that one or two guys in the middle of the lineup that can drive the ball -- and I think Joey [Meneses] could be one of those guys as well -- we’ve got something.”

Round out the outfield
The Nationals manned left field by committee the first half of the season, and they got different looks in right field following the trade of Juan Soto. With Victor Robles at center field, Lane Thomas emerged late in the season as a solid right field option.

“If we had a platoon situation in the corners or wherever, I’d be OK with that because you can get a lot,” Martinez said. “I once mentioned when [Yadiel Hernandez] was here and he was playing left field and Lane was playing left field, you put their two numbers together and they had a pretty good year out there. We could do many things. We’ve just got to be agile, be flexible and put together a team that we feel that can compete.”