WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals are entering camp with a 25-man roster that is virtually set, after bringing back much of last season's club and addressing remaining needs during the offseason with a few minor, but key, signings.
That will make this spring a bit light on true positional battles, but there will certainly be room for opportunity. During each of the past few seasons, Washington has had at least one player make the Opening Day roster after entering Spring Training on a Minor League deal, so perhaps there is some room for flexibility on the roster.
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The Nats have some openings in the bullpen, at the fifth starter spot and perhaps they could carry an extra position player on the bench.
So before the Nats open up their Grapefruit League schedule Friday against the Astros at 1:05 p.m. ET, here are some dark horse candidate to make the Opening Day roster.
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Victor Robles: Robles is not any sort of non-roster invite: he's the organization's top prospect and MLB Pipeline's third overall prospect in MLB. However, his chances of making the Opening Day roster are slim at the moment.
The Nationals want him to play everyday, but their starting outfield is currently full, so Robles will almost certainly begin the season in Triple-A. But he is the next outfielder in line should an injury occur, and he's one hot month away from changing the Nats' plans. Such was the case in September, when Robles arrived in the big leagues ahead of schedule, then proceeded to impress the club so much that he made the postseason roster.
"He's impressive," manager Dave Martinez said. "Good kid. Wants to learn. Been talking to him a lot about just doing the little things, but he gets it. He's going to be fun to watch. He really is. He does it all. I was watching when they were fielding in the outfield, and it's almost like he glides out there. He's going to be a good one."
Perhaps with a strong spring, Robles can force his way into the team's plans once again.
Wander Suero: The Nationals are a bit shallow in their depth for right-handed relievers, especially considering Koda Glover's shoulder injury. They did replace that potential hole with right-hander Joaquin Benoit, but still there is some room to break into the bullpen with a strong spring.
That could leave room for Suero to break with the team. He was added to the Nats 40-man roster in November after this best season, when he posted a 1.79 ERA in 54 appearances between Double-A and Triple-A. He was named the organization's pitcher of the year. With another injury to the bullpen and an impressive spring, Suero could continue to improve his stock with the Nats and earn his way to Washington to start the season.
Bryan Harper: This is, perhaps, the longest shot on this list, but there is a scenario where Bryan Harper is jogging to the mound past his brother, Bryce, in right field on Opening Day.
The Nats are perhaps more thin at left-handed reliever than any other position. Outside of closer Sean Doolittle, there are some legit questions with the rest of their options. So, if Harper is impressive this spring, in his first action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2016, maybe he could find a spot on the team. Harper had started impressing the organization before his injury and was on track to potentially make the Majors then. When healthy, he has shown he has the stuff to compete with Major League hitters.
Both Harpers have considered playing on the same team since 2011 when Bryan Harper was drafted in the 30th round. If a few things break right this spring, that dream could be reality.