Abrams earns first All-Star selection of young career

One of the key young faces of the Nationals’ rebuild is going to represent the organization at the All-Star Game for the first time.

CJ Abrams, who has blossomed into one of the sport’s best shortstops over the last calendar year, was selected as the Nats’ lone All-Star representative this afternoon, an appropriate honor for the 23-year-old acquired in one of the most significant trades in baseball history.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’m just grateful for everybody in this clubhouse right now, for my family, friends and the fans. I’m excited to go represent the Nats in Arlington.”

Abrams was placed on the National League squad by Major League Baseball, which is tasked with filling out the final spots on All-Star rosters, making sure every club is represented after fans vote for starters and players and coaches vote for reserves and pitchers.

Right-hander Jake Irvin, who entered the day fourth in the NL in ERA and WHIP, and closer Kyle Finnegan, who ranks second in saves, also received consideration and could still wind up getting an invitation to Texas next week if other pitchers need to be replaced either for injuries or recent usage issues.

“Jake Irvin deserves a lot of credit,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I thought he had a chance. Also Finnegan. I really thought he deserved to be on it. But we’ve still got a week. You never know with the pitching.”

Though Irvin and Finnegan each have performed at an All-Star level so far this season, Abrams has performed while becoming one of the new faces of the franchise, blossoming into a legitimate star over the last year.

“He’s one of the young guys that we’re trying to build this team around,” Martinez said. “For him to have the half that he’s had says a lot about where we’re at as far as youth. We’re very happy for him, for his family. It means a lot to us that he gets to represent the Nationals.”

This honor happens to fall on the one-year anniversary of Martinez’s decision to move Abrams up to the leadoff spot in the Nationals lineup, a move has taken Abrams’ game to new heights. In 154 games since, he has produced an .804 OPS with 33 doubles, eight triples, 25 homers, 76 RBIs and 50 stolen bases.

“I want to be at the top of the lineup,” he said. “Being able to score runs for the team, get on base, make things happen. And we’re going to keep on going.”

Abrams got off to a torrid start this season, then struggled in May before putting up even bigger numbers in June. His overall totals: a .282/.353/.506 slash line with 21 doubles, five triples, 14 homers, 46 RBIs and .859 OPS (which ranks seventh in the NL). In the field, he has become a steady presence, charged with only seven errors while credited with three Defensive Runs Saved.

“I really felt he could do it, and he stepped up to do it,” Martinez said. “I’m proud of him for taking ownership, for taking the leadoff spot and doing the little things that’s helped him get better. It’s all him.”

Abrams becomes the first player acquired in the Juan Soto trade of August 2022 to earn an All-Star selection. The Nationals can only hope it’s the first of many for him, and that future Midsummer Classics are in the cards for left-hander MacKenzie Gore, outfielder James Wood and either or both of the two prospects still in the minors (outfielder Robert Hassell III, right-hander Jarlin Susana).

Abrams was the first of those five young players to debut with the Nationals, getting his feet wet with a 44-game tryout late in the 2022 season at age 21. He took off last season and has embraced the spotlight that follows him since.

Now he gets a chance to shine on baseball’s brightest stage outside of the postseason, showing the rest of the sport what fans in D.C. have come to appreciate over the last two years.

“We’re going to keep doing it, you know,” Abrams said. “This is just the first one, right?”

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