It’s never easy trying to predict how any ballplayer is going to perform in the coming season, but it feels like an especially difficult task trying to guess how the members of the Nationals’ projected lineup will perform in 2023.
Seriously, is there one sure thing in the entire group? One guy you can definitively say will reach certain statistical mileposts? It sure doesn’t look like it.
On the bright side, there’s the possibility for a lot of these players to have big seasons, whether youngsters realizing their potential or experienced hitters finding the form they displayed only a few years ago. On the down side, there’s also the possibility of complete disaster, from flash-in-the-pan candidates to supposedly highly touted youngsters failing to take that critical next step and enjoy success in the majors.
There’s a wide variance of possibilities for the 2023 Nationals lineup. You can see that when running through each player’s potential best-case and worst-case scenario for the coming year …
Best case: Up to 120 games started, with a batting average over .275, an increase in power to get his slugging percentage over .400, one of the highest caught-stealing percentages in the league and his first career All-Star selection.
Worst case: Nagging injuries prevent him from catching 100 games, he makes too much weak contact and bats .250 again with a .360 slugging percentage. Loses his magic touch behind the plate and tries to compensate by throwing too many balls away for costly errors.
Best case: Finding a comfort zone playing first base every day, he returns to his 2019-20 form and bats .300/.365/.570 with 20 homers and 80 RBIs while showing off smooth glove skills in the field.
Worst case: Turns out his struggles the last two years weren’t the product of reduced playing time or being stuck in left field. Bats .200/.280/.330 with five homers and is out of a job by August.
Best case: Starts 150 games at second base and makes all the plays he’s supposed to make out there. Gets better at picking the right pitch in each at-bat to put into play and shows some more consistent power, leading to 30 doubles, 15 homers and a long-term place in this lineup.
Worst case: Doesn’t make the necessary moves to eliminate his mistakes in the field. Swings at everything near the plate and makes a lot of weak-contact outs as a result. Bats .240 with a sub-.700 OPS, commits 20 errors and loses his everyday job to Ildemaro Vargas.
Best case: Shows he can be a dynamic offensive force near the top of the lineup, batting .290 with gap-to-gap power and 25 steals. Makes highlight-reel plays every night at shortstop and is named a finalist for the Gold Glove Award.
Worst case: Rolls over a lot of weak grounders, fails to reach base at a .300 clip, gets moved down to the bottom of the order, makes the occasional spectacular play at shortstop but also commits 30 errors.
Best case: Rediscovers his 2021 form from Detroit, totaling 40 doubles and 15 homers to produce an .800 OPS. Plays an adequate third base. All of which makes him an intriguing trade chip come late July.
Worst case: Resembles his 2022 form from Detroit, totaling 20 doubles and 10 homers en route to a .650 OPS. Makes some costly mistakes at third base. Doesn’t generate any trade interest, leaving him a lame duck to play out the rest of the season before becoming a free agent.
Best case: Picks up right where he left off in September, becoming a legitimate force in the heart of the lineup. Combines contact skills with power stroke to produce a .300/.350/.550 slash line and solidify his place as the team’s best hitter, not just now but for several more years to come.
Worst case: Gets exposed after pitchers finally figure out how he can be stopped. His batting average stuck around .200, he moves down the lineup and eventually gets demoted to Triple-A, ending the fairy tale in ignominious fashion.
Best case: Playing almost exclusively against right-handers, he continues to wield a strong bat, producing a .280/.325/.480 slash line across 400 plate appearances. Gets traded to a contender at the deadline for a Single-A prospect.
Worst case: Still holds his own against righties but doesn’t hit for much power anymore. Struggles to a .260/.300/.400 slash line and doesn’t command much trade interest.
Best case: Finally shows some real growth at the plate, avoiding all those giveaway at-bats. Only bats .250/.310/.400, but delivers in some clutch situations, steals 20 bases and again earns Gold Glove Award consideration in center field.
Worst case: A continued downward trend that began in 2020. Struggles to maintain a .200 batting average, hits for zero power, makes an excessive number of outs on the bases while giving away extra bases with careless throws from center field. Loses his job to Robert Hassell III in mid-August and gets non-tendered after the season.
Best case: Seizes the leadoff job from Opening Day and doesn’t give it back all year. Combines a .350 on-base percentage with a .450 slugging percentage, combining 30 doubles with 20 homers. Shows off his arm as the everyday right fielder for the first time.
Worst case: Continues to be awfully streaky at the plate, with the valleys outnumbering the peaks. Loses his leadoff job. Finishes with an OPS under .700 and 150 strikeouts, leaving him in danger of losing his job to a prospect in 2024.
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