Does Abbott merit more opportunities next year?

PLAYER REVIEW: CORY ABBOTT

Age on opening day 2023: 27

How acquired: Claimed off waivers from Giants, May 2022

MLB service time: 83 days

2022 salary: $700,000

Contract status: Under team control, arbitration-eligible in 2026, free agent in 2029

2022 stats: 0-5, 5.25 ERA, 16 G, 9 GS, 0 CG, 48 IP, 44 H, 30 R, 28 ER, 12 HR, 25 BB, 45 SO, 5 HBP, 1.438 WHIP, 75 ERA+, 6.36 FIP, -0.5 fWAR, 0.0 bWAR

Quotable: “Whether we deem him a starter, whether we deem him a long-relief guy, his stuff plays. He goes through three or four innings where he looks like he’s going to keep us in the ballgame, which he has. Then the pitch count gets up, he starts leaving balls up, we see the home runs after that. He’s another guy I talk about creating an identity for himself, and wanting to know who he is. I think he’s starting to understand he’s a guy that really needs to keep the ball down. Everything plays when he throws the ball down.” – Davey Martinez

2022 analysis: Cory Abbott began his season with the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate, hoping to return to the majors after getting a cup of coffee in 2021. But a whirlwind opening month saw him get designated for assignment after two starts, then traded to the Giants and optioned to their Triple-A affiliate, then claimed by the Nationals before ever appearing in a game.

Abbott spent a month at Rochester before the Nats gave him his first of five promotions to the big leagues. He often was the designated extra man for a doubleheader, heading back to Triple-A in short order.

Finally, at the end of July, Abbott was called up to Washington to stay. He wound up starting their Aug. 2 game against the Mets, pitching for a team that hours earlier had traded Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres, and impressed with five scoreless innings. That would be by far his best outing the rest of the way. Over his final 12 appearances, eight of them starts, Abbott went 0-5 with a 6.23 ERA and 1.590 WHIP.

2023 outlook: Though his overall performances didn’t particularly stand out, Abbott did show he could get big league hitters out, when not asked to do too much. His ERA in innings one through three was a mere 2.00 with opponents batting a scant .175 against him. Things quickly fell apart after that. Opponents facing the right-hander a second time in a game hit a robust .318 with a 1.057 OPS. The numbers were even worse on the rare occasions when they got to face him a third time: a .353 average and 1.476 OPS.

Abbott’s biggest issue was keeping the ball in the yard. He surrendered 2.3 home runs per nine innings, a rate matched by only one other member of the Nationals’ pitching staff: Josiah Gray, who led the majors with 38 homers allowed.

Given all that, you wouldn’t think the Nats will be giving Abbott serious consideration to make the opening day rotation, not unless they have a phalanx of injuries that forces them to dive way down their depth chart. There could be a spot for him as a long reliever, given his success when only facing a lineup once. But with several other candidates for that same role (Paolo Espino, Erasmo Ramírez) with a bit more track record, there simply may not be room for Abbott.

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