Nats may not have many spots up for grabs this spring

The Nationals roster, as currently constructed, is by no means loaded. It’s littered with inexperienced players, plus a handful of experienced ones trying to bounce back from recent struggles. It’s exactly what you’d expect the roster of a team that lost 107 games last year to look like.

Except in one peculiar way: Nearly every position on this roster seems to already be locked up, which could make for a strange spring training.

Most 100-loss teams come to camp with a host of spots up for grabs. There’s always going to be a competition for one or two rotation jobs, at least a few places in the lineup and most definitely a bunch of bench and relief positions.

But look at the Nationals right now, and you’ll quickly realize there isn’t that much that still needs to be decided.

Eight of the nine everyday players are probably set in stone already: Catcher Keibert Ruiz, newly signed first baseman Dominic Smith, the young middle infield combo of Luis García and CJ Abrams, new third baseman Jeimer Candelario, outfielders Lane Thomas and Victor Robles, plus Joey Meneses (whether he winds up in left field or as designated hitter).

There’s only one other hole to fill in the lineup, which could come in the form of another offseason acquisition or a camp competition between the likes of Alex Call, Stone Garrett, Carter Kieboom and Matt Adams, with other players flexible enough to switch positions if needed.

Now think about the rotation. Assuming good health – which, admittedly, should never be assumed – the Nats figure to enter the season with MacKenzie Gore, Cade Cavalli, Josiah Gray, Patrick Corbin and Trevor Williams as their five starters. Maybe Stephen Strasburg shows up ready to go and bumps somebody from the group, but we’ve already detailed why that seems far-fetched at this point.

Then there’s the bullpen, which already was the club’s unquestioned strength entering the offseason. Five of the eight spots are probably locked in already: Kyle Finnegan, Carl Edwards Jr., Hunter Harvey, Erasmo Ramirez and Andres Machado (who is out of options). It stands to reason either Paolo Espino or Cory Abbott makes it as a long reliever. It stands to reason Sean Doolittle is on the staff as the lone left-hander if he proves he’s fully recovered from his elbow injury. And barring a disastrous spring, it stands to reason Rule 5 draftee Thad Ward will make the team as well. (If he doesn’t, that’s a wasted No. 1 pick by the organization.)

Sure, there’s a little bit of wiggle room for some of those spots. Guys like Mason Thompson, Jordan Weems, Victor Arano, Matt Cronin and Jose Ferrer deserve a chance to pitch their way onto the Opening Day roster. But there may not be room for more than one of them.

The bench is perhaps less settled and could provide the most open competitions of the spring. Riley Adams and Israel Pineda should have a roughly equal opportunity to be the backup catcher. Ildemaro Vargas is probably a lock as the utility infielder. That leaves two more spots available from a group of contenders that includes Garrett, Adams, Jake Alu, Jeter Downs and anyone else who may still join the fray before March.

But that’s about it as far as open roster spots go. The Nationals just don’t figure to have many of them available this spring.

It’s the kind of situation you’d expect from a team expecting to win 90-plus games. It’s not what you’d expect from a team that would be excited to lose only 90 times.

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