Mixed results are expected from a 21-year-old player. For the last-place Nationals, in that 5-4 win over the Chicago Cubs, Abrams’ presence meant the most. That he recorded the final wasn’t too bad either.
Abrams’ promotion to the majors was accelerated when 22-year-old Luis García suffered a left groin injury over the weekend. Prior to the series opener, García went on the 10-day injured list. Abrams has been activated as the shortstop of the present and, ideally, the long-term future. The debut of one of five key players scored for Soto and Bell was ultimately eclipsed by the 10 strikeouts of Josiah Gray and Nelson Cruz, who capped a comeback and a three-run game RBI with his first homer since the June 25.
“It’s super exciting,” Gray said of Abrams playing behind him. coming years.”
Prior to Monday, Abrams had played just 160 professional games since being drafted sixth overall in 2019. And before that, he was a star shortstop for Blessed Trinity Catholic High in Roswell, Georgia, a kid who chose baseball but could have thrived in football. or basketball too.
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Knowing his age, Dave Martinez wants to bring Abrams slowly. The manager plans to beat him further up the order — maybe even first — but settled for seventh against the Cubs and starter Marcus Stroman. When Abrams arrived at Nationals Park, he was joined by José Alguacil, the club’s minor league interior coordinator who became familiar with Abrams on Class AAA Rochester. Washington is now accustomed to arrivals at the end of the summer of prospects acquired in successful transactions.
First it was Gray who made his debut for the Nationals at 23 last August. A few weeks later, Keibert Ruiz, receiver for Gray on Monday, was promoted at 23 and took his position. And then here comes Abrams, another potential cornerstone in the middle, soft-spoken and fresh-faced and swimming a bit in his No. 5 jersey.
“That’s what we talked about going forward, some of our youngsters, and now we’re seeing some of that here,” Martinez said. “And that really excites me a lot… watching these guys all play together and grow together. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be work, a lot of work. But it’s going to be fun.
Washington (39-78) didn’t do business with Abrams, Gray or Ruiz — or MacKenzie Gore, Robert Hassell III or James Wood — to win in the closing months of a totally lost season. The goal is to have them compete as a core, on a beefed-up roster with free agent signings, in the coming months of September and October. Dreams are both fuzzy and big.
Preparing them as a group will therefore be a critical process. One difference with Abrams, however, is that he joined the Nationals with 35 major league starts. Earlier this season, the Padres sped him up to replace the injured Fernando Tatis Jr., throwing Abrams right into the fire. The pressure was high. He posted a .232 batting average, .285 on-base percentage and .320 hitting percentage, a dazzling promise while leaving more to be desired.
But more, anything, wouldn’t come with the Padres. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo originally asked Abrams in talks for Max Scherzer at the 2021 trade deadline. The Padres declined, Scherzer went to the Dodgers and Abrams was still there for the six-man package that materialized for Soto and Bell on August 2.
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Unpacking the trade that afternoon, Rizzo outlined his midfield build plan: Gore on the mound, Abrams at shortstop, Hassell at center with Wood on either side of him. Martinez has already told García that when he returns from IL he will move up to second and be Abrams’ double play partner. Ruiz could be a cornerstone behind the plate. The hope is that Gray will be a fixture in the rotation, even though Ian Happ’s two homers took his season total to 31 allowed, the most in the majors.
If that vision turns into reality — if it’s in 2024, in 2025, if it happens at all — defending Abrams in a top job will be crucial. In the first inning Monday, Cubs leadoff hitter Nick Madrigal threw a pitch to the left of Abrams, forcing him to pitch hard for the out. But in the fourth, Abrams’ defense turned into an adventure. He lined up a runaway chopper and sent an air throw to first, putting Franmil Reyes in second with a two base error. To retire the next batter, Nico Hoerner, Abrams’ off-target pitch required a long period from first baseman Luke Voit. Abrams then helped Hunter Harvey out of a seventh-inning jam by going into a shallow cross and throwing a cross throw to Voit, showing his potential and likely preventing the tying run from scoring.
Since trading Trea Turner a year ago, the Nationals have had a huge shortstop void, one García has never been ready to fill. And while it will take much longer than nine innings to see if Abrams is the answer, nine innings was a necessary start.
“I mean, everybody cares about me,” Abrams said Monday afternoon when asked about his thoughts on his new organization. So add underestimates to the scouting report.