The Nationals brought in a variety of young, old, outside and in-house players to make it through the 2020 season. Some were full-on prospects. Others were veteran grabs midway through the season. Others still were new players to the organization who would receive a shot. So, who will be where next year?
Kyle Finnegan, RHP: He starts this list because he’s the most likely to be back in a prominent role next season.
Davey Martinez relied on Finnegan this season in progressively higher-leverage situations. The 29-year-old made his debut after seven seasons in the minor leagues and two in winter ball. He throws hard -- his fastball averaged 95 mph this year -- and has enough of a slider to get by.
Command remains a concern. Finnegan’s walk-to-strikeout ratio is just 1.92. But, he will be back in the bullpen next season. Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Tanner Rainey and Wander Suero appear locks for spots. Add Finnegan to that mix.
Yadiel Hernández, DH/OF: The 32-year-old rookie is one of the highlight stories of the season. Just making it to the major leagues after three minor-league seasons which followed nine seasons playing in foreign leagues was a feat. On top of that, Hernández had to defect from his native Cuba just to try to earn a chance to make it to the major leagues. He, in essence, is a designated hitter, but one unlikely to be on the team as a left-handed power bat next season. The Nationals will hunt for a more known commodity to fill that slot.
Seth Romero, LHP: The left-handed prospect made it from the alternate training site in Fredericksburg to the major leagues in 2020 after not ascending above the Single-A level since being drafted in 2017. Romero needed to straighten himself out off the field, as well as recover from Tommy John surgery in August of 2018, before he could get going on it. He threw just 2 ⅔ innings out of the bullpen this year before breaking his non-pitching hand in a fall. The Nationals will pivot him back to being a starter only next season. He’ll probably land in Double-A Harrisburg to start the year.
Brock Holt, Utility: Holt brought versatility, juice and streaky play after the Nationals signed him. He was hitting .273 for the Nationals entering play Thursday. His OPS was a mere .674. He won’t be back.
Luis García, INF: One of the few positives about 2020 for the Nationals is they learned García is undaunted by playing in the big leagues. At least this version of it. They also know the 20-year-old García has a lot of work to do in the offseason. That’s less a jab and more expected. He’s a free-swinger with superior contact skills. The league tends to adjust quickly to hitters with such an approach. He also needs to refine his footwork and positioning at second base.
But, in all, the Nationals received a hearty look at García in a pseudo-major league environment. His next stop is probably Triple-A to begin the 2021 season. Why? Starlin Castro should be back as the everyday second baseman (he remains under contract for a second season for just $6 million). And, the next person on this list appears a fit for the utility position. Plus, the organization likely wants García to play as much as possible. He wouldn’t be if his role was back-up infielder in the majors.
Josh Harrison, Utility: He caught Martinez’s attention with his personality and leadership. Harrison has also played well enough to anticipate seeing him next spring in West Palm Beach. The Nationals will need a utility player. They also need some extra bump in the clubhouse. Rosters should remain expanded at 26. A path onto the Nationals’ Opening Day group should exist for Harrison.
Ben Braymer, LHP: The left-hander performed well in his one start, and not so well in his bullpen appearances. He’s 26 (Braymer turns 27 in April of 2021), so he’s not among the young prospects in the organization. He is probably destined for a major-league invite, then an early cut and season start with the organization’s Triple-A affiliate.
Wil Crowe, RHP: Another of the Nationals prospects who vaulted from the minor leagues to a major-league mound in 2020. He’s not ready to stick yet, so next year should work for him the same way it will probably work for Braymer.