On Tuesday, at the trade deadline, the Washington Nationals made a franchise changing decision.
Juan Soto, once considered the cornerstone of the team’s future, is gone. Traded to San Diego along with first baseman Josh Bell, the Nationals decided to pull the plug on Soto after he rejected multiple contract offers from the team. In return for both Bell and Soto, the Nationals got the following players from the Padres:
- LHP MacKenzie Gore
- OF Robert Hassell III
- SS C.J. Abrams
- OF James Wood
- RHP Jarlin Susana
- 1B Luke Voit
While some believe that this return was underwhelming and DC could have gotten more for their buck, the fact remains there is still a lot to be excited about with these guys coming back to the Nationals. Let’s take a look at them:
Gore recently graduated from prospect status, as he had started 13 games for the Padres until he was placed on the 15-day IL with elbow inflammation last week. Unfortunately, Gore’s injury will likely keep him out for the rest of the season, so don’t expect him to make any starts for the Nationals. With how the team is doing right now, it’s not the worst thing in the world to wait on him until next season.
A southpaw with a nasty fastball and a high strikeout rate, Gore is a pitcher more than worth getting excited about. His scouting report from last year describes him as a “Fierce competitor” with “Strong work ethic and an advanced feel for the game”, showing how Gore has the mindset and tenacity to continue to improve himself. While his fastball is his golden pitch, Gore has an excellent curveball that rarely hangs, and a decent slider as well. If he can work on his “underutilized” change-up, then he’ll have a pitching arsenal that can stump hitters for years to come in DC.
Gore’s issues come mainly in his command, where his pitches can get shaky and inconsistent if he’s rattled. If he can work through this, and his injury as well, he’ll be able to get back to the form that allowed him to throw for a 1.71 ERA in his first 8 starts before injury problems started to affect him.
Robert Hassell III
A power hitter that has acquired the nickname “Bobby Barrels” because of his strength, Hassell slides immediately into the number 1 slot in the Nationals prospect rankings, according to MLB Pipeline (FanGraphs has C.J. Abrams as the new number 1, but guess what, we got him too). Hassell is a left-handed outfielder that should fit in nicely in the Nats’ lineup once he comes through the minor league ranks, with his ETA to the majors set for 2023.
The Padres considered Hassell the “…best prep hitter in his class” when they drafted him in 2020 out of Independence High School in Franklin, Tennessee. Scouts were most excited about his hitting profile and continued physical development, and while his defense has raised some concerns, Hassell still has much potential to develop a better throwing arm if he wants to play center field in the majors.
Playing for the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the High-A affiliate of the Padres in 2022, Hassell accumulated a .299/.379/.467 slash line with a .846 OPS and 10 home runs. These are pretty good stats for a guy who’s only 20 years old. He’ll slide into the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the Nationals’ High-A affiliate, where he’ll hopefully continue to rake until he’s ready to move up the rankings.
An incredibly athletic shortstop drafted by the Padres in 2019 out of the town of Roswell, Georgia, C.J. Abrams is an intriguing prospect with a bright future. His scouting report includes a running grade of 80, which is the highest possible number on the system scouts use to measure player attributes (20-80). What does that say? It means Abrams is an exceptional baserunner with phenomenal speed. This is a golden prospect in that regard. And while he has a wiry build, the same report also outlines how Abrams has much room to add strength and physicality to his frame.
Abrams made his major league debut this year, slashing .232/.285/.320 in 46 games for the Padres. While these numbers are not exceptional, they’re still pretty good for a guy who’s all of 21 years old. Abrams was sent back down to Triple-A recently, as he doesn’t have a spot on a team going all in for a championship run. He’s hitting .871 in the minors this season, showing the growth he is making as he develops.
Abrams’ biggest weaknesses are a lack of power, as his scouting report graded his hitting strength at only a 45, and a questionable arm that still has much to develop if he wants to be an elite shortstop. However, as with anybody else involved in this trade, the young Abrams still has much room to develop and continue to improve himself before he comes into the big leagues for good.
Standing at a towering 6-foot-7 and weighing 240 pounds, 19-year old James Wood is one of the rawer prospects the Nationals received in this trade. Coming out of IMG Academy, Wood was actually teammates with recent D.C. draftee Elijah Green, and the two will be reunited again.
Wood is an incredible specimen who fell to the Padres in the second round of the 2021 draft because of poor hitting in his last season at IMG, and San Diego paid him $2.6 million upon signing, more than double the slot value for the 62nd pick in the draft. Safe to say, this guy is going to be the real deal, and it’s showing, as he’s slashing .337/.453/.601 in Single-A this year, along with an insane 1.054 OPS. Wood’s development is something to keep an eye on, as he could potentially be the biggest star of this trade for the Nationals.
Wood’s biggest concern is his high strikeout rate, which sat at 32% last year when he made his rookie debut in the Arizona Complex League for the Padres. Improving his plate discipline is key to Wood unlocking his true potential as a superstar for the Nationals.
A 6’6” pitcher from the town of Villa Isabella in the Dominican Republic, Jarlin Susana is the prospect the Nationals had the least amount of concrete details on when he was included in this deal. The Padres forked over $1.7 million to Susana in the 2022 international signing window, which was the most of any pitcher during that time.
Susana has the stuff to make a superstar, headlined by a fastball that is already touching triple digits (he’s only 18 years old, guys!). He also has stellar pitches in his curveball, slider, and change-up, giving him the chance to become a 200-innings a year guy with the right development. In 7 starts made for the Padres’ rookie team in the Arizona Complex League, Susana posted a 2.45 ERA across 29.1 innings, along with 44 strikeouts and 0.886 WHIP. These are pretty solid numbers for an 18 year old that might be the rawest prospect received by the Nationals in this trade. It’s gonna be a few years before he hits the majors, so patience is key for the young right hander. I’m really excited to see what he can accomplish in D.C.
It was supposed to be Eric Hosmer sent to the Nationals to complete the trade. But he had a no-trade clause in his contract and refused. So instead, the Padres sent the Nats a marginally younger first baseman in Voit instead. No, seriously, I had to look this up. Hosmer is only 6 months older than Voit. Kind of hard to believe.
There’s not much to really get excited about with Luke Voit, who was an old rookie and is now on his fourth team in 6 seasons (St. Louis, New York, San Diego, and now Washington). While he did lead the majors in home runs in the shortened 2020 season, there isn’t really much else to look for here. He’s a 20 home run a season guy who works well as a piece in a strong lineup, but won’t function as a cornerstone or a building piece. On the bright side, he’d already be leading the Nationals in total WAR this season, but for whatever reason, the team chose to option him to Triple-A yesterday instead of putting him on the active roster. I’m kind of confused as to why they did that, but I suppose we’ll find out.
I can’t make much of a guess for the Nationals’ plan for Voit in the next year or two, but it’s nice to have him around while we wait for the rebuild to take its course.
The Nationals got some great pieces in exchange for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, and while the sting of seeing them in Padres uniforms yesterday isn’t going away anytime soon, it’s nice to know there’s a good chance the team has accelerated their rebuild somewhat. Stay patient, Nats fans. There’s something to look forward to now.