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Have the Nationals found their future shortstop in the 22-year-old CJ Abrams?
The shortstop gap that was open due to the departure of Trea Turner might have been filled for the short term and, hopefully, the long term.
When Trea Turner was traded to the Los Angles Dodgers in 2021, there was a huge gap left at the shortstop position. At the 2022 MLB Trade Deadline, 22-year-old CJ Abrams was sent to the Washington Nationals in a historic trade of generational talent, Juan Soto. The shortstop gap might have been filled for the short term and hopefully the long term.
When Abrams was traded to the Nationals back in August, Mike Rizzo described the 22-year-old shortstop as "is a tooled up, twitchy type of guy that can play shortstop very acrobatic and light on his feet and he’s got twitch hands and a quick bat, we see him as a five-tool talent where he can steal you a base, good arm and good at the top of any order.”
With a combination of speed, flashy glove abilities, and an impressive presence at the plate, CJ Abrams might be exactly what the team needs in the shortstop position. Even though Abrams has been with the team for only a couple of months (two, actually), fans have gotten a glimpse into the future at the shortstop position, and it's looking good both at the plate and on defense.
Since Abrams made his debut in Washington, the defense for the last-place team has improved drastically. Since Aug. 15, 2022, when Abrams made his debut with the Nationals, the team improved their defensive ranking from 29th to sixth in the Major Leagues in opponents' batting average on ground balls. That is a great improvement and something to build on for next season.
An Alpharetta, Georgia native, Abrams was born on October 3rd, 2000. A four-year high school starter at Blessed Trinity High School, CJ amassed 193 hits over his impressive career, along with 100 runs batted in, according to MaxPreps.com.
CJ Abrams was drafted out of high school with the 6th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres. Perfectgame USA, which is the world's largest baseball scouting service, described Abrams as a high-school hitter: "A Left-handed hitter, efficient load and trigger with a smooth and fluid swing, very good barrel control with loose hands, line drive contact middle of the field to pull side, gap power, going to lead some leagues in triples. Smooth footwork in the middle infield, very quick transfers, lots of athleticism, throws from a lower arm slot, has the tools for shortstop, but actions might fit very well at second base.”
Abrams had some trouble during the first month at the plate when he first got called up to the Nationals, only getting eight hits in 50 at-bats, including just one extra-base hit. Over his first 16 games with the Nationals, Abrams hit .148 with an OPS of .360 and 14 strikeouts.
However, in September, it seems that something switched for the young rookie. During the season's last month in September, Abrams's batting average was .304, with five doubles and two triples. In his last seven games of the month, he totaled 12 hits, including a dramatic game-winning hit over the Atlanta Braves. Abram finished the season ranking fifth in the National League and 1st among NL rookies with a .314 batting average. He has also made several highlights plays defensively. However, he struggled a bit in the last week of the season, where he committed five errors over seven games, including three errors in a row against the Phillies in the last home series of the season.
Moving forward with the Nationals
There was a lot of on-the-job training for Abrams at the major league level, which isn't ideal for any young player; however, because the Nationals were in August, training on the job was the only option for Abrams.
We have already seen his defense at the major league level; however, if he can down on his mistakes and become more constant in making routine throws, the sky is the limit for him at defense.
On the offensive side of things, if Abrams can increase the frequency of going to the opposite field a bit more, improves his chase rate outside the strike zone, and can pull the ball into the air a bit more, he will be able to pull things together and be the offensive force that the Nationals hope or even know that he can be.
Hopefully, during the off-season, Abrams will take the time to improve his plate presence and his defense and become the Washington Nationals shortstop of the future.
At the end of the season, manager Dave Martinez was asked by reporters to asses Abram's time with the Nationals and said: "He’s got those good baseball instincts... He’s showed a lot of maturity. He’s learned a lot, and showed how mature he is to absorb information and use it. He’s just scratching the surface right now. We really believe this kid has a bright future with this organization and with us, and hopefully he continues to grow.”
There is every reason to believe that Abrams will become what the Nationals want and need out of him and its going to be excited to watch his development.