2024 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers & Busts: Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals you should and shouldn't draft in 2024.

The talent for the Washington Nationals currently resides in their minor league system. Right now, the MLB roster leaves a bit to be desired with holes in the rotation, bullpen, and lineup. Things aren’t helped by being in the same division as the Braves and Phillies, but because there is immense talent on the way, Nationals fans still have something to be excited about. Also, we have been seeing prospects get pushed to the majors much faster in recent years, so this talent has a good chance of being seen this year.

So, who will be the contributors at the major league level in 2024? A few players for the Nats had solid years in 2023, can they repeat this success? Let’s take a look.




MacKenzie Gore

2023 Stats (136.1 IP): 4.42 ERA | 1.401 WHIP | 151 K | 7 W


One of the centerpieces in the Juan Soto deal, MacKenzie Gore has so far put up decent numbers in his young major league career. He hasn’t quite been the ace the Nationals were promised, but he has shown glimmers of becoming a solid number 2 in a rotation.

2023 was an up-and-down year for Gore, in fact, in his short career, Gore has been the epitome of up-and-down. Not since a young Blake Snell have I seen a pitcher look so good one inning, and then have the tires completely fall off the next. This can still happen to Snell at times, but not like it did when he was first breaking into the majors.

Gore had such strange splits in 2023. Against righties, his xFIP was 4.21 while holding opponents to a .241 AVG. Against lefties, that same xFIP was 3.72 with opponents AVG at .319. Even stranger, his BB/9 against lefties was 5.93 while only 3.22 against righties. These numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt because, of course, he threw way more pitches to righties than lefties (1849 to Rs, 607 to Ls).

The xFIP and AVG aside, I’m looking at that walk rate against lefties. He keeps lefties at bay more than righties, but he walks them much more. Command has always been a knock on Gore, so for him to improve in 2024, keep an eye on if he can stay in the strike zone against left-handed hitters early in the season.

Even though Gore’s command isn’t ideal, he makes up for it by having fantastic pitch quality considering his age. Let’s look at PLV, Pitch Level Value, which is the estimated value of all pitches, based on the predicted outcomes of those pitches (0-10, 5 is league average).



Everything besides the change-up is sitting league average or better, which is very encouraging for a 24-year-old still figuring things out.

Right now, Gore is effectively wild to a degree. His SwStr% (whiffs/total pitches) of 13.5% is better than the league average which sits at 11.7%. He also struck out 151 over 136.1 innings pitched. An easy snapshot for me when evaluating pitchers is do they have more strikeouts than innings pitched. If they do, we like that.

Gore will be 25 on Opening Day. Developing pitchers is not an easy task but as it sits right now, Gore has shown encouraging signs of reaching his full potential. If he can hone his command a bit more, especially against lefties, we could see him take a large step forward for the Nationals. Also, his ADP is sitting at 318 right now. Take a chance on him at the end of your draft.


Keibert Ruiz

2023 stats (562 PA): .260 AVG | .308 OBP | .409 SLG | 55 R | 67 RBI | 18 HR | 1 SB


Part of the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner deal in 2021, Keibert Ruiz is still a bit of a project behind the plate, but he took an encouraging step forward with the bat in 2023.

The main reason I like Ruiz is because of his ability to make contact with the ball. Using another PLV metric, let’s focus on Contact Ability—a hitter’s ability to make contact (foul strike or BIP) above the contact expectation of each pitchto evaluate Ruiz’s 2023.



Making contact with the ball, you may have guessed, is a good thing. I understand it’s what a player does with that contact that sets them apart, but to see a player make this much consistent contact caught my attention. Is Ruiz making good decisions with this fantastic Contact Ability? Well, at times sure, but for the most part, no. Here’s a chart depicting his Decision Value—which is the modeled value (runs per 100 pitches) of a hitter’s decision to swing or take, minus the modeled value of the alternative. These are also broken into ‘Zone’ and ‘Out-of-Zone’ components (credit to @TJStats for the idea).



This is where Ruiz has to improve to take that next step as a player. Yes, his contact ability is eye-popping, but as we have all done when hitting in MLB the Show, it can sometimes be easy to make contact, but that contact will 100% be a rollover to the shortstop. And we all know that hitting in MLB the Show is exactly the same as hitting at the major league level in real life.

The Nationals are young and Ruiz is no exception; he will turn 26 during the 2024 season. The organization likes him, signing him to an 8-year extension, so he will get playing time. I like where his ADP sits (169), and because of his contact skills, it isn’t out of the question to expect around 20-25 home runs for the upcoming season.

A slight note for the Sleepers section, the Nationals may be aggressive with prospect call-ups throughout the year. Keep an eye on DJ Herz, James Wood, Brady House, and Dylan Crews because they may be up sooner rather than later. If Crews impresses in Spring Training, what’s stopping them from adding him to the opening-day roster? Also, Cade Cavalli is expected back sometime in May, he could be worth a deep league stash.




Lane Thomas

2023 stats (682 PA): .268 AVG | .315 OBP | .468 SLG | 101 R | 86 RBI | 28 HR | 20 SB


I didn’t want this to be Lane Thomas. I want to believe in Lane Thomas after his breakout in 2023, but I’m just not sure I can stomach the price (ADP 108) and what we saw from him in the second half.

Thomas was part of the Jon Lester deal back in 2021. After a lackluster 2022, Thomas was a revelation in 2023 with 28 home runs, 20 steals, and over 100 runs.

Thomas’s season was a tale of two halves. He hit 14 home runs in both the first and second half of the last year and stole more bases in the second half. My major concern comes from his slash in the second half. First half he sported a .302/.347/.497. Which is great. His second-half slash was .223/.274/.431, which is difficult to stomach.

It’s not that I think Thomas is bad, I just think he may be a bit of an enigma. I get Isaac Paredes vibes from him and the spray chart backs that up.

Thomas can really pull the ball.


His Pull% of 49.7% is almost 10 points higher than the league average of 41.4%. Players like Thomas, Paredes, and even Nolan Arenado have shown that extreme pull-hitting can be effective, especially in producing home runs. The crucial difference between Thomas and Paredes/Arenado is the strikeout rate. Thomas struck out at a rate of 25.8% while Parades and Arenado were lower than 18%. This is what is scaring me off of Thomas. If he can improve the strikeout rate, then maybe this pull-heavy profile can be sustainable. But for now, with where his ADP sits, I’d take my chances elsewhere.


CJ Abrams


2023 stats (614 PA): .245 AVG | .300 OBP | .412 SLG | 83 R | 64 RBI | 18 HR | 47 SB


Do you need steals at the CJ Abrams point in your draft? Then ignore this. Abrams will collect around 30-40 steals I’m fairly certain (could be way more), so if around the 4th round you wanna knock out the steals category, do it with Abrams, by all means.

The issue for me is that his ADP is in the top 40 (38 to be exact). In a categories league, it can be a good thing to get a stolen base wizard if available but with how bountiful steals were in 2023, the price is too high for me.

Something else that is scaring me off is his xAVG of .227 last year. And, his OBP of .300 is also not encouraging considering his main tool is bags.

His xSLG also takes a hit from what he produced.

I worry Abrams is no more than a stolen base specialist. The 18 home runs are very encouraging but because of the ADP cost as it sits, I’d think long and hard before drafting him.

I will say, that I do hope I’m wrong about CJ Abrams. His upside is tantalizing and the Padres rushed him to the majors in 2022. He seemed to get a bit more comfortable in the second half and I hope that continues. Maybe with more experience seeing major league pitching, we could see a completely different player. And, like many of the Nationals players, he has nothing but time due to his age (23).

Seth Klusmire

Seth Klusmire is a Fantasy Baseball writer here at Pitcher List. His past writing credits were with BSN Denver (now DNVR). He is a certified Sommelier and would happily suggest which wine pairs with what team.

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