In early August, some Nationals fans may have thought they saw any realistic hopes for the next few seasons ahead fade away when Juan Soto was dealt to the Padres.
But those who have remained loyal to the team have found a new and exciting reason to keep watching the Nats.
CJ Abrams, who was the centerpiece of the six-player haul the Nats received in return, has already flashed a lot of promise.
He is also soaking up the experience and looking forward to being a very important part of the team’s future.
Some players may have been disappointed to be moved from a team in the thick of an MLB playoff race to an organization in clear rebuilding mode.
But as he came off the field during a recent batting practice session with his new team, Abrams smiled and said he was grateful for the opportunity to wear the red, navy blue, and white.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “It’s a blessing to come out here and play this game every day. I’m just going to go out here and have fun.”
Abrams has certainly been having a lot of fun already, making dazzling plays in the field while also scoring 11 runs in his first 32 games with the Nationals.
At just 20 years old, set to turn 21 in early October, he is not allowing himself to become overwhelmed by the game at the MLB level.
Abrams is just letting his youthful enthusiasm take over while also looking to the future. He was acquired as a significant part of the Soto trade and knows he can eventually be a big part of something special down the line.
“We’re going to be really good. We’ve got a good core here. We are just going to keep taking it day by day and get better,” he said.
Followers of the team may see a roster that is devoid of promising talents, but Abrams sees teammates such as Keibert Ruiz and Luis García around him and is confident that there are good times ahead at some point.
“We’re going to be a good middle infield for sure,” Abrams said of him and García working together.
When young players come up to the majors, they often have veterans take them under their “wings” and show them the paths to success on and off the field.
Abrams was fortunate to play with some standout veterans in San Diego who imparted much MLB wisdom to him.
One of them also came to Washington with him and continues to be a guide to potential success.
“I’ve talked to Manny (Machado), (Eric) Hosmer, guys like that, and now (Luke) Voit’s over here with me. I’ve just been picking their brains, getting everything I can to upgrade my game,” he said.
Abrams is already showing off his considerable abilities to those loyal fans who have continued to watch the Nationals. One major element of his game that will thrill them for many years to come is his speed.
He stole 42 bases in 114 minor league games, but Abrams said his game just isn’t about the wheels.
A successful base stealer also sweats the fundamentals.
”You have to know when to run and have certain little things and (pitcher) tendencies that you pick up. It’s not just purely about speed, but speed definitely helps,” he said.
Many future Major Leaguers may model themselves after other players with similar skill sets. For a guy like Abrams, players such as José Reyes and Dee Gordon would seem to be potential favorites from his times as a youngster growing up in Georgia.
But he preferred to watch another superstar who was more about pure power and a spectacular all-around game.
“I liked watching (Ken) Griffey (Jr.) hit home runs,” Abrams said.
As a potential star on the rise, Abrams knows that all eyes will be on him. Heck, he even hopes to put on a show for fans of all teams.
If people draft him in fantasy baseball next season, he will take that as a compliment, too.
“It’s just a dream come true coming out here to play baseball, and I just hope I can give them some points, “ he said.
While many Nationals followers see the current version of the team as a terrible doormat, Abrams has a totally different view of being involved with the team.
He’s glad to be in Washington and is going to take every opportunity to enjoy the ride.
“I just want to do my thing, go out there, have fun, and win games,” he said.
Featured Image: The San Diego Union-Tribune