Looking back at the first-half of the 2022 campaign, after the Nationals snapped a nine-game losing streak with a win over Atlanta in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park this past Sunday, fifth-manager Davey Martinez acknowledged that it has not been easy.
“When I look back, it’s a lot of growing pains, really,” Martinez explained. “But I’ve seen, as we talked earlier today, with the coaches, I’ve seen some good things, I see some things that we need to address and continue to work on, but we’re not giving up and we’re going to continue to play hard, and I really believe that the guys that we have, especially the young guys, I think they’re going to be really good players, I really do, and like I said, with the effort that we’re giving right now, we clean some things up, we’re going to see some production and we’re going to see some good baseball out of them.”
Going into the All-Star Break off a win, rather than with a 10-game losing streak, meant a lot to the club according to their manager.
“They play hard,” Martinez said, “and hopefully they take something out of this game today going forward, and after the break we come back and continue the momentum. I mean, that’s the biggest thing, so there’s still a lot of things that we need to clean up to really get better and compete every day and play consistent, so we’re going to work on those things a lot this next half, as we’ve been doing, but like I said, I’m happy to go into the break with a big win and a big win for those guys.
“It’s awesome to see those guys smiling and playing music and jumping up and down, so let’s make it a habit.”
His club has, of course, dropped 14 of 16 so far in the month of July, and they went into the break 32 games under .500 on the season, and almost a year into the reboot the club kicked off last July 30th at the trade deadline, it’s been rough going at the big league level.
“It’s been tough, like I said,” Martinez told reporters this past weekend. “We talk about this almost every single day: We’ve got to get some of these guys going. They’ve got to contribute offensively. It’s just been a tough go. Even though I thought Lane [Thomas] the last couple at-bats the ball came off his bat better, Robles actually the ball came off his bat better, now it’s just a matter of consistency. We talk about these guys just having good, consistent at-bats, getting ready to hit, every pitch, so we got to keep working with them.”
While he was talking a lot about the club struggling at the plate in recent weeks, Martinez acknowledged the disappointing results for the pitching staff in the first-half as well.
“It’s been tough,” Martinez said. “Some of the guys we thought were going to come back and help us throughout the middle of the season, it didn’t happen. Some of our younger guys are getting an opportunity to pitch. Josiah [Gray], who’s done well. We had Jackson [Tetreault] up here, he did well till he got hurt. So we’re working through some things, but we still got some really young pitchers that are doing well in the minor leagues that should be knocking on the door here fairly soon, we just got to develop them a little bit more, but I’m excited about that.”
Talking with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies during his July 13th visit to the show, GM Mike Rizzo said he thought the fan base in Washington understood this is a process, and the club is determined to build another team which can compete for division crowns and World Series titles again in the near future.
“All the things that I see from fans that I interact with at the ballpark or in my neighborhood, or what people tell me that’s being said online, is I think people get it,” Rizzo said. “I think that they understand this is a reboot year. We don’t call it a rebuild, because a rebuild is a 5-6 year process. I think this is a shorter reboot, and I think that we’ve shown in the past that we know how to do these things, and I think you see the short successes that we’ve had here, even in 2022 right now, where you’ve got a handful of good, young players at the big league level, you’ve got a minor league system that is playing extremely well and [playing] competitive games.
“We’ve gone from last year I think we were at a .390 winning percentage, to this year we’re playing at a .520 winning percentage pace, and you’ve got good, young players that are impact-type players at the higher parts of your minor leagues, and a system that’s really, really stacked at the A-ball and High-A level, which is important to our timeline, because when you look at the team in Fredericksburg and Wilmington, they’re playing great baseball and it’s fun to see those young kids that are 20-21 years old and really taking that next step with the names of Brady House, and [Jackson] Rutledge, and [Jeremy] De La Rosa, and those are the next guys you’re going to hear about in the very near future [and] that are going to be guys you’re going to be talking about them in the same way you talk about the Rendons and the Harpers, and the Zimmermans.”
The next wave of talent in the organization, Rizzo said in a late-May visit with the Junkies, is on its way, and not far from making an impact in the majors. This was, of course, before all the Juan Soto trade talk came up.
Any deal for the 23-year-old, would likely hasten the reboot process since the expected return would be significant, but as the GM in D.C. said then, in late May, the next wave in their system is coming, with talent knocking at the big league door.
“I think you’ll see a handful of guys this year,” Rizzo explain. “Like I said, by the end of this year you could see three or four, 23-or-younger pitchers in the big leagues, you could see several position players that are knocking on the door to become good players in the big leagues, so yeah, you will see some of these exciting kids in the near future, and when we do, you’re going to see these guys develop into stars right before your very eyes like you did with [Anthony] Rendon and Trea Turner and those guys.
“People forget Trea Turner was a guy we traded for when nobody knew his name and nobody knew how impactful he was going to be, so with another international signing period, another draft, where we pick high in the draft at No. 5, which we haven’t picked that high since we picked Anthony Rendon at [No. 6], we’re excited about that.”
After countless days of scouting, research and preparation…— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 18, 2022
Elijah Green was our guy.#MLBDraft // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/vfXscRccqp
The Nationals chose outfielder Elijah Green with the top pick, an 18-year-old outfielder Kris Kline, the Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops in D.C. described as a “well above-average runner, above-average arm,” who has, “... some of the best raw power in the draft.:
“You put in the No. 1 international class with [Cristhian] Vaquero leading that,” Rizzo said in May.
“We’re excited about that, and another trade deadline and another offseason, we think we’re going to be a very exciting team and tough team to play in the very near future.”