CJ Abrams came up to the majors for the first time as a National early this week, debuting in Washington, D.C., and after two games for the 21-year-old shortstop, acquired by the club as part of the package they received from San Diego’s Padres in return for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, GM Mike Rizzo offered his assessment of what the Nats had in the 2019 Friars’ 1st Round pick.
“He’s got a lot of ability,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past Wednesday morning.
“He’s a toolsy player that’s learning his craft at the big league level at 21 years old. He’s got good range and he’s got a really good throwing arm, and he can really run, and he’s shown in his minor league days that he puts the bat on the ball.
“He’s got a little pop, and he’s a good all-around player, he’s going to be a good player for us.”
Rizzo also talked to the Junkies about James Wood, 19, one of the other prospects the Nats got from the Padres (along with highly-regarded outfielder Robert Hasell III, pitchers Jarlin Susana and MacKenzie Gore, who’d made his MLB debut earlier this year, and a big league bat, in Luke Voit).
Wood, a 2021 2nd Round pick by San Diego, played in the Rookie level Arizona Complex League and at Single-A Lake Elsinore in the Padres’ system this season, then reported to Class-A Fredericksburg after the trade to Washington, struggling early (going 2 for 16 over five games played before Friday), with a combined .318/.423/.548 line 23 doubles, and 11 home runs in 65 games and 300 PAs overall in his second pro campaign.
At 6’7’’, 240 lbs as an 18-year-old, Wood is big and likely to get bigger. Rizzo was asked if his size and room for growth were a concern or consideration when they traded for Wood.
“We’ve seen recently that there are some tall, long-limbed players that are having success in the big leagues,” he said.
“The Pirates have a shortstop that is 6’7’’ [Oneil Cruz], and ... [there’s] Aaron Judge. The list isn’t very, very long — I think his skill set, James’s skill set, is such that he puts the barrel of the bat on the ball very frequently, he’s got a good approach at the plate, he’s got a good knowledge of the strike zone, which is important, especially when your strike zone is that large, and he’s got some crazy other tools to go along with it. The guy can really, really run, he’s got big power, and he’s just an exciting player.
“We’re thrilled that he’s having such a great season, and he’s got that Fredericksburg team fighting for a playoff spot and trying to win a championship down there.”
Big league skipper Davey Martinez talked recently about watching the minors closely these days, checking in frequently to see how the next generation of Nationals is progressing.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m constantly looking, especially like after the games, I’ll go back and I’ll see what everybody’s done, and how they’re doing,” Martinez said. “And we got some good stuff going on. I’m pretty excited about what’s happening. I know the guy we got in this trade, [Robert Hassell III], he finally started doing what we thought he could do, and he’s hitting the ball well, he’s playing good defense, so that’s exciting. So, all these guys that we got are doing well. I’m even looking at some of the draftee guys that we’ve had. We drafted that third baseman [Trey Lipscomb], it seems like he’s doing pretty well, so you know it’s great to see all these kids that we’re getting, these young kids that potentially might help us here, and some of the other kids that you don’t hear about. This [Jake] Alu kid that’s swinging the bat awfully well in Rochester, he’s done well. I know they’re trying to work with him at third base, but he potentially could help us here in the future as well.
“We got some good things going on. Obviously, we all know about [Cade] Cavalli, and we all know about some of our young pitchers that will be here. But I’m excited about what the future [holds] for us here, especially with these young guys, and the guys we got here. These guys are major league players right now here, but they’re young. Like I look out there, and 21, 23, 24 [years old], and that excites me that they got a chance to play here and play here for many years.”
With two trade deadline hauls, two draft classes, international signing classes added to the organization, and the developing players in the minors and majors with the Nationals, Rizzo added, the reboot, which is now a year-plus in, is starting to take shape, and their next-gen Nats are working their way through the system.
“It’s a good group of guys,” Rizzo said, “... and it’s a lot of talent down there that you could see ascending to the big leagues in the near-future, just like we did when we took over here in ‘09 and ‘10, and by 2012 we were there, so that’s kind of what we’re looking at.”