In CJ Abrams, the Nationals have their shortstop of the longer term

Take your choose of performs from over the past week — CJ Abrams within the gap at quick with a fast bounce up and a protracted gun throughout the diamond, CJ Abrams behind the bag at second someway contorting himself to transform a double play or CJ Abrams on the infield grass smothering what might have been a two-run single. They had been all gems, and so they all helped the all of a sudden watchable Washington Nationals wriggle out of particular spots in tight video games.

However because the Nationals play out their penultimate homestand of 2022, the cumulative result’s this: The franchise has one thing it didn’t two months in the past, and that’s their shortstop for the subsequent half-dozen years — or longer if they may prolong him. (I do know, I do know. Sensitive topic round right here.)

It sounds hyperbolic. However the glimpses Abrams has proven in his 25 video games with the Nationals reveal sufficient: He has an opportunity to be a really, excellent participant for a really, very very long time.

At 21, Abrams could make each play that needs to be made and a few that only a few do. Finally, he’ll hit. As vital within the last weeks of 2022: He’s a motive to return to the ballpark or flip on the TV. He’s a motive to hold some heat emotions into the winter. And his presence may clear up two positions for the Nationals for years to return as a result of Luis García is so a lot better suited to second base.

CJ Abrams was a ‘fearless’ highschool Spanish pupil. It’s serving to him now.

“I love everything he’s doing right now,” Supervisor Dave Martinez stated Tuesday earlier than Abrams went 1 for 4 with a double and sparkled once more defensively in a 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

“I take pride in my defense, getting outs,” Abrams stated. “Anything to help a pitcher, help him get W’s.”

Already, the pitchers admire it.

“It makes pitching a little bit easier,” reliever Hunter Harvey stated. “When you’ve got a guy behind you that can make plays, as a pitcher, the mentality just changes. Why try to strike everybody out?”

Look, the commerce deadline was so onerous for therefore many within the clubhouse, the entrance workplace and the stands. Watching Juan Soto within the postseason for the San Diego Padres — and perhaps for three postseasons — wouldn’t ease the sting. It’s vital, then, that a few of the haul that got here again — six gamers — reveals that swallowing onerous and making the deal might need been value it.

Abrams is doing that proper now, making a play an evening that a minimum of raises eyebrows and would possibly drop jaws.

“I’m watching him making plays that I haven’t seen made in quite a while,” Martinez stated.

It’s harmful to get caught up in highlights, certain. However Abrams’s highlights counsel there’s not a play he can’t make. On Tuesday, he backhanded one within the gap to make a drive at second and ran down a pop fly in foul territory that may have eluded common shortstops. It’s changing into the norm.

Take the weekend in Philadelphia as extra proof. On Friday evening, Alec Bohm hit a pointy grounder to Abrams’s proper that had veteran MASN play-by-play man Bob Carpenter saying, “That’s a base hit — I believe.”

It wasn’t. Vary to the outlet and the arm to transform these balls into outs? Test and test.

In the primary inning an evening later, with the bases loaded and one out, Abrams went behind the bag at second to snare Jean Segura’s grounder, someway twisted himself to increase his left leg to get the drive at second and nonetheless was in place to make the throw that accomplished a wait-show-that-again double play.

“Not a lot of players make that play,” stated Gary DiSarcina, who coaches the Nationals’ infielders and performed 1,069 main league video games at shortstop. “That’s him playing the game and just freewheeling it, and it’s awesome.”

Consciousness and athleticism? Test and test.

DiSarcina stated Abrams reminds him of an elite shortstop he performed towards, five-time all-star Tony Fernández, and one he helped coach with the Los Angeles Angels, Andrelton Simmons. These gamers gained 4 Gold Gloves apiece.

“When he first got over here, you look at him, and he seems kind of bored,” DiSarcina stated. “He’d just kind of mill around before pitches. Tony was like that. Andrelton was like that. But then he gets in his spot, and he’s ready. He pays attention. He knows when breaking balls and change-ups are coming, and he gets in position.”

Offensively, no matter you’re seeing proper now — together with Tuesday evening’s double to the opposite-field hole — preserve the next in thoughts: Abrams isn’t near a completed product. The Padres’ first-round choose — sixth general — in 2019, he acquired zero skilled plate appearances in 2020, when the pandemic worn out the minor league schedule. His 2021 was minimize quick when he suffered a damaged tibia and a sprained medial collateral ligament in a collision at second base.

All informed, he had 534 plate appearances within the minors — perhaps half of what’s essential to make an evaluation and construct a base. When he began his tenure with the Nationals by hitting .136 with no extra-base hits in his first dozen video games, it wasn’t simply the shock of being with a brand new group in a brand new metropolis. It was the truth that he wants extra reps and extra maturation — mentally and bodily.

In the end, Nationals have a double play combo that may develop collectively

“Once he gets stronger, I think you’re going to see those doubles and those homers come,” Martinez stated. “Right now, it’s just about staying in the middle of the field, hitting line drives, getting on base. When he gets on base, he’s electric.”

It’s coming. In his subsequent dozen video games main into Tuesday, he hit .349 with two doubles, a triple and an on-base-plus-slugging share of .820.

Keep in mind when Ian Desmond got here up on the finish of the 2009 season — which featured 103 losses — and performed the ultimate 21 video games, hitting .280 with 4 homers, seven doubles and two triples? Come on. A few of you do. Headed into that offseason, the Nats had a bazillion holes to fill. Shortstop wasn’t one among them.

There are holes now and work to be achieved to fill them. Think about shortstop stuffed — perhaps in pencil however stuffed. Yet one more play to display why: With one out, runners on second and third and the sport tied Sunday, the Nats had the infield in. Harvey jammed Bryson Stott, who squibbed a grounder to the left facet.

“It’s a routine groundball if nobody’s on,” Harvey stated. “But in that situation, with the infield in, it was almost placed perfectly to be a hit and possibly two runs.”

Besides right here got here Abrams, three steps to his proper in a blink, a dive to corral the ball, immediately on his ft to stare Bryce Harper again to 3rd — and a throw across the diamond for an easy out.

“Him laying out and making that play,” Harvey stated, “it’s game-changing.”

Abrams being right here, exhibiting each uncooked capacity and polished preparation — that simply is perhaps franchise-changing.

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