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The Nationals are calling up 21-year old shortstop C.J. Abrams to the majors to replace the injured Luis García, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Abrams is the Nationals’ top prospect, according to Baseball America.
The decision comes after García was removed from Friday’s game with a groin strain after running out a ground ball.
Abrams was one of six players the Nationals received in return for Juan Soto and Josh Bell at this year’s trade deadline, and he’s a player Washington views as their shortstop of the future. Pitcher MacKenzie Gore and first baseman Luke Voit, also acquired in the deal, have been on the major league roster since Monday, though Gore hasn’t pitched yet as he deals with left elbow inflammation.
García said after Sunday’s game that he felt better than he did Friday but still felt pain when he tries to run. García also missed Wednesday’s game with right knee soreness. Martinez said Sunday evening the team would consider making a move if García’s groin didn’t improve; that move appears to be Abrams.
“We see [Abrams] as a five-tool type of talent,” Nationals General Manager Rizzo said Aug. 2. “He could steal you a base, he stays at shortstop, he’s got a good arm and a guy that can hit at the top of the order.”
Abrams hit .232 in 46 games with the Padres this season and also spent time with San Diego’s Class AAA affiliate. He made 28 starts at shortstop in place of Fernando Tatis Jr., six at second base and one in right field during his time in the majors.
Abrams was optioned to Class AAA Rochester following the trade because Manager Dave Martinez wanted him to get acclimated to the organization. The Nationals made a similar move last season with catcher Keibert Ruiz after he was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Max Scherzer and Trea Turner deal.
Martinez wouldn’t put a timeline on when Abrams would make his Nationals debut in the days following the trade. Abrams hit 9 for 31 (.290) with two doubles and two RBI in eight games with Rochester.
When García was called up June 1, Martinez made it clear the plan was for him to be the Nationals’ shortstop for the rest of the season. The 22-year-old started 58 games this season, all at shortstop, and has performed well at the plate with a .289 batting average.
But his defensive struggles have been well-documented: He has committed 13 errors this season and is tied for last in the league with minus-15 defensive runs saved, a defensive metric from FanGraphs. Abrams will fill his spot at shortstop and likely will continue to play there even when García does returns from his injury; García likely will shift over to second base, and the two could form the Nationals’ middle infield of the future.
“A good team is strong up the middle,” Rizzo said Aug. 2 “And, soon, you’re going to see a 23-year old Ruiz and a 21-year old Abrams and a Luis García and a [Josiah] Gray and a [MacKenzie] Gore and a Cade Cavalli. That’s going to be your core and that’s going to that’s the beginning of the core with a bunch of people coming.”
The Nationals will now have three pieces of their return haul from the Soto deal in the majors less than two weeks after the trade.
It will give Washington a glimpse at what its future could look like while it finishes what has been an awful season. The Nationals, with Sunday’s 6-0 loss, are 3-10 in August, and at 38-78, they have the worst record in the majors.