I have more positive updates on some of the offensive stars that are making noise in the accelerated camp. There are a bunch of guys who are making good progress and demanding the attention of the coaching staff.
Nationals hitting instructor Rick Schu gave me details on a few of the players: Rick Hague, Tyler Moore, Stephen Lombardozzi, Randolph Oduber and Derek Norris. (Don’t worry - this is not all-inclusive, more updates to come on prospects!)
“Shortstop Rick Hague out of Rice is progressing well,” Schu said. “He hit .300 with Class A Hagerstown. He has a pretty good swing path. He is getting leverage from his lower half and that is resulting in a bunch of home runs. Hague is a winner. He is a team leader, not vocal, but goes about his business like a pro.”
First baseman Tyler Moore has picked up where he left off following a spectacular season at Potomac where he was named Carolina Player of the Year.
“Tyler continues to show strength in his wrists and hands like (Braves second baseman) Dan Uggla,” Schu said. “I think he is stronger than Uggla in that regard at this point in his career. He has power to all fields. The ball makes a different sound coming off his bat. It is exciting to see him continue to hit well.”
Second baseman Stephen Lombardozzi and catcher Derek Norris earned great experience in Arizona and they continue to shine in spring training.
“Stephen keeps on rolling,” Schu said. “I have watched him with the Nationals for two years and I have never seen him give up on an at bat. He keeps coming at you. I told his Dad (former major leaguer Steve Lombardozzi) that in my 30 years in baseball, Stephen is the most professional player I have ever been around.”
Schu believes an adjustment in Norris’ swing has helped him get more hits and it has proved to be a difference maker this spring. Norris had the game winning, walk-off hit against the New York Yankees two weeks ago.
“Derek Norris is swinging the bat well,” Schu said. “He took to the fall league and shortened up his swing. He is keeping his front shoulder down and that allows him a more compact, powerful swing. He worked on this at instructs not to fly off his shoulder any more.”
I have heard a lot of good things about Aruban-born outfielder Randolph Oduber and Schu agrees the youngster is showing a lot of good signs he has power at the plate, as well.
“Randolph is hitting home runs,” Schu said. “He is doing really well. I saw him hit an inside the park grand slam. He hit a line drive that the right fielder dove for and missed and Oduber just kept on going around the bases. I had never seen an inside the park grand slam before. He is stealing bases. He is looking good.”
Schu says he sees a lot of the same things happening with the Nationals that happened while he was with Arizona. The minor league system is getting to the point where they aren’t just stock piling players to fill up rosters but rather finding talented baseball players.
“It is an exciting time for the Nationals to watch these young kids make their way to D.C.,” Schu said. “I spent 12 years with the Diamondbacks and that is how you build it. First you get the minor leagues going, then you start getting athletes. That is what is starting to happen to the Nationals. It is a credit to the scouting department, coaching staff and many others for what they have started to build here.”