Nationals excited about Destin Hood’s “upside” in 2013

Right fielder Destin Hood would like nothing better than to have a full season with no nagging injuries or games missed due to sickness.

Saddled with just 94 games played last season, Hood was never really able to get in the groove that he would’ve wanted at this point in his career. But he certainly finished 2012 with a flourish.

On opening day this season, Hood will be just 23 years old, so there is still plenty of time for the athletic, 6-foot-1, 225 lb., outfielder to show what he is made of and grab a spot in Triple-A.

For Double-A Harrisburg last season, Hood hit .245 with 20 doubles, three triples, three homers and 45 RBIs. He was coming off a pair of seasons where he averaged 128.5 games played and in 2011, he smacked a career-high 13 homers with 83 RBIs for high Single-A Potomac.

Harrisburg skipper Matt LeCroy has managed Hood for a couple of seasons now and appreciates what kind of player he is and is becoming.

“He actually had a real good year (in 2011) with me at Potomac,” LeCroy recounted. “Going to Double-A was a big jump for Destin, but he handled it pretty well. He had a couple of setbacks in the season that kind of (slowed him) a little bit offensively. But at the end of the year, he finished up the way we wanted to finish up. He had really good at-bats, hitting the ball solid, hitting the ball to all fields.”

Over Hood’s first few years, a lot has been made of his opportunity to play football at Alabama and his decision to play baseball instead. He could track baseballs because of his football experience, and now he keeps adding other facets to his game because of his athletic talent.

“Defensively, he keeps improving each year,” LeCroy said. “His baserunning has gotten to point where you trust him. He has the green light. He makes his own reads. He is becoming a baseball player. He was a football player when he got to us. The decision was his to become a baseball player because of his athleticism. He has really good upside.”

Director of player development Doug Harris said Hood’s wrist injury and other minor setbacks are not cause for concern for the Nationals as they look at the long term for a player of his capabilities.

“Destin is a very physical young man and he takes very good care of his body,” Harris said. “Some of things he had were him being a little nicked up more than anything significant. They were just nagging things that we believe he has put in his past.

“He performed in a difficult league at a young age and I think he learned a lot. He made a nice finish at the end. We felt like this will be a carry over for him. We expect a good year out of him.”

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