Accelerated development program reaches capacity this weekend

The Nationals' accelerated development program will have all participants in camp this weekend as they continue to work toward March 4 and their first game against the Astros. There were 30 to 40 players in camp this week. The rest of the players will complete the roster by Saturday.

What is it like for these advanced prospects each day while the major league players work out nearby in the complex?

Low Single-A Hagerstown Suns manager Patrick Anderson took me through what a typical day is like this week at the accelerated camp.

"We start by going over the team fundamental for that day and visualize with the coaches running it, like bunt coverages, first-and-third rundowns, pick-off plays," Anderson explained. "Then we stretch. Following that, we work on a different team fundamental each morning. Then it is team throwing programs, individual defense, catchers, infielders, outfielders and pitchers in separate groups.

"They then break into the team fundamentals on the field. Pitchers are doing bunting and PFP (pitchers' fielding practice) work. Then we do our offensive routine, where we have guys in the cage doing situational hitting on the field, regular batting practice, pitchers working on individual pick-off moves then side sessions, staff batting practice on the field, base running, more coaching discussions and then conditioning."

The full roster will be able to work on field this week and Anderson went over what drills will look like before intrasquad games begin, followed by games against actual opponents starting Wednesday. Here is what it will look like to a pitcher or batter on the field:

"Live BP in front of L-screen with the pitcher facing the hitter when they know what's coming, then they start working on breaking balls once they build up their bullpen sessions, timing for hitters and the pitchers, not a lot of swings, just really trying to get your timing down, tracking balls and having a hitter in front of you," he said. "Then we get into intrasquads and rocking and rolling into games."

I asked Anderson about how the players look physically as camp began last week. How did they all come through the offseason?

"It is early. (Assistant general manager/director of player development) Doug Harris made a really good observation. He said to a man, pretty much every single player came back physically stronger," Anderson said.

"Visually, you can see their strength and guys were really cut up more, their waists, abs. Every single person ready to rock and roll. It was very eye-opening. There is a lot of energy and a lot of guys moving pretty good."

More from the accelerated camp on the coaching staffs present and what they want to improve on as a team with details from Anderson in my next blog.

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