Starting lineups: Nats vs. Marlins in West Palm Beach on MASN

Lane Thomas red catching

WEST PALM BEACH – The Nationals are back on the Atlantic Coast side of Florida after yesterday’s cross-state trip to Fort Myers. They’ll be here for the next week before making their final trip to the Gulf Coast side a week from today to face the Twins.

What was supposed to be Trevor Williams’ spring debut turned into Zach Davies’ second start after the Nationals flipped the two starters to have Williams pitch tomorrow. Davies had a strong debut with the Nats on Tuesday, pitching two shutout innings with three strikeouts, two walks and a hit batter. The right-hander threw 23-of-40 pitches for strikes against an Astros lineup that included a lot of big-name regulars.

Today he’ll try to go a little deeper in the game against a Marlins split-squad team. Joan Adon, Tanner Rainey, Robert Garcia and Jose A. Ferrer are among the pitchers listed to follow Davies out of the bullpen.

Among the Nationals regulars in the starting lineup: Lane Thomas is leading off and in right field, James Wood is batting second and making his first appearance in left, Joey Meneses is at first base, Keibert Ruiz is catching, Nick Senzel is at third and Victor Robles is in center.

And hey, what better way to spend your Sunday than watching the game on MASN at 1 p.m.?

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Observations as minor league camp gets set to start

Cristhian Vaquero Fredericksburg

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – As the Nationals enter their fourth week of spring training, the minor league side of camp officially gets underway in the coming days.

Around 50 minor league players have already been in West Palm Beach over the past couple of weeks. All pitchers and catchers officially reported Saturday and the rest of the position players are set to show up in the coming days.

On Friday, Davey Martinez decided to bring some of the minor league guys over to major league camp to participate in drills with their veteran teammates.

“We're gonna bring them over and let them work out with us today,” the big league manager said. “I just wanted to get some of these young kids with us and let them go through the programs.”

On the first backfield at the complex, major league infielders were practicing running down baserunners caught in the basepaths. Who were they chasing? Minor leaguers wearing red workout T-shirts and batting helmets.

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Young sticking to strengths to stand out in outfield shuffle

jacob young @TOR

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Unlike some other Nationals prospects, Jacob Young has been in this situation before. He’s no stranger to a major league clubhouse after spending the last month-plus of the 2023 season with the Nats.

He is new to a major league clubhouse at spring training, however, now enjoying his first big league camp. The 24-year-old is hoping his limited, but not insignificant, big league experience helps him this spring and onto the Opening Day roster.

In 33 games last year, Young hit .252 with a .658 OPS, seven doubles, one triple, a perfect 13-for-13 stolen bases, 10 walks and 22 strikeouts, while also playing solid, if not stellar, defense in the outfield.

“That experience, it was great,” Young said. “It was a lot of dreams come true, getting to do your first of a lot of things. It was good to kind of experience that with the family and my wife and everyone. It was just really cool to kind of get that under my belt. I think it's got me more ready for something like this. You know, the guy who just knows more of (his) routine. So it was a great experience. And then the offseason was awesome. I was down in Jacksonville just training. So it was a good offseason. I got to relax a little bit, but a lot of training.”

Young entered spring training on the 40-man roster. He’s a part of an outfield group that has some question marks and a lot of young talent on the way. Although he has an upper leg on his fellow prospects, he’s not a sure thing to make the roster once camp breaks north.

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Henry "full-go" to start camp after thoracic outlet syndrome surgery

Cole Henry spring training 2

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Cole Henry missed out on the opportunity to attend his first major league spring training in 2023. He was still recovering from the thoracic outlet syndrome surgery he had in August 2022.

Now 18 months removed from the complex procedure, which involved removing a rib and a neck muscle, the 24-year-old right-hander finally finds himself inside the Nationals clubhouse at the team’s spring training facility. And more importantly, he’s participating in team workouts.

“As of right now, I'm feeling really good,” Henry said. “This is the first offseason I've been able to really work on just strengthening and perfecting the craft a little bit mechanics-wise and stuff like that and not worry about having to rehab. Just make sure I'm able to throw by the time spring training comes around, so it's very productive as far as that stuff goes. I just had to tweak a couple things trying to get back to the way I was before as far as my mechanics and stuff, pitch shapes, different things like that. Majority of the offseason was working on just trying to get stronger, trying to be more durable and just overall focus on just building strength and getting ready for a long season.”

The further removed Henry gets from his surgery, the better he feels. And the closer he gets to getting back to normal. But he still understands the complexities of his surgery and recovery, and that just because he’s back on a mound, that doesn’t mean he’s completely done with the aftereffects.

“I definitely think, as with any surgery, it's going to take a year or two years just to be fully past it,” he said. “I mean, I'll still have hiccups here and there as far as just a little bit more soreness on different days. Doing new things or pitching for a little bit longer than I'm used to. Whatever it is, there's gonna be a little bit of that. But as far as being able to let the reins loose a little bit, take the training wheels off it's been full-go. No restraints as far as rehab or anything. I've been basically going after it like it's gonna be a regular full season.”

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With focus on defense, Lipscomb fitting in at first big league camp

Lipscomb Wood Hassell spring training

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Trey Lipscomb hadn’t been invited to major league spring training before this year, but you would never know it with the way he comfortably sits at his locker among his fellow top prospects at the front of the Nationals’ spring training clubhouse.

Dylan Crews, James Wood, Brady House and Robert Hassell III occupy the first four lockers by the front door, with Darren Baker, Lipscomb and Nasim Nuñez next down the line.

That’s a lot of young pedigree to be included in, but Lipscomb has earned the right to be there with them.

The 2022 third-round pick out of the University of Tennessee was arguably one of the most consistent bats on the Nats farm last year. After a mid-June promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, the 23-year-old slashed .284/.310/.438 with a .748 OPS, 15 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs and 45 RBIs with the Senators.

“First full season, enjoyed it,” he said looking back on his 2023 campaign. “I was blessed enough, fortunate enough to play every day, stay healthy, so knock on wood that's still there. But it was fun. You learn some things that you don't learn in college like playing six games a week. In college, you play three, maybe four a week. But playing six games a week and just learning things about your body, it's really cool to see during the season.”

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More prospect rankings ahead of spring training

James Wood Harrisburg red

As the offseason dwindles down and pitchers and catchers prepare to report to spring training in 10 days, the last few bits of offseason content are getting pushed out.

Among them continues to be the latest prospect and minor league farm system rankings.

Baseball America has come out with their updated lists two weeks ago. Dylan Crews came in as the No. 6 overall prospect in the sport, with James Wood at No. 11 and Brady House at No. 55. Cade Cavalli, Yohandy Morales, Jackson Rutledge, Robert Hassell III, Cristhian Vaquero, Elijah Green and Jarlin Susana round out the top 10 in Baseball America’s new top 30 Nats prospects rankings.

Over the past week, some new rankings dropped.

A little over a week ago MLB Pipeline released its new top 100 prospects list to conclude their series of ranking the top 10 at each position.

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Which prospects missed out on big league camp invites?

Elijah Green Fredericksburg

The Nationals took one step closer to the start of spring training yesterday by announcing the first round of non-roster invitations to major league camp.

The first batch of invites includes top prospects Dylan Crews (No. 1 in Nats system per Baseball America), James Wood (No. 2), Brady House (No. 3), Robert Hassell III (No. 7), Trey Lipscomb (No. 16) and Darren Baker (No. 28), all of whom will be attending their first big league spring training.

Other non-roster players invited yesterday include outfielder Travis Blankenhorn, first baseman Lewin Diaz, left-hander Joe La Sorsa, catcher Brady Lindsly and first baseman/outfielder Juan Yepez.

Two weeks from today, Nationals pitchers and catchers will hold their first workout to start the 2024 campaign at the team’s facility in West Palm Beach. Six days later the first full-squad workout will take place.

As general manager Mike Rizzo looks to fill out the roster before the team convenes in a few weeks, which top prospects just missed out on a major league camp invite?

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With Gallo signing, Nats lineup starting to take shape

Joey Gallo Twins white

It was a tricky task just days ago: For this week’s “The Hot Stove Show” on MASN All Access, I was struggling to put together a potential Opening Day starting defensive lineup graphic with the Nationals roster as it stood at the time.

Some positions were obvious: Keibert Ruiz was the starting catcher, CJ Abrams at shortstop and Lane Thomas in right field.

Some I could piece together: At the Winter Meetings, general manager Mike Rizzo and skipper Davey Martinez said Joey Meneses was going to play more first base. When Nick Senzel signed, he said he was being brought in to be the everyday third baseman. And until some prospects get more seasoning, no one is immediately pressing Luis García Jr. or Victor Robles for their jobs at second base and center field, respectively. (Yet.)

The starting pitcher came down to Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore. I went with Gray as he has tenure with the team and was the more consistent pitcher over the course of last season. It seemed the most logical choice, with the idea that short of an injury, Gore would have to very obviously outperform Gray in camp to get the Opening Day duties instead.

That left the designated hitter, left field and three bench spots open.

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Nats' new uniforms include first pullover and updated road grays

Nats Pullover on Player

For the Nationals’ on-field look, it’s a “new year, new me” in 2024.

On Friday, the Nats unveiled new changes to their uniform collection for the upcoming season with the start of spring training just weeks away, including the team’s first pullover jersey and an updated design to their road grays.

The Nationals’ 2024 uniform collection is composed of five jerseys, which now includes a pullover. The white top has navy blue sleeves and features the vintage Capitol W logo on the left chest. Making its first jersey appearance, the Vintage Capitol W debuted on spring training caps in 2019 and has been featured on regular season hats since 2020. The pullover also includes the first V-neck buttonless design with red, white and navy blue trim. Players' names and numbers on the back are red and outlined in navy blue.

A brand-new arm patch displays an interlocking “DC” inside the District of Columbia silhouette, marking the return of the interlocking “DC” logo that the team used from its inaugural season in 2005 until 2011. The Nats then began to universally use the curly W logo.

You can view the breakdown of the new pullover jersey here.

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Three Nats ranked in Baseball America's new top 100 prospects list

Hassell Wood Crews Harrisburg

There is only so much offseason content to put out with a month left to go before the start of spring training, but some major publications are starting to roll out some preseason topics.

Among those, Baseball America released its latest top 100 prospects list Wednesday morning with some familiar names from the Nationals making the cut.

Outfielder Dylan Crews was ranked as the No. 6 overall prospect in the sport by Baseball America’s staff, with outfielder James Wood coming in at No. 11 and third baseman Brady House at No. 55.

For these preseason rankings, the publication puts together the list of players based on “their long-term MLB impact.”

It’s no surprise that Crews was the highest ranked Nationals prospect after he was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in last summer’s draft after winning a national championship and the Golden Spikes Award with LSU. He entered the draft as the consensus top ranked position player.

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Amongst a lot of turnover, Rizzo and Martinez remain constants in D.C.

Mike Rizzo Davey Martinez old

As I laid out earlier this week, it’s a trying time in the Washington, D.C. sports landscape. Almost all of the local professional sports franchises are facing crucial turning points in their respective histories. There are a lot of turnover and changes happening across the District.

Except on South Capitol Street.

Looking around town, the Nationals’ Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez are the longest tenured general manager and manager/head coach, respectively, among Washington’s teams, providing stability in the usually unstable industry of professional sports.

The Commanders, under new managing owner Josh Harris, reportedly hired new general manager Adam Peters on Friday. Peters will surely clean house in the front office and help ownership hire the team’s next head coach. A lot of change is happening quickly with the local football team, which is hoping to return to the glory years of the historic franchise.

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan is one of the longest-tenured general managers in town behind Rizzo, heading up the local hockey operation since 2014. The Caps did win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup under MacLellan in 2018, but have gone through four head coaches since he took the job. They are currently under first-year head coach Spencer Carbery as the team tracks Alex Ovechkin’s record-setting goal chase and plans for a younger core of players in the future.

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Nats leading the way in Washington rebuilds

Mike Rizzo Davey Martinez celebrating

It’s a tough time to be a Washington, D.C. sports fan, as my colleague Mark Zuckerman pointed out yesterday. If you look around at the standings across the various sports leagues, Washington teams don’t sit very high.

The Nationals, of course, just finished fifth in the National League East for the fourth consecutive season following their 2019 World Series championship, despite a 16-win improvement from 2022. At the end of the NFL regular season, the Commanders finished last in their division and now own the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft. In the NBA, the Wizards currently own the league’s third-worst record and are on track for a lottery pick, possibly the No. 1 selection. The Capitals are treading water in the middle of the NHL standings, trying to avoid the first back-to-back seasons of missing the playoffs since the start of the Alex Ovechkin era.

The Mystics, who also won a championship in 2019, made the WNBA playoffs despite a sub-.500 record and were swept out of the first round. The local soccer clubs – MLS’ D.C. United and NWSL’s Washington Spirit – finished in the middle of the pack without postseason appearances in their respective campaigns.

By most accounts, all of Washington’s professional sports teams are either in a rebuild or barely toeing the line of competitiveness.

The Commanders’ new ownership group has already begun to clean house and rebuild the entire organization. They are taking steps to hire a new general manager and head coach, who will use the No. 2 pick in the draft to start building the roster in their image. Although turnarounds in the NFL have been proven to take less time, the local football team is just beginning the long journey back to being one of the best franchises in the league.

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Most significant stories of 2023 on the farm

Dylan Crews Mike Rizzo intro

As the first week of the new year comes to a close, we’ve done our fair share of looking back at the Nationals’ 2023 season and ahead to the 2024 campaign. At the major league level.

During this week’s “The Hot Stove Show” on MASN All Access (which you can watch here), Brendan Mortensen and I talked a lot about the Nats’ top prospects in the minor league system and what to expect from some of them this year.

That got me thinking: We haven’t really looked back at the most significant stories from last year on the farm.

So to briefly coincide with Mark Zuckerman’s “Most significant stories of 2023” series from the week leading up New Year’s Day, here are seven of the most important headlines from the Nationals’ minor league side of the past year …

1) Dylan Crews drafted No. 2 overall
This one is the most obvious selection. At this time a year ago, one of the main focuses heading into the season was who the Nationals would select with the No. 2 pick in the MLB Draft.

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Nats still looking to check things off holiday wish list

Nats Santa Claus

It’s Christmas Eve in Washington and we are fewer than 100 days from Opening Day 2024. This offseason is progressing rapidly.

Before we check to see what Santa Claus left under our trees tomorrow morning and ring in the new year next week, let’s look at what remains on the Nationals’ offseason wish list, in hopes that some could be crossed off soon.

As expected, the Nationals have been relatively quiet this offseason, limiting spending and not dealing away prospects in hopes the budding stars can make an impact at the major league level next year and put the team in position to be spenders next offseason.

But they have made a couple of moves to fill some roster holes.

Before officially departing the Winter Meetings in Nashville, the Nats agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal, plus incentives, with former Reds utility man Nick Senzel to be their everyday third baseman.

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Senzel "super excited" about playing with Abrams

CJ Abrams throwing white

Much has already been made of Nick Senzel’s friendship with Lane Thomas (with more to come) and how that factored into his decision to sign a one-year, $2 million deal with the Nationals that includes an extra $1 million in incentives.

But there were other enticing aspects of joining the Nats that the 28-year-old considered when making his decision.

Of course, the opportunity to play third base, his natural position, every day after moving all over the field during his five-year career with the Reds was one.

Another factor was who he would be playing alongside on the left side of the infield.

CJ Abrams emerged as the Nats’ shortstop of the future this season after putting together a promising campaign. The 23-year-old slashed .245/.300/.412 with a .712 OPS, 28 doubles, six triples, 18 home runs, 64 RBIs and a new Nats single-season club record 47 stolen bases. Defensively, he posted a 4 Defensive Runs Saved at shortstop.

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Senzel assured everyday third base spot

Nick Senzel Reds throwing red

The Nationals went to last week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville with a list of needs that included an everyday third baseman.

They left Thursday morning after signing former Reds utilityman Nick Senzel for $2 million plus an extra $1 million in incentives.

Senzel, 28, was non-tendered by the Reds last month after slashing .236/.297/.399 with a .696 OPS, 10 doubles, a career-high 13 home runs and 42 RBIs, and six stolen bases while playing third base, second base and all three outfield spots. The 2016 No. 2 overall pick from the University of Tennessee finished his five-year career in Cincinnati with a .239 average, .671 OPS, 33 homers and 125 RBIs.

The Nationals believe Senzel’s subpar results were partially a product of moving around the field too much and that they could improve if he is given the chance to play one position consistently alongside his childhood best friend, Lane Thomas.

“I'd like to say both,” Senzel said in a Zoom meeting with reporters when asked how much his decision to sign with the Nats was based on what they could offer and the chance to play with Thomas. “Obviously, me and Lane, we grew up playing together. And this opportunity that was brought to me, an opportunity to be able to play every day and get a new start in a historic franchise, was just kind of just kind of a no-brainer for me. And just having Lane, one of my best buddies I grew up with, playing right field, it's really insane, to be honest.”

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Nats expecting bounceback for Green: "Don't sleep on Elijah"

Elijah Green Fredericksburg white

When the Nationals selected outfielder Elijah Green with the fifth-overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, it was thought to be a steal for the rebuilding club.

How did MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 draft prospect fall to the Nats at No. 5? This would be the second year in a row one of the top high school bats seemingly slipped to the Nats after Brady House fell to them at No. 11 overall in the previous summer’s draft.

After posting a .939 OPS with four doubles, two homers and nine RBIs in 12 Rookie-level Florida Complex League games last year, we got the first glimpse of what Green brings to the table during his 75 games at Single-A Fredericksburg this year. And we potentially saw why four teams passed on him in the 2022 draft that made him available to the Nats at No. 5.

Green, who just turned 20 this last week, flashed his athletic skill set that made him a top draft prospect. He is an elite, yet raw athlete with speed, power and a strong arm. Per MLB Pipeline, his power (60), run (70), arm (60) and field (60) are all above average on a 20-80 grading scale.

He stole 30 bases in 35 attempts with the FredNats while also posting a .982 fielding percentage in 607 innings in center field.

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Longosz on what excites him about Nats' farm system

Hassell Wood Crews Harrisburg

Last month, the Nationals promoted longtime front office staffer Eddie Longosz to vice president and assistant general manager of player development and administration after spending the last 13 years in the club’s scouting department, most recently as the director of scouting operations for the last eight.

Before the promotion, Longosz, a D.C. native, assisted general manager Mike Rizzo on all aspects of the organization's amateur, professional and international scouting operations.

That means he is now in charge of developing the players in the Nats’ farm system that he helped scout and draft.

The upper echelon of the farm system is now loaded, especially with position players, thanks to high draft picks, numerous trades and impressive international signings over the last three years, all with Longosz’s input.

At the top of the board is top prospect Dylan Crews, this year’s No. 2 overall draft pick, reigning national champion from LSU and Golden Spikes Award winner. The other recent first-round picks include third baseman and No. 3 prospect Brady House (No. 11 overall pick in 2021) and outfielder and No. 5 prospect Elijah Green (No. 5 overall pick in 2022).

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Senzel can be more successful by sticking to one spot

Nick Senzel Reds throwing red

The Nationals almost left the Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville without a major league signing.

On Wednesday, the last official day of the meetings, they added infielder Nasim Nuñez through the Rule 5 Draft and signed first baseman/outfielder Juan Yepez to a minor league deal.

But in the wee hours of Thursday morning, before the Nationals braintrust left for the Nashville airport, they finally made one major addition by signing former Reds utilityman Nick Senzel to a $2 million contract that includes an extra $1 million in incentives.

Parallels have already been drawn from this signing to the addition of Dominic Smith last offseason.

They both were former first-round picks: Smith out of high school by the Mets in 2013 and Senzel out of the University of Tennessee by the Reds in 2016. Both were non-tendered by their respective clubs after not realizing their full potential and then signed with the Nats for $2 million with another year of club control.

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Rizzo on players Nats protected from Rule 5 draft

Cole Henry Harrisburg red

NASHVILLE – This afternoon’s Rule 5 draft marks the end of the Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. Typically held on Thursday morning the week of the Meetings, the league bumped it up to Wednesday afternoon last year, much to the delight of beat reporters who get to travel home a day early.

The Nationals historically haven’t utilized this avenue of roster building. Designed to keep teams from stashing prospects in the minor leagues, general manager Mike Rizzo has usually turned to acquiring established major leaguers instead of taking a flier on an unproven prospect that has to take up a roster spot for the entirety of next season.

But the Nats did stray away from that last year by selecting Thaddeus Ward from the Red Sox with the first-overall pick in the Rule 5 draft, their first selection in 12 years.

Although they hold the No. 5 overall pick this afternoon and have two open spots on the 40-man roster, the Nats aren’t assured of making a selection. But that doesn’t mean the Rule 5 draft will definitely be uneventful for them.

The Nats, of course, can lose players in this event and they have already taken steps to assure they keep the ones they definitely want.

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