Crews headed to Harrisburg; Hassell and Lile cleared to play

Today is going to be an exciting day for the Nationals organization. For the first time, the team will host an exhibition game at Nationals Park with its major league players facing the top prospects from the minor league system.

It will be the big league team’s final tune-up before Opening Day on Thursday in Cincinnati, while the organization gets to showcase numerous talented young players in front of its fans who showed up on South Capitol Street and are watching from home on MASN.

After this afternoon’s game, players and staff members – both minor and major league – will attend the club’s annual Homecoming Gala this evening at The Anthem on the Southwest waterfront before dispersing to their respective starting points for the regular season.

One of the biggest names on the prospects team is Dylan Crews, last summer’s No. 2 overall pick out of Louisiana State University and the Nats’ top-ranked prospect, who revealed today he will start the season with Double-A Harrisburg after going back to the team’s facility in West Palm Beach for a couple of days.

“I'm gonna go to the gala and then go to West Palm after that,” Crews said this morning in front of his locker in the visitors clubhouse at Nats Park. “So probably be there for maybe a little less than a week and then head out to Harrisburg.”

Crews, 22, flew up the ranks after he was drafted to reach Double-A before the end of last season. He hit .355 with a 1.068 OPS, three doubles, five home runs and 24 RBIs in just 14 games with Single-A Fredericksburg before his promotion to Harrisburg.

But he struggled at season's end after a long year, hitting only .208 with a .595 OPS and 19 strikeouts in 20 games with the Senators. And although his presence at big league spring training drew a lot of attention, he only went 5-for-32 (.156) with two doubles, a home run, five RBIs, four walks and 12 strikeouts in 20 Grapefruit League games.

It’s no surprise Crews will start the season with Harrisburg, which opens the 2024 campaign at home on April 5. But the club will keep a close eye on him to start the year and won’t be afraid to promote him again once he proves to master the Double-A level.

Meanwhile, James Wood will fly to Triple-A Rochester tomorrow morning to be ready for the Red Wings’ season opener Friday in Syracuse. Starting the top two outfield prospects at different affiliates allows both players to get as many reps in any of the three outfield positions as the organization wants.

But before they depart D.C., they have this final exhibition game to play against the teammates they got to know well in camp, with bragging rights on the line.

“It's awesome to be here,” Crews said. “First off, being here and just having an opportunity to play the other guys here in D.C., it's pretty awesome. But we're treating it just like another game. Nothing's bigger than the game itself, so we're going out there and we're trying to win the game. So it's gonna be fun. It's gonna be a good competition, and hopefully we'll have bragging rights in the future.”

* Robert Hassell III and Daylen Lile have both been cleared to play in today’s game after suffering injuries in Florida.

Hassell, who suffered a groin strain on March 8, is batting leadoff and playing left field for the prospects team. Lile, who is recovering from a scary injury sustained when he flipped over the outfield wall and landed flat on his back in the bullpen at JetBlue Park on March 2, has been cleared to play and is expected to come off the Futures Team bench at some point today.

“Robert checked all the boxes, so he's probably going to play three innings,” said manager Davey Martinez. “I don't want to push him too much. But he looked good. I watched him hit yesterday, I watched him run, he ran the bases. And he did well, so he feels like he's ready and he looked ready. So he'll get three innings in today. … Lile might play a little bit.”

Hassell and Lile joined their fellow prospects for practice on the Nats Park field yesterday, which got Martinez excited for today’s game.

“I'm really excited about it,” the skipper said. “I came out yesterday. They came out and hit, I wanted them to hit and just get on a big league field and stuff. It was good to see them out there. Like I said, a lot of these guys are part of our future, if not all of them. So to get them out in the field, let them take ground balls and go through batting practice, it was a lot of fun. So we're excited about it. I'm excited to see those guys play. I'm excited to see our guys go out there and play as well. So it should be a good day.”

Martinez joked he was going to manage both teams before saying he is going to let Harrisburg manager Delino DeShields manage the Futures Team however he sees fit.

“I’m gonna manage both. No, we'll see,” Martinez said with a laugh. “I want to try to get everybody in the game. Try to get them a few at-bats. But we gotta get ready. We got Opening Day coming up here Thursday, so I want to make sure everybody's ready.

“The other guys, I told Delino to play them like you want to play them. But like I said, it's gonna be exciting to watch.”

Martinez was almost going to have to play matchups against himself, something he says he does anyway.

“I always do that.”

Gore sharp in final spring tune-up as big leaguers...
Starting lineups: Nationals Futures Game in D.C.

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to