It was a race against time. We knew last week was the perfect opportunity to go see Dylan Crews.
The No. 2 overall pick was either going to be playing about an hour south of D.C. at Virginia Credit Union Stadium with Single-A Fredericksburg or about an hour and half north at Ripken Stadium, where High-A Wilmington was facing the Aberdeen IronBirds (Orioles).
Either way, last week was probably going to be our best chance to see the Nationals’ newest top prospect play locally before he possibly moved two-plus hours away to Double-A Harrisburg, who don’t come back to the area to play the Bowie Baysox (Orioles) anymore this year, or even 6 ½ hours away to Triple-A Rochester before the end of the minor league season.
So Amy Jennings and I considered ourselves lucky when “MASN All Access” arrived in Fredericksburg last week and Crews was still there wearing FredNats gear.
“It's all kind of happening so fast, honestly,” Crews said of the weeks leading up to his first taste of professional baseball. “From the national championship to getting drafted and having to go to Florida for training for a little bit and then getting promoted here. It's an awesome feeling. But it's been hard to kind of soak everything in. It's just been one just fun ride for these past few weeks.”
Crews led the LSU Tigers to their seventh College World Series title in June. Less than two weeks later, the Golden Spikes Award winner was selected by the Nationals with the No. 2 overall pick in the MLB Draft.
After signing and being introduced at Nationals Park in late July, the outfielder went to the team’s spring training facility in West Palm Beach, where he went 3-for-3 with three runs and a double in his only Florida Complex League game. That was enough, as he went straight to Fredericksburg after that.
“It's been a little bit of an adjustment for sure,” Crews said. “But everybody here has been awesome. They've been really helpful. And the fans here have been great. They've been packing out all the games here and been traveling. We just went over to Lynchburg and they were traveling over there. So it was a great feeling to see everybody come and support us. So yeah, I feel like now I got my feet underneath me and I'm ready to go and compete with the guys.”
Hopefully, he wasn’t too settled in because he’s on the move again.
The Nationals promoted Crews to Harrisburg on Sunday, a move that will be made official later today as the top prospect skips High-A ball altogether. He proved Single-A, where he was named Carolina League Player of the Week for the week of Aug. 8-13, was no match for him after he slashed .355/.423/.645 with a 1.068 OPS, three doubles, five home runs, 24 RBIs, a stolen base and six walks in just 14 games.
“Since I've been to college, it's been a lot easier for me to kind of be where my feet are every single day,” he said. “So I learned how to kind of be present and enjoy all these moments. So it's been fast, but I learned how to control it and enjoy it and be present every single day.”
Crews also has to control the expectations laid upon him.
After being named the best college player in the country, winning a national championship and becoming the No. 2 overall pick, the 21-year-old is the No. 3 prospect in the sport per Baseball America, No. 4 per MLB Pipeline, No. 5 per FanGraphs, No. 6 per The Athletic and No. 7 per ESPN.
“Even before college, expectations was always a thing with me,” he said. “I was a young kid, I was a 2020 playing in the 2019 class. So I was always playing up, playing with older guys. So this expectation of this kid has to play to a certain level to be able to play with these guys is kind of nothing new to me really. So easy transition to go into college. That's how I kind of just play my game. It's just a slow heartbeat and I take every game like it's my last and go out there and just compete with the guys. The game doesn't change, people change. So I go out there and enjoy every moment.”
On draft night and during his introductory press conference at Nats Park, Crews twice mentioned the phrase made famous by tennis legend Billie Jean King: “Pressure is a privilege.”
With so much pressure of being a top prospect, why is that saying important to him?
“I like to look at everything as like my advantage almost,” Crews said. “See the bright side of everything. I like to view pressure as a privilege because not many kids kind of get that opportunity to kind of feel that pressure. So I just use it as my strength and kind of just move forward with it.”
His movement forward is now taking him to Harrisburg, where he will join fellow top prospects James Wood and Robert Hassell III in the Senators outfield. But no matter the expectations or how quickly he rises through the ranks, Crews just wants to be the same ballplayer he always has been.
“Just a kid who is a hard worker, loves to play the game, is gonna enjoy it every single day and most importantly wants to win,” Crews said. “Coming from a program like LSU, it's a program of excellence and they want to win every single day. So that's kind of embedded in me and I want to bring that over to this organization and hopefully bring the next World Series to this organization.”
You can watch Crews’ full sit-down interview with Jennings and myself on “MASN All Access” here.