Major-league camp in West Palm Beach is going to feature the best minor-league players in the Nationals organization.
Dylan Crews, James Wood and Brady House are among the prospects who have been invited to big-league camp this spring, the team announced Tuesday. The three consensus top prospects in the organization all will get their first opportunity to be part of a big-league clubhouse, compete against top competition and make their case to club officials to earn promotions to D.C. in the near future.
The Nats announced 11 non-roster invitations altogether, the first batch of minor leaguers who know they’ll be in major-league camp. More invitations are expected before pitchers and catchers report to The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches two weeks from today, whether in the form of free agents who sign minor-league deals or more current members of the farm system who get a chance to move up.
In addition to Crews, Wood and House, the Nationals announced invitations to outfield prospect Robert Hassell III, infield prospects Trey Lipscomb and Darren Baker and catcher Brady Lindsly. They also extended invitations to four players with major-league experience who signed minor-league contracts: outfielder Travis Blankenhorn, first basemen Lewin Díaz and Juan Yepez and left-hander Joe La Sorsa.
Hassell, Lipscomb and Baker all will draw interest this spring, and all could make their major-league debuts sometime in 2024. But the spotlight will shine brightest on the three top-rated prospects, all of whom are expected to reach the big leagues this year.
Crews’ first professional spring training will come in major-league camp, last summer’s No. 2 overall pick earning the right to skip minor-league camp altogether after blasting his way through three levels of the Nats’ farm system last season. The 22-year-old outfielder, rated the sixth-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America, hit .292 with nine doubles, five homers, 29 RBIs, 14 walks and 26 runs scored in 35 games split between the Rookie-level Florida Complex League Nats, Single-A Fredericksburg and Double-A Harrisburg.
Wood, rated the 11th-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America, got a taste of Grapefruit League play last spring as an occasional call-up from minor-league camp, going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. The 21-year-old outfielder will get a more thorough look this spring, hoping to build off a strong 2023 season with Harrisburg and Single-A Wilmington in which he led the organization in homers (26), RBIs (91) and slugging percentage (.520).
House, the 55th-rated prospect by Baseball America, also got a brief look in big-league camp last spring, going 0-for-2 with two walks in Grapefruit League play. The 20-year-old third baseman enjoyed a bounce back season with Fredericksburg, Wilmington and Harrisburg, batting .312/.365/.497 with 21 doubles, 12 homers and 47 RBIs in 88 games while showing no lingering effects of the back injury that derailed his 2022 campaign.
The odds of any of those three making the Nationals’ Opening Day roster seem slim. None has played yet at Triple-A, and Crews and House in particular were promoted last season at a rate much faster than is typical, even for top prospects.
But a strong showing by any of them in spring training could at least plant the seed in the front office and coaching staff’s minds and lay the groundwork for an early-to-mid-season call-up to D.C.
Hassell, Lipscomb and Baker also will try to stand out from the crowd before their likely demotions to minor-league camp sometime in March. Any or all could reach the majors for the first time during the course of the season, especially if all open the year at Triple-A Rochester.
Lindsly, who spent last year in Harrisburg and Rochester, will be in big-league camp for the second consecutive spring, joining Keibert Ruiz, Riley Adams and Drew Millas to give the Nationals at least four catchers.
Blankenhorn and La Sorsa each ended last season on the Nats’ major-league roster but were dropped and brought back on minor-league deals this winter. Diaz and Yepez were signed as minor-league free agents and will try to crack the Opening Day roster as a backup first baseman.