An obvious starting point for who will be next to have a good chance of making the big leagues is found in the Nationals top prospect lists.
But what is also intriguing are players who are not on this list just yet or were not considered for some reason or another.
Similar to undrafted rookies or free agents in the National Football League, these prospects can reside under the radar for a time but then burst onto the scene.
I asked Nationals minor league hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich for a couple of names of guys that maybe were not getting as much publicity as others but were impressing him during 2019 and into this most recent (abbreviated) spring training.
He mentioned two names: outfielder Jeremy De La Rosa, whom we just featured and is on the top 30 list (No. 13), and outfielder Cody Wilson, who is not.
Wilson was drafted in the 13th round in 2018 out of Florida Atlantic. He played 77 games for low Single-A Hagerstown in 2019, demonstrating power ability with nine doubles, four triples, five homers, 22 stolen bases and 23 RBIs. His slash numbers were not gaudy - .215/.311/.313 - but Gingrich explained there was a good reason for that.
"Cody has every tool possible," Gingrich said. "He can run, throw, has power, has the sixth tool - the makeup, the (mental side). We fought and fought and fought all last year (working on his approach). Give him credit, he tried to make adjustments, (which) during the season is a tough thing to do because you still want to go out and perform. But we finally got him to a spot this spring training where he feels comfortable at the plate."
Gingrich said the adjustments that Wilson, 23, made while playing in real games worked. Normally, that is extremely difficult to pull off. Gingrich broke down the mechanics of Wilson's swing: "He's not jumping out there (anymore) because he's such an intense, strong kid and he wants to deliver everything with his entire body to hit," Gingrich said. "When he did that he would always get more weight on his front side. He would create length back and people would always say, 'He's late, he's late.' And when you look at him, he's always on time when he starts.
"Because of what his body does, it allows balls to beat him early in the count, and he always fouls off some pitches. It's not that he's late, it's just how he tries to get himself to get to the ball creates that lateness. So, when that happens as a hitter, you start to cheat. Then when you cheat, that's not good. That's what he ran into last year a lot. He's in a position now where he understands he doesn't have to try to create to hit the ball hard with his whole body and just stay in position and let the ball get to him. He has taken the length out of his swing."
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Wilson has refined his swing to go with his above-average all-around tools. That should pay dividends at high Single-A Fredericksburg and beyond, whenever baseball gets going again.
"I am really excited the progress he has made," Gingrich said. "Once he gets this and is able to repeat it and repeat it, this kid has a chance to be very, very special just with the tools that he possesses."
* Major League Baseball announced today will be "Nationals Day" on MLB Network from 10 a.m. until Sunday morning at 1 a.m. The nonstop coverage includes rebroadcasts of important games and the Nats highlight reel from the 2019 World Series win over the Houston Astros.
#Nationals Day on MLB Network tomorrow 10am to 1am pic.twitter.com/0QG1syEwBK-- Byron Kerr (@masnKerr) April 17, 2020
The schedule begins with infielder and postseason hero Howie Kendrick joining Harold Reynolds on "Play Ball." That is followed by the re-broadcast of five Nationals postseason games. The first game begins at 10:30 a.m. in National League Division Series Game 5, when Kendrick's grand slam lifted the Nationals past the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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