Observations as minor league camp gets set to start

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.

“I sit in my office and I look (at the roster) and I go, ‘Man, I am getting old,’” the 59-year-old skipper said with a laugh on Friday.

Among the young guys participating in the drill were Cristhian Vaquero, Elijah Green, Yohandy Morales, Daylen Lile (who we hope to have an update on later today after suffering a scary injury yesterday while flipping over the right-center field wall at JetBlue Park), Kevin Made, Jeremy De La Rosa, Andrew Pinckney and Armando Cruz, all 23 years old or younger.

A lot of eyes were on Vaquero, who after setting a club record for an international signing bonus in 2022 finally made it stateside to Single-A Fredericksburg last year. Known as the “Phenom” coming up in the Dominican Republic, the 19-year-old already has an impressive frame standing at 6-foot-3, though he’s a little thin at only 180 pounds.

But once he adds more muscle mass, the Nationals feel like he can live up to his nickname.

“He can fly. Holy moly,” Martinez said. “His bat, man. When the ball comes off his bat, it's live. When he hits it, it's a different sound. When he's 22, when he starts filling out, kid could be a beast.”

When Vaquero is with the big league side of camp, he sticks with Gerardo Parra, the new first base coach and outfield and baserunning coordinator who mentors a lot of the young Latin players.

“He's with Parra, so …,” Martinez said while grinning. “Parra says, 'Hey, this is top notch, OK? No minor leagues. This is big leagues. You play like a big leaguer.' That's our message to these young guys: Hey, this is what it's gonna take for you to play up here. Just get your work in.”

Green, the 20-year-old former No. 5 overall pick, is hard to miss. At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, he looks like he could also be participating at this weekend’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis as a tight end prospect. Instead, he’s in West Palm hoping for a bounceback year as one of the Nats’ top outfield prospects.

Morales, last year’s second-round pick out of the nearby University of Miami, also looks like he can hold his own physically with the major leaguers. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, the 22-year-old is athletic and strong, and was surprised to get a callup for Thursday’s game against the Cardinals in Jupiter and get a late pinch-hit at-bat.

“I met Yo Yo for the first time yesterday,” Martinez said. “Big. I didn't realize he was that big. He's big, too. Talked to him and I said, 'Hey, get ready because you'll probably get in the game somehow, some way.' And he looked at me like (confused) and he pinch-hit. So it was good. It's good to see him.”

When the rundown drills were over, the major leaguers took batting practice to get ready for the day’s Grapefruit League action against the Astros, while the minor leaguers went to one of the back fields to get more work in.

It was just a couple of drills, but for a short moment some of the Nats’ top prospects not in major league camp looked like they belonged among the big leaguers.

“I see our future so bright in so many different areas,” Martinez said. “It's nice to pull some of those guys and let them have a day with these guys and get to know everybody. With a lot of players, you get to know guys who might play with you in the future and you start building those relationships.”

Starting lineups: Nats vs. Marlins in West Palm Be...
Young sticking to strengths to stand out in outfie...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/