Rizzo on House's promotion, Green's wrist injury

CHICAGO – Brady House’s double-promotion in the last month from Single-A Fredericksburg to High-A Wilmington to Double-A Harrisburg was an aggressive one, Mike Rizzo readily admits. But the Nationals general manager believes the 2021 first-round pick can handle that jump, and didn’t hesitate to make the move earlier today.

“We just thought he was ready,” Rizzo said. “We’re going to challenge him to the next level, and we’ll see how he does. No expectations. It’s an aggressive level for him.”

House, the 11th overall pick two summers ago from Winder-Barrow (Ga.) High School, has enjoyed a major bounceback season after spending much of 2022 on the injured list dealing with a nagging back ailment. The organization had him return to Fredericksburg to begin the season, but promoted him to Wilmington one month ago and then watched him continue to perform at a high level.

House posted a .908 OPS in 16 games at High-A, even better than the .869 mark he produced in 36 games at Single-A. He also took well to his position switch from shortstop third base, all of which convinced the Nationals he was ready for another jump so soon.

“With the transformation over to third base, I think he feels very comfortable defensively,” Rizzo said. “And he’s done so well offensively, we felt he was going to end the season at Double-A anyway in our minds. So when he was performing so well, we thought: ‘He’s performing well. We’ll get him to Double-A, since he’s going there anyways.’”

House, who just turned 20 in June, joins organizational top prospect James Wood in Harrisburg, making the Nationals’ two representatives in last week’s All-Star Futures Game teammates again. Wood, a second-round pick of the Padres in 2021 but nearly a year older than House, opened the season in Wilmington and is likely on a faster track to the majors.

Even so, House has done a lot this year to make up for what he lost last year. He’s easily the most improved player in the organization, even if his current production is what club officials always expected from him when he was drafted.

“We always saw the power aspect of it,” Rizzo said. “I just think it’s tough enough to hit at the levels we sent him, and then to have a new position to learn. I think his entire success impressed me, because he played so well at third base defensively. Getting at a new position and then continuing to offensively play the way he did, it was pretty impressive.”

The Nationals can only hope for a similar bounceback season in 2024 from their 2022 first-round pick, Elijah Green, who has struggled in his first full professional season and is now dealing with an injury.

Green hasn’t played for Fredericksburg in three weeks, and Rizzo revealed the reason why today: The young outfielder sprained his left wrist.

“We had it MRI’d, but it’s all clean, except for it was in a splint for about 5-6 days,” Rizzo said. “So now he’s rehabbing it to return to play, and we’ll see him back in Fredericksburg soon.”

The fifth overall pick last summer from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Green entered pro ball with a reputation as an outstanding athlete who was prone to a lot of strikeouts. And that reputation has held true to date.

In 58 games with Fredericksburg, Green is batting just .218 and slugging .318 with 106 strikeouts in only 248 plate appearances. On the flip side, the 19-year-old is 22-for-26 in stolen base attempts and sports an on-base percentage (.327) more than 100 points higher than his batting average.

“I see elite defense. I see elite baserunning, basestealing. His exit velocities are terrific. And we’ve got to get past the contact part of it,” Rizzo said. “A lot of it is pitch selection, and that’s tough for a lot of young players. It was something James Wood went through out of high school, and we’ve had several players in the past that have gone through it. But he’s such a superb, elite athlete and his skill set is so great, I’m not worried at all about it.

“He’s a young player at a (low-)A league, and he’s taking his lumps and he’s learning what to swing at and what not to swing at. Right now, he’s swinging at too many bad pitches. So that’s something we have to work on.”

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