Nats keep most minor league staff, change several hitting coaches


The Nationals’ minor-league coaching staffs are mostly unchanged for the 2024 season, with one notable exception: They’ve overhauled much of their hitting staff.

The organization announced its full player development staff this afternoon, five days before pitchers and catchers officially report for spring training. Though there was a change at the top of the depth chart – former director of scouting operations Eddie Longosz replaced De Jon Watson, who was let go after two seasons leading the department – most of the coaches and trainers are returning to their same roles.

That includes the managers of all six minor league affiliates: Matt LeCroy (Triple-A Rochester), Delino DeShields (Double-A Harrisburg), Mario Lisson (High-A Wilmington), Jake Lowery (Single-A Fredericksburg), Luis Ordaz (Florida Complex League) and Sandy Martinez (Dominican Summer League).

Most of the pitching coaches return, as well: Rafael Chaves (Triple-A), Mark DeFelice (High-A), Justin Lord (Single-A) and Franklin Bravo (FCL). Rigo Beltran, formerly the Guardians’ bullpen coach, replaces Joel Hanrahan as Double-A pitching coach (though Hanrahan is staying with the Nats as rehab pitching coordinator). Feliberto Sanchez is the new pitching coach in the Dominican Summer League.

All development coaches also return this season: Billy McMillon (Triple-A), Oscar Salazar (Double-A), Mark Harris (High-A), Carmelo Jaime (Single-A) and Destin Hood (FCL).

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Wood and Hassell excited to share outfield for first time


BOWIE, Md. – One small step for a single prospect became a giant leap for the Nationals organization last weekend.

When James Wood was promoted from High-A Wilmington to Double-A Harrisburg on Sunday, on the surface level it could be seen as just a fast-rising prospect moving up another minor league level. But for the Nationals, it signified what the franchise is hoping to accomplish when it decided to undergo this rebuild in 2021 and fast track it by trading a major league superstar in Juan Soto last summer.

Wood was one of the five prospects the Nats received in the Soto trade with the Padres. Since joining the organization, he has risen as its top prospect and as one of the highest rated prospects in all of baseball.

Though he played well enough at the end of last season, Wood didn’t get a promotion to Wilmington, instead helping Single-A Fredericksburg on their postseason run. He started this season with the Blue Rocks, but only lasted 42 games, earning an early promotion on Memorial Day weekend.

The 20-year-old outfielder hit .293 with nine doubles, five triples, eight homers, 26 walks, 36 RBIs, eight stolen bases, a .392 on-base percentage and a .972 OPS with Wilmington.

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Nats continue expansion of player development staff


While numerous outlets are releasing their latest top prospects rankings leading up to the start of spring training, it’s easy to keep track of how the Nationals farm system is improving on paper. But a lot of work needs to continue throughout this rebuild behind the scenes. Improvements under the surface that won’t show up in any prospect rankings.

The Nationals announced on Wednesday their minor league player development staff for the 2023 season. The roster includes some familiar faces, new names and new positions. Overseeing all of it are president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo, entering this 15th season as the head man, and director of player development De Jon Watson, entering his second season in this position after spending five seasons as a special assistant to the GM.

The familiar names include Matt LeCroy (Triple-A Rochester), Mario Lisson (High-A Wilmington) and Jake Lowery (Single-A Fredericksburg) returning to manage their respective affiliates. Field coordinator Bob Henley, pitching coordinator Sam Narron and catching coordinator Randy Knorr continue their long careers with the organization. And fan favorite Gerardo Parra enters his first full season as special assistant to Rizzo after being named to the position last year.

A lot of new names are taking over the staff at Double-A Harrisburg, headlined by manager Delino DeShields replacing Tripp Keister, who was fired this offseason after 11 years with the organization. A first-round pick by the Expos in the 1987 draft, DeShields joins the Nats after spending the last 14 seasons in various roles in the Reds organization. Joel Hanrahan also joins Harrisburg as the pitching coach after flipping spots with Justin Lord, who now holds the same position at Fredericksburg.

Among the new roles added to the player development department this year are an assistant director of player development technology and strategy (Patrick Coghlan), a player development analyst (Allen Ho), a senior biomechanist (Bill Johnson), a biomechanist (Brittany Mills) and a performance analyst at each minor league affiliate. The performance analysts will help use data from the Hawk-Eye machines tracking players at Nationals Park, all of the organization's minor league stadiums and their facility in West Palm Beach.

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