Thrust into action, Young paving way for Nats' younger outfielders

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MIAMI – Jacob Young wasn’t in the minor leagues for too long before finally getting the call to the major leagues.

The 2021 seventh-round pick out of the University of Florida played 26 games at Single-A Fredericksburg the year he was drafted by the Nationals. He spent all of last year with the FredNats, slashing .262/.360/.331 with a .691 OPS, 118 runs, 52 stolen bases in 59 attempts and 152 total bases on his way to being named the Nationals’ 2022 Minor League Base Runner of the Year.

Young was one of two players in all of Minor League Baseball to steal at least 50 bases and score at least 100 runs in 2022. His 118 runs scored were tied for the most in all of the minor leagues, while his 52 stolen bases were the most among Nationals minor leaguers.

The 24-year-old started this season at High-A Wilmington, where he hit .307 and stole 22 bags in 56 games. That earned him a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, where he hit .304 with an .805 OPS and 17 stolen bases in 52 games.

Even with top prospects James Wood and Robert Hassell III patrolling the Senators outfield with him, Young was still the standout prospect in Harrisburg.

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Crews staying present even after quick promotion: "Be where my feet are"

Dylan Crews Fredericksburg red

It was a race against time. We knew last week was the perfect opportunity to go see Dylan Crews.

The No. 2 overall pick was either going to be playing about an hour south of D.C. at Virginia Credit Union Stadium with Single-A Fredericksburg or about an hour and half north at Ripken Stadium, where High-A Wilmington was facing the Aberdeen IronBirds (Orioles).

Either way, last week was probably going to be our best chance to see the Nationals’ newest top prospect play locally before he possibly moved two-plus hours away to Double-A Harrisburg, who don’t come back to the area to play the Bowie Baysox (Orioles) anymore this year, or even 6 ½ hours away to Triple-A Rochester before the end of the minor league season.

So Amy Jennings and I considered ourselves lucky when “MASN All Access” arrived in Fredericksburg last week and Crews was still there wearing FredNats gear.

“It's all kind of happening so fast, honestly,” Crews said of the weeks leading up to his first taste of professional baseball. “From the national championship to getting drafted and having to go to Florida for training for a little bit and then getting promoted here. It's an awesome feeling. But it's been hard to kind of soak everything in. It's just been one just fun ride for these past few weeks.”

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Source: Crews to Harrisburg, Morales and Pinckney to Wilmington

Dylan Crews Fredericksburg

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – As they showcase themselves before a national audience for the first time this season, the Nationals are moving their top picks from this summer’s draft a step closer to the big league stage, including a big jump for their No. 1 prospect.

The Nats are promoting outfielder Dylan Crews to Double-A Harrisburg, a source familiar with the decision confirmed, after the No. 2 overall pick dominated at Single-A Fredericksburg in his professional debut.

Crews hit a robust .351 with five homers, 24 RBIs and a 1.073 OPS in only 13 games with Fredericksburg, proving more than capable of competing at that level only months after he led LSU to the College World Series title.

The fact the Nationals are bumping Crews up to Double-A, skipping the High-A level altogether, underscores how advanced they believe he is, not to mention how soon they believe the 21-year-old could be big league ready.

Crews will join a Harrisburg lineup already loaded with top prospects, including outfielders James Wood and Robert Hassell III and third baseman Brady House.

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Crews tops latest Nats prospect ranking

Dylan Crews Fredericksburg

MLB Pipeline released its midseason rankings of the top 100 prospects in baseball and the top 30 for each major league team, adding the 2023 draft class and trade deadline moves, and there’s no surprise who tops the Nationals’ list.

Dylan Crews, the No. 2 overall pick out of LSU, is the Nationals’ new top prospect, coming in at No. 1 on the team’s top 30 and No. 4 overall in the sport.

The outfielder was MLB Pipeline’s top-rated position player in this year’s draft, so it’s no wonder they hold him in high regard. But it was going to be a close call between him and fellow outfielder James Wood, who has been the Nats’ top prospect since the end of last season.

Wood is now the Nats No. 2 prospect (such a big drop) and the No. 7 overall prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline. Both he and Crews have a major league ETA of 2024.

Third baseman Brady House is now the Nats’ No. 3 prospect while also becoming one of the highest-ranking newcomers in the top 100, landing at No. 43 after his promotion to Double-A Harrisburg earlier this summer. He rounds out the Nationals prospects in the top 100.

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Meneses blasts Nats to bounceback win in nightcap (updated)

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PHILADELPHIA – After an 8-4 loss in the doubleheader opener – in which the Phillies hit four home runs to the Nationals’ two – the plan for Washington in the nightcap was simple: keep the ball in the yard. And if you can continue to hit them out yourself, even better.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, home runs played a big role in the second game.

The Nationals were able to homer to take an early lead, homer to tie the game late and then homer to win 5-4 in the nightcap in front of 40,264 fans at Citizens Bank Park.

"As I always say, this team just keeps battling," manager Davey Martinez said after the second game. "You play hard for 27 outs, anything can happen in this ballpark. You just got to try to get the ball in the air."

Facing a 4-2 deficit thanks to a Bryce Harper two-run home run and Bryson Stott RBI single in the fifth, Joey Meneses responded with a two-run shot of his own in the seventh.

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After weekend sweep, Nats fall flat vs. Rockies (updated)

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Remember how everything went so well for the Nationals over the weekend? How they played crisp, clean, aggressive, winning baseball against the contending Giants and emerged with their first three-game sweep in more than two years?

Well, the Nats took the field tonight looking to keep those positive vibes going against the National League’s worst team and proceeded not to do anything they did well the previous three days.

During the course of a 10-6 loss to the Rockies, the Nationals looked nothing like the best version of themselves that had just been on display. They got a poor start out of Patrick Corbin. They did next-to-nothing at the plate against a couple of unheralded Colorado pitchers. They were charged with two errors in the field. They ran into one of the most egregious outs on the bases you’ll see all year. They were called for a balk when the pitcher turned to make a pickoff attempt at first base only to realize the runner wasn’t being held on.

"We made some mistakes," manager Davey Martinez said. "A couple of mistakes uncharacteristic to ourselves."

So it was the Nats failed to pull off their first four-game winning streak since June 27-30, 2021, back when Kyle Schwarber was launching home runs and Trea Turner was hitting for the cycle for a ballclub that believed it could compete for another World Series title.

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Crews' college coach on Nats' newest prospect

Dylan Crews Jay Johnson

Dylan Crews will soon arrive at the Nationals’ spring training facility in West Palm Beach and start getting acclimated to his new organization. It will be a two-way street of him getting to know his new coaches and the coaches getting to know their new player.

Someone who already knows Crews well as a player and as a person is his college coach: LSU head coach Jay Johnson.

Johnson, who attended Crews’ introductory press conference on Saturday donning a purple sports coat, was beaming while talking about the second of his former players who went Nos. 1-2 overall in this year’s draft.

“I think it’s the combination (of) that's an elite player, that’s an elite person,” Johnson said of Crews to a group of gathered media members at the conclusion of the press conference. “I think if you stack up his three seasons of college performance, you’d be hard pressed to find anybody any better. But there’s this humility that he plays with, this edge that he plays with, this ability to lift everybody up and make everybody else around him better on top of these baseball tools that show up every single day to help his team win. I mean, it’s a truly special player. After not going number one, there was really no decision, probably, for Washington to select him.”

Johnson’s first head coaching job came in 2014 at the University of Nevada. After two seasons with the Wolfpack, he accepted the gig at the University of Arizona, where he coached for six seasons before leaving to become the head coach at LSU in 2021.

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Crews introduced as Nats' newest "keystone" player

Dylan Crews Mike Rizzo intro

It was another monumental day for the Nationals franchise and its future.

After making the signing official, the organization officially introduced No. 2 overall pick Dylan Crews as its latest highly touted prospect.

“Another exciting day here at Nationals Park,” said general manager Mike Rizzo to begin the introductory press conference in front of members of the Lerner family, Crews family and local media. “Over the years that I've been here, we've been here many times and few occasions can match the excitement that we have today. To get into the organization one of the most decorated, accomplished, winning-type of players in collegiate history to join the Washington Nationals is a special occasion for us.

The Nationals made the LSU outfielder the No. 2 selection of the 2023 MLB Draft two weeks ago. Crews reportedly signed a deal worth $9 million, the highest ever given to a position player in the bonus slot era of the draft. His college teammate, Paul Skenes, set the overall record with a $9.2 million bonus as the Pirates’ No. 1 overall pick.

Jim Callis of MLB.com reported the final number.

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Top Nats prospects excited to welcome Crews to crew (presser today)

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As we await the official announcement that Dylan Crews has signed his deal with the Nationals, some top prospects are anxiously awaiting to welcome the No. 2 overall pick into the minor league system.

The New York Post’s Jon Heyman reported yesterday that Crews agreed to a deal worth about $9 million, which is over the slot value of $8,988,500. Now it’s just a matter of the team making the announcement.

While in Bowie this week, some of the top prospects in the organization with Double-A Harrisburg were excited to see the Nats select the Golden Spikes Award winner in the first round.

“I thought it was awesome. I was watching it,” said Brady House, the Nats’ No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline and 2021 first-round pick. “I did a couple of events in high school that were like (Team) USA and all that stuff that Dylan was part of too. So I watched him all throughout his college career especially. I did a lot of watching LSU baseball this year. So I love to see it and I'm happy that he's with our organization.”

Crews is already ranked by some outlets in the top five of their top 100 prospects lists, joining the Nats’ current top prospect James Wood as two of the highest ranked outfielders in the game.

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Harvey not too concerned with latest elbow injury (Crews agrees to terms)

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There was serious cause for concern when Hunter Harvey saw his fastball velocity drop and then reported soreness in the back of his triceps on Saturday in St. Louis.

Given his injury history and importance to the back end of the bullpen, the Nationals were extra cautious with their closer, sending him home early to get an MRI on his right elbow.

The results showed a mild right elbow strain, which was considered the best-case scenario by the team. When speaking with reporters for the first time since he landed on the 15-day injured list (retroactive to July 16), Harvey didn’t seem too concerned with his latest setback.

“Just getting a little more sore than normal,” Harvey said in front of his locker before tonight’s series opener against the Giants. “The only good thing about being hurt as much as I have been, you kind of know the difference between normal soreness and stuff you don’t want to have. It’s something we jumped on early, which is good because I didn’t jump on it early last year and it cost me a couple months. So these few weeks should be good.”

The 28-year-old right-hander has dealt with his fair share of injuries throughout his career. This is his fifth trip to the major league injured list since 2020. He had a handful of injuries before his big league debut in 2019 with the Orioles, including Tommy John surgery in 2016.

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Second-half storylines aplenty for Nationals

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There was no baseball Wednesday. It’s the first time that was the case since mid-February, before pitchers and catchers reported to Florida and Arizona. It’s nice to have a little break from the action, I suppose, but it’s not something you want to experience for too long.

Fortunately, the season starts up again Friday. The Nationals will open the second half in St. Louis, then head to Chicago after that before returning home. They’ve already played 90 games, more than 55 percent of the season. But there is still much to come before everyone packs up for good after the Oct. 1 finale in Atlanta.

Let’s run through the biggest storylines of the second half for the Nats. Some of these take place on the field. Some of them take place off the field. All of them are significant in one way or another …

PROGRESS FROM THE YOUNG GUYS?
From the outset, this season always was about the development and progression of any young core players who figure into the team’s long-term plan. That means MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray, CJ Abrams, Keibert Ruiz and Luis García, among others. What can we expect to see from those guys the rest of the way? Can Gore get more consistent and get to, say, 26-28 starts and 130-140 innings before the Nats decide he’s had enough? Can Gray continue what he did in the first half and finish with 32-34 starts and 170-plus innings for the first time? Can Abrams stick in the leadoff position (he looked good in his first three games there)? Can Ruiz start getting some of those hard-hit balls to fall, and show real progress behind the plate? Can García get more selective at the plate and more consistent at second base? There’s very little else that can happen on the field the rest of the season that matters more than all that.

WHO GETS TRADED AT THE DEADLINE?
We are less than three weeks away from the Aug. 1 trade deadline, and though the Nationals aren’t going to be headliners like they were the last two years, they could still be quite active. Jeimer Candelario seems the likeliest candidate to be dealt, but can Corey Dickerson do enough to make himself worthwhile to a contender as well? Is Mike Rizzo willing to part with any or all of his controllable, late-inning relievers (Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, Carl Edwards Jr.)? Is Lane Thomas part of the plan moving forward or a prime “sell high” candidate? And would there actually be a taker out there for Patrick Corbin? Rizzo may not be able to reshape his entire farm system like he did last summer, but he can make moves that will benefit the club in the long run if he plays his cards right.

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Nats focus on college experience in 2023 draft

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The 2023 MLB Draft is over and the Nationals have their new class of young prospects.

The Nats made 20 picks in this week’s draft, highlighted by No. 2 overall selection Dylan Crews, the highly touted outfielder from Louisiana State University and Golden Spikes Award winner.

Of their 20 selections, the Nats drafted three outfielders, four infielders, two catchers, nine right-handers and two left-handers. They drafted 18 players from the college ranks and two high school players.

Nine of the players the Nationals drafted in the first 10 rounds came from college programs, with righty Travis Sykora, taken in the third round, the lone exception.

“There were a lot of college bats, a lot of really good college hitters. Not a lot of pitching,” vice president of scouting Kris Kline said. “You had three or four college pitchers, so there wasn't a ton of depth. Those guys were gonna fly off the board fast. There were a lot of high school kids as well. But yeah, it was an unusual year as far as the depth of the college hitters, position players went.”

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Crews selection shouldn't feel like a letdown

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There was a natural reaction for some to Sunday’s news the Nationals drafted Dylan Crews of disappointment. Not because the Nats made a mistake taking the LSU center fielder with the No. 2 overall pick, but because the Pirates prevented them from taking Paul Skenes by making the LSU ace the No. 1 pick in the country.

For months, we kept hearing about the perfect couple the Nationals and Skenes would make. Fans and club officials alike were formulating 2024 rotations in their minds. Players openly talked about welcoming him into their clubhouse next spring and then showing the 21-year-old he wasn’t quite ready for the big leagues yet.

Of course Skenes was going to wind up a National. How could he not?

So when the announcement came shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday that the Pirates had selected him, the subsequent selection of Crews felt like some kind of letdown.

News flash: It shouldn’t feel that way. The Nationals just got themselves a bona fide No. 1 pick with the No. 2 pick, one of the most accomplished college players ever, as much of a slam-dunk prospect as you’re ever going to find.

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In Crews, Nats get experienced college bat

Dylan Crews LSU yellow swing

The Nationals knew they were going to get their pick of the best position player or the best pitcher when they went on the clock for the No. 2 overall selection in the 2023 MLB Draft.

When Louisiana State University right-hander Paul Skenes went off the board to the Pirates at No. 1, it was clear the Nats were going to land the best position player in fellow LSU Tiger Dylan Crews.

The accolades for the outfielder are nearly endless.

He was the No. 1 draft prospect per Baseball America and No. 2 per MLB Pipeline. He was the recipient of the Golden Spikes Award and Rawlings/American Baseball Coaches Association Gold Glove while winning the national championship with LSU this year. He was a consensus first-team All-American, Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and named to the SEC All-Defensive Team in 2022 and 2023.

By being named the SEC’s best player for the second straight season, he became the first player to win the award in consecutive years.

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Nats draft LSU outfielder Crews after Pirates take Skenes (updated)

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In the end, the Nationals didn’t get to make the choice for themselves. The Pirates did it for them.

When Pittsburgh went with right-hander Paul Skenes as the No. 1 pick in this tonight’s Major League Baseball Draft, the Nats made the easy decision to follow with his LSU teammate, award-winning center fielder Dylan Crews, as the No. 2 selection. In the process, the organization used its first draft slot on a position player for only the seventh time in 11 years, though for the third consecutive year.

The Nationals later selected another position player, University of Miami third baseman Yohandy Morales, with the first pick of the second round.

General manager Mike Rizzo, vice president of scouting Kris Kline and their team thought they might wind up having to choose between Skenes or Crews if the Pirates went for a potential cost-saving move and took Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford or Indiana high school outfielder Max Clark with the top pick.

That scenario, which was speculated all week, never came to fruition. Pittsburgh wasn’t scared off by the injury risk of a power pitcher like Skenes and went ahead and drafted the flame-throwing ace anyway.

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As draft day arrives, will Nats have to make the ultimate decision?

davey and rizzo sitting

Since they arrived in Washington nearly two decades ago, the Nationals have been in this position – owners of one of the top two picks in the Major League Baseball Draft – twice. In each case, they owned the No. 1 pick. And in each case, they drafted a generational talent whose name and reputation were already well-known throughout the sport.

Tonight, they’re back in this position for the first time since 2009-10, when they selected Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper and set a course toward an eight-year run of success and an eventual World Series title.

It’s not the No. 1 pick this time around. But if ever there was a year to have the No. 2 pick, this appears to be it. No matter who they end up with, the Nationals are going to draft a player every notable expert insists is good enough to be the No. 1 player selected in the country. Not to mention one who should find himself on a fast track to the big leagues.

“This pick could be somebody that changes us really quick, within one or two years,” manager Davey Martinez recently admitted. “It’s definitely exciting how this is all going to work out.”

There was little drama the last time the Nats were here. Everybody knew Strasburg was the choice in 2009, and everybody knew Harper was the pick in 2010. That’s not the case this time.

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Crews, Skenes or Langford: Three top experts weigh in

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We are now only nine days from the 2023 Draft, one that not only features some of the best top-tier talent the sport has seen in a long time, but one that also sees the Nationals with one of the top picks for the first time in a long time.

The Nats don’t own the No. 1 pick like they did in 2009 and 2010, but if there’s ever a year to be satisfied with not owning the No. 1 pick, this is it. As many as five players are viewed by experts as No. 1 talents: LSU outfielder Dylan Crews, LSU right-hander Paul Skenes, Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford and high school outfielders Walker Jenkins and Max Clark.

Because they pick second, the Nationals are at the mercy of the Pirates, who have their choice of the entire field. Most experts believe Pittsburgh will take one of the two LSU stars who just won the Men’s College World Series, but there remain valid rumblings they could prefer Langford or one of the high schoolers because of the money they’d save and be able to apply to later-round picks.

The Nats have been widely connected to both Skenes and Crews, with maybe an outside chance they take Langford instead. There’s little buzz about them drafting a high school player with this pick.

So in all likelihood, general manager Mike Rizzo, longtime vice president of scouting Kris Kline and their team of evaluators are going to be selecting someone who played in last weekend’s much ballyhooed national championship series in Omaha. All possess elite skills, all are experienced and all are expected to reach the major leagues in short order.

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