PLAYER REVIEW: JACOB YOUNG
Age on Opening Day 2024: 24
How acquired: Seventh-round pick, 2021 Draft
MLB service time: 37 days
2023 salary: $720,000
PLAYER REVIEW: JACOB YOUNG
Age on Opening Day 2024: 24
How acquired: Seventh-round pick, 2021 Draft
MLB service time: 37 days
2023 salary: $720,000
ATLANTA – The 2023 Nationals didn’t have many defining characteristics, but here are two that stood out: 1) They were excellent at scoring runs in the first inning, and 2) They always battled through the ninth inning (and sometimes beyond).
That combo was on full display during today’s finale. The Nats jumped out to a quick lead, gave it back, then rallied late to re-take the lead and ultimately escape town with an uplifting, 10-9 victory over the Braves in Game 162.
Some of the least experienced players on the roster made it happen. Trailing by a run entering the ninth, rookie catcher Drew Millas drew a bases-loaded walk off Atlanta’s Michael Tonkin to tie the game. Moments later, rookie center fielder Jacob Young drilled a two-run single to not only give his team the lead, but give closer Kyle Finnegan a little bit of cushion for the bottom of the ninth.
"When those moments come as a young guy, you try to do your best and help your team," said Young, who was playing his 33rd big league game. "They're new situations for most of us. To experience those for the first time, you hopefully get used to them for the future."
And when Finnegan finished it off (in spite of a solo Marcell Ozuna homer and a subsequent Michael Harris II double), he secured his 28th save and the Nationals’ 71st victory, a 16-game improvement from the previous season that hasn’t been lost on the players, management or fans.
Nationals' general manager Mike Rizzo likes to create competition.
It’s something he talks about every spring training. Whether it’s bringing in an experienced veteran, a struggling journeyman or a rising prospect, the longtime GM has always believed the more competition the better,
He has brought that philosophy to the minor league farm system, as well, adding an influx of young talent over the past couple of years through the draft, trades and international free agent market.
Looking at the Nationals’ top 16 prospects per MLB Pipeline, 10 were drafted by the organization, five were acquired via trade and one was signed as an international free agent. Eight of them at one point played at Double-A Harrisburg, a handful of them together for an extended period of time.
“It's been good. Really just creating competition between those affiliates, like within the affiliates,” said Jackson Rutledge, who made his first 12 starts of the season with Harrisburg before eventually making his major league debut with the Nats two weeks ago. “Even in Harrisburg when we were there, we had so much talent there it was like guys were competing to see who was going to be the dude that week. And that changed from time to time. And I think that's always positive just to have internal competition in a healthy way. And I think we have that. Certainly, a lot of the pitching staffs I've been on there's been a 'Who's gonna be the top guy' sort of competition and I think that just creates a good training environment, a good competition environment. Something that's gonna be good for us.”
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and Jackson Rutledge will forever have to accept the disappointment that was his major league debut.
If he keeps doing what he’s done since that night in Pittsburgh, Rutledge will ensure fewer and fewer people remember that performance and instead focus on everything else he’s done on the mound for the Nationals.
With another impressive outing today, this time against the toughest lineup he’s faced to date, Rutledge put himself in position for his first major league win and watched his Nationals teammates finish off the Braves, 3-2, to take the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
The 6-foot-8 right-hander had no trouble with Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, Matt Olson and Co., tossing five innings of one-run ball on 86 pitches. He walked off the field to applause from an announced crowd of 31,989 that withstood on-and-off rain in what originally was supposed to be the Nats’ home finale but instead will be the penultimate game on South Capitol Street, with the makeup of Saturday’s rainout still to come at 6:35 p.m.
"It just tells me that I belong here," Rutledge said. "I can do it against ... one of the best lineups in baseball. I'm able to have success. That kind of gives me confidence moving forward."
As we get closer to the end of the season, a new season is upon us: award season.
The Nationals kicked things off yesterday by announcing their 2023 Minor League Award winners:
* Hitter of the Year – James Wood
* Pitcher of the Year – Andrew Alvarez
* Defensive Player of the Year – Trey Lipscomb
* Baserunner of the Year – Johnathon Thomas
* Nationals Way Award – Jacob Young
Wood, 21, led the Nats’ minor league system in most offensive categories by setting a lot of career highs: first in home runs (26), RBIs (91) and slugging percentage (.520); second in OPS (.873), doubles (28) and triples (eight); and third in hits (124).
The Nats’ No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline and Baseball America finished the season slashing .262/.353/.520 with 28 doubles, eight triples, 26 home runs, 91 RBIs, 65 walks, 18 stolen bases and 80 runs scored in 129 games between High-A Wilmington and Double-A Harrisburg.
The Nationals’ six-week surge this summer was keyed in large part by their ability to win the late innings of games, both at the plate and on the mound. Their more recent six-game slide has seen them lose games late on multiple occasions, reversing the trend.
So wouldn’t you know they finally snapped the losing streak by storming back to beat the Mets in walk-off fashion?
The fact one of their recent young call-ups delivered it only made this 3-2 win sweeter: Jacob Young’s chopper up the middle past a drawn-in infield scored Carter Kieboom from third and gave the Nats an opportunity to celebrate for the first time in a week.
"Right when I hit it, I kind of saw where I hit it, and it was a good spot," said the 24-year-old outfielder who opened the season at Single-A Wilmington and was promoted three times to reach the majors two weeks ago. "It felt great to look at the dugout, and everyone was already coming out. It's a great feeling to have all your boys running out at you."
On a record-setting September evening in the District – first-pitch temperature was 97 degrees, hottest for a game at Nationals Park since July 2012 – the Nats dug themselves into an early hole and went silent at the plate for six innings before finally waking up late.
For 94 consecutive games, Davey Martinez filled out a lineup that featured one of two names in the leadoff position: Lane Thomas or CJ Abrams. Since mid-May, there hadn’t been any reason for the Nationals manager to consider anyone else for that job.
But when both Thomas and Abrams needed the night off Tuesday, Martinez was left to select another name for one of the most prominent roles on the team. He chose Jacob Young, knowing the rookie had led off all year in the minors, not to mention throughout the majority of his baseball life.
And though there wasn’t much positive to take away from an 11-5 loss to the Mets, the young leadoff man’s performance did qualify.
Young wound up going 2-for-4 with a walk, an RBI, a double and two runs scored, showing off both his bat and his legs in a solid all-around game.
“He got ready a little earlier tonight, looking for balls in the strike zone,” Martinez said. “He laid off some really good pitches. I’ve known that about him. He’s really good about that, and he’s been leading off his whole career. We’ll see, if Lane can’t play tomorrow, we might let him lead off again.”
Precisely one week ago, Davey Martinez sat in his office at Rogers Centre and raved about the Nationals’ performance in a tense win over the Blue Jays, the latest in a string of impressive wins for this fast-improving ballclub.
"It was awesome for them to feel that adrenaline," the manager said that night. "That was a playoff game. That's what it felt like. Fans were into it. You had a good team on the other side there. The boys stepped up and played well. You can't ask for more than what they did today."
Oh, how long ago that feels now.
The Nationals team that was blown out 11-5 by the Mets tonight looked like it felt no adrenaline. It gave the crowd little reason to provide them with any extra energy. It spent two hours going through the motions of a lopsided game before putting up a bit of a fight late that nonetheless resulted in a sixth consecutive loss, further distancing itself from what felt like such an encouraging stretch of success just before it all came crashing down.
"Look, after the seventh inning, we're pretty good at scoring runs," Martinez said. "But we've got to get some runs early in the game. Especially when you're already down 4-0. To me, that's the big key. When you're in these games and all of a sudden you go down in the first inning, it sucks the air out of you. You're playing comeback. We've got to get through those first couple innings, score some runs early and often and then go from there."
TORONTO – Jacob Young veered slightly in and slightly to his right, calling off his left fielder to catch Daulton Varsho’s fairly routine fly ball to center for the second out of the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday night, looked up and saw Alejandro Kirk take off from third and came to a quick conclusion.
“There’s no one else on base,” he said. “So you can kind of let it fly.”
And let it fly he did. Standing 297 feet from the plate at the time he made the catch, Young fired a perfect strike to catcher Keibert Ruiz, who hauled it in and tagged the unsuspecting Kirk a split-second before his foot crossed the plate, all the while making sure not to block the runner’s path and risk getting called for obstruction.
Thus did the Nationals pull off a thrilling 8-2 double play to end the eighth with a two-run lead intact, the emotional high point of a 5-4 victory over the Blue Jays that also included a dramatic ninth-inning escape by closer Kyle Finnegan.
The ninth-inning jam made for the most harrowing moment of the night, but Young’s throw one inning prior was the moment everyone in the visitors’ clubhouse at Rogers Centre most wanted to talk about afterward.
TORONTO – While they’re certainly doing everything they can to try to keep winning as many games as they can, the Nationals are still using the final month-plus of this ever-encouraging season to evaluate young players who could (or already do) fit into the long-term plan around here.
When both sides of the equation come together like they did tonight in a tense, 5-4 victory over the Blue Jays, it’s a win-win for the organization.
"We're playing the best ball we've been playing all season," said closer Kyle Finnegan, who survived a harrowing bottom of the ninth. "For the young guys to be a part of it, and to see they can contribute to a playoff-type atmosphere, is great for them."
The Nationals not only bounced back from rare back-to-back losses and gave themselves a shot at a sixth consecutive series victory Wednesday afternoon. They did so thanks to the contributions of young players, two of them key pieces to the rebuild, one of them a surprising potential addition to the list after he seemingly had been written off, the other a recent call-up who made his presence known tonight with a big-time moment in the field.
MacKenzie Gore overcame a laborious first few innings to finish strong, allowing just one run over five innings to emerge with the win. Keibert Ruiz’s three-run homer proved the difference. Carter Kieboom’s two-run homer added another chapter to the third baseman’s growing comeback campaign. And Jacob Young’s 300-foot strike from center field to the plate completed a brilliant double play to end an eighth inning that was about to turn south on the Nats.
MIAMI – For the fourth straight game and fifth in the Nationals’ last six, Riley Adams will start behind the plate in Sunday’s finale against the Marlins.
As they go for a sweep of their division rival, the Nats continue to monitor Keibert Ruiz’s health after he took a foul tip off his face mask Wednesday in New York. Adams replaced him to catch the eighth inning, so this is actually his sixth straight game getting behind the dish in some capacity.
Ruiz was scratched from Thursday’s lineup because he felt lightheaded. He felt fine enough to be the designated hitter Friday night in Miami, but hasn’t been in the lineup since. Manager Davey Martinez said yesterday Ruiz spent most of Saturday morning at the dentist and was given some more time to recover.
“After talking to the medical staff last night, we just wanted to give him another day today and make sure that he's totally good so he could come back and get ready to go,” Martinez said during his pregame media session Sunday. “Riley Adams has been playing well. We just want to give him another day and make sure he's well and rested and ready to go tomorrow.”
The Nationals expect Ruiz, who has been in the clubhouse all weekend in his normal upbeat mood, to play in Monday’s opener in Toronto. The catcher is taking some new medication, which should take full effect in his system by tomorrow’s game against the Blue Jays.
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.
MIAMI – The Nationals have been playing great ball lately. After last night’s 7-4 win over the Marlins – their first of the season against the Fish and first in Miami since last season – they were in line to win their fifth straight series this afternoon.
A sign of their good play recently is the amount of close games they’ve been in. Four of their last five wins have been by just a one-run margin. These Nats are as scrappy as ever after making it five of their last six.
The Nationals won another tight game in front of 13,966 fans at loanDepot Park, this time thanks to a ninth-inning rally for a 3-2 win.
“That was a good one," said manager Davey Martinez. "That's a well-played game."
The Nats tied it in the ninth after Lane Thomas hit a leadoff triple to right-center and Joey Meneses was hit by a pitch, with Jacob Young making his major league debut as a pinch-runner at first. But Dominic Smith’s hard-hit ball was fielded by Luis Arraez, who then threw out Thomas at home. An infield popout by Carter Kieboom put two outs on the board.
MIAMI – It seemed like only a matter of time before the Nationals made another roster move. After Stone Garrett’s injury and subsequent successful surgery on his fractured left fibula, the Nats had a shortage of true outfielders and a surplus of infielders, whose versatility allows them to play the outfield in a pinch.
So to add an outfielder to their roster, the Nats brought up one of their fastest-rising prospects: Jacob Young.
“We wanted to get another outfielder up here and Jacob has done really well,” said manager Davey Martinez before the Nats’ second game against the Marlins. “He's one of our young, up-and-coming prospects that has developed really well down there in the minor leagues for us. So we're gonna give him an opportunity to play. He just got here today, so gonna ease him in. But I'm looking forward to watching him play up here and utilize everything he can do because he can do a lot of different things. He could play all three outfield positions. He's a leadoff-type guy. He gets on base, steals bases for us. He's got a lot of speed. But we're gonna ease his way in and hopefully he does well. As good as he's done in the minor leagues, he comes up here and can give us a little bit of a spark again.”
No, Young is not as highly touted as Dylan Crews, James Wood, Robert Hassell III, Elijah Green or Cristhian Vaquero, as he is the Nats’ No. 30 prospect per MLB Pipeline. But the 24-year-old has been one of the best hitters in the Nationals system, allowing him to quickly rise through the ranks.
A 2021 seventh-round pick out of the University of Florida, Young has hit wherever he’s been on the Nats farm. He is hitting .305 on the year with 21 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 58 RBIs, 42 walks, 39 stolen bases and 60 runs scored in 112 games between three levels of Washington’s minor league system.