Prospects at instructional league visited Nats in Miami

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As the major league regular season enters its last week, the lower level of the minor leagues have already wrapped up their 2022 campaigns.

In the Nationals system, only Triple-A Rochester is still playing games with their season finale coming tomorrow afternoon. Double-A Harrisburg, High-A Wilmington, Single-A Fredericksburg and the Rookie-level Florida Complex League are done playing games and now see some of their top players come together for the instructional league camp at the Nationals’ facility in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Robert Hassell III, Elijah Green, James Wood, Jarlin Susana and Jackson Rutledge are among some of the top prospects taking part in instructs. A lot of the future faces of this franchise are all together for their first camp since many of them came to the franchise via this summer’s draft and trade deadline moves.

Just an hour away in West Palm, the group of players made a trip down to visit the Nationals over the weekend in Miami. General manager Mike Rizzo, director of player development De Jon Watson and manager Davey Martinez were among some of the heads in the organization to address the young players.

“Yeah, I spoke to them all and I talked to them for a little while,” Martinez said. “It was good to actually get in front of them and see some of those guys. Some of the guys I've seen before but congratulate them for being there. I mean, when you get to instructional league, it's kind of like the guys are handpicked to be there and get some more instruction. And I told them to keep working hard and kind of be the cream of the crop, really. And keep working. I mean, the door's wide open right now for you guys and we're looking at players and keep pushing. Be the best and keep putting up the numbers and have fun.”

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Wood relishes representing his hometown on Nats farm

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FREDERICKSBURG, Va. – James Wood grew up about an hour away from Nationals Park in Olney, Md. He attended Nationals games while starting his high school career as a two-sport athlete at St. John’s College High School in D.C. before transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., to focus on baseball.

When the Padres drafted him in the second round of last summer’s MLB Draft, he moved even further away from his hometown. But a little over a year later at this summer’s trade deadline, Wood found himself on his way back to his original neck of the woods as part of the five-prospect package the Padres put together to acquire Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Nationals.

Wood entered the Nats system and was assigned to low Single-A Fredericksburg, which operates about an hour and half south of D.C. and places him back in a familiar region. And familiar traffic issues.

“It's nice. I'm like, what, I'm gonna say like an hour and 30 minutes (from home),” Wood said outside the FredNats clubhouse in left field at Virginia Credit Union Stadium. “I mean it really just depends on traffic. Like it could be an hour and 20 (minutes) to two hours. But just being able to really go home, if I need something from home, be able to stop by on off-day, just having my family here just about every game, it's real nice. So, I'm glad to be back home, glad to be close to family, close to home, all that stuff.”

Some players need an adjustment period when traded from one organization to another. Rarely do young prospects land near the city in which they grew up.

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Robert Hassell III promoted to Double-A Harrisburg

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After CJ Abrams was promoted to make his Nationals debut on Monday, another prospect from the trade of Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres is rising through the ranks of the farm system.

Robert Hassell III was promoted from high Single-A Wilmington to Double-A Harrisburg today, as the Senators open a six-game homestand against the Erie SeaWolves (Tigers).

Currently the Nationals’ No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Hassell started 0-for-16 with the Blue Rocks before recording his first hit in the eighth inning of his fifth game in the Nats system. That started an 8-for-21 (.381) stretch over his next five games, including a 3-for-4 outing with two RBIs on Friday and a 2-for-4 game on Saturday.

Hassell, who turned 21 on Monday, finished 8-for-38 (.211) with a double, three RBIs, six walks and a perfect 3-for-3 in stolen bases at Wilmington.

The promotion to Harrisburg is a trickle-down effect from some roster moves at Triple-A Rochester aside from Abrams.

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Hassell staying present while looking forward to future with Nats

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WILMINGTON, Del. – Robert Hassell III, like many of us, was surprised when he heard his name mentioned in a potential trade package for Juan Soto just 11 days ago.

He was sitting in his apartment in Fort Wayne, Ind. when he received the call from Padres general manager A.J. Preller, who told him that he was included with four fellow prospects and Luke Voit in a deal for Soto and Josh Bell.

The trade was made official later that day and Hassell packed his bags to head to the Nationals’ affiliate at high Single-A Wilmington.

The No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft made his debut with the Blue Rocks two days later, batting third and playing center field. He went 0-for-5, starting an 0-for-16 stretch to begin his career with the Nationals.

But that didn’t weigh heavy on his mind. He was still processing the trade and trying to get acclimated to his new team.

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New prospect rankings reflect Nats’ revamped farm system

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After the Nationals lost their seventh of their last eight games yesterday, it would seem now is a good time to look at some recent prospect rankings.

We’ll be doing this a lot over the coming months and even seasons, so be sure to stay tuned.

The Nationals revamped their farm system and entered a full rebuild after trading their best players at back-to-back trade deadlines and signed 19 of their 20 picks in last month’s MLB Draft.

And national publications are taking notice of the new prospects in the Nats’ minor league system.

Baseball America released their updated prospect rankings earlier this week, the top 30 for each major league club and the top 100 overall.

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Martinez intrigued by new young talent in Nats system

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PHILADELPHIA – It’s a demanding job being a major league manager. All the pressure in the world lies on your shoulders. You don’t get enough credit when you win and you get all of the blame when you lose.

For eight to nine months of the year, Davey Martinez has to worry about the 26 players he has on the Nationals’ active roster. He often even has to worry about the guys that make up the 40-man roster and some of the players in the upper levels of the minor league system.

Needless to say, this is a busy time of year for Martinez. He has his plate totally full.

But even he can’t help himself in checking out the new young prospects the Nationals received in the Juan Soto-Josh Bell trade with the Padres on Tuesday. Three of the five prospects – outfielder James Wood at low Single-A Fredericksburg, outfielder Robert Hassell III at high Single-A Wilmington and shortstop C.J. Abrams at Triple-A Rochester – made their organizational debuts over the last couple of days. And Martinez was impressed with what he saw.

“Yeah, as I said before, I got 26 guys here that I worry about,” Martinez said before Saturday’s game against the Phillies. “But it's good to see that these young guys are doing well. We got some guys, I check up on all our guys. We got some guys down there that are having really good years, and that's really, really good to see.”

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Gray crushed by longball, Nats avoid perfect game bid in loss

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PHILADELPHIA – Josiah Gray came into his 20th start of the season tonight looking to rebound from a tough July and continue his success against the Phillies.

The right-hander posted a 6.75 ERA over five starts in July, capped off by allowing four runs in five innings Sunday against the Cardinals. He posted a 1.13 ERA in four June starts.

He also handled this Phillies lineup well the first two times facing it this season with ​​six shutout innings on June 18 and an 11-strikeout performance on July 6. 

Neither the rebound nor the Philly success presented itself tonight, as Gray was rocked by the Phillies en route to a 7-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park.

It started right from the get-go as Gray gave up three home runs in a single inning for the first time in his career. Rhys Hoskins, just as he did in his fist at-bat last night against Paolo Espino, hit the second offering from Gray (a 93 mph fastball up in the zone) for a solo home run to left field.

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Clippard starting rehab, Thompson improving, Strange-Gordon released

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PHILADELPHIA – As the Nationals get ready for the second game of this four-game set against the Phillies, manager Davey Martinez provided some updates down on the farm at Triple-A Rochester.

Tyler Clippard begins his rehab assignment tonight with the Red Wings. The 37-year-old reliever was placed on the 15-day injured list on July 22 (retroactive to July 19) with a groin strain.

“He's gonna go and get ready, pitch down some games,” Martinez said of Clippard. “The biggest thing for me is, as we always talk about, is back-to-back days. We want him to be able to pitch two innings like he did when he came up here. So we got to see him do that. I know we're kind of in a different position, but you never know when it comes to the bullpen help. We always want to keep guys and if he's pitching well.”

The right-hander only pitched in one game with the Nationals after finally getting the call from Rochester. He pitched two scoreless innings against the Braves on July 14, his first appearances as a National since 2014. Clippard made 33 appearances with the Red Wings this year, going 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA and 1.211 WHIP.

Once healthy, Martinez envisions Clippard helping out at the major league level again.

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