Starting lineups: Nats vs. Astros in West Palm Beach

James Wood spring training 2

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Nationals’ top prospects have been given a good amount of playing time early this spring, but most of that time has come later in games, when they’re facing minor league pitchers. That changes today, because Davey Martinez has four of the kids in the starting lineup against an accomplished major leaguer.

James Wood, Dylan Crews, Robert Hassell III and Trey Lipscomb are all in there, set to face Astros right-hander José Urquidy in what should be their biggest challenge to date. Their performance in this one game isn’t going to make or break their spring, but it does give club officials a little more evidence of their readiness against top competition.

Speaking of tough challenges, Zach Davies today will have to face most of the Astros’ “A” lineup. Davies, the veteran right-hander trying to make the club on a minor league deal, will need to keep his sinker down in the zone and hope to induce some ground balls out of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez and Co. if he wants to make a good first impression.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. HOUSTON ASTROS
Where:
CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EST
TV: MLB Network, MLB.tv (Astros feed)
Radio: MLB.com (Astros feed)
Weather: Sunny, 76 degrees, wind 12 mph out to left field

NATIONALS
DH Lane Thomas
SS Ildemaro Vargas
RF James Wood
1B Joey Meneses
3B Jake Alu
CF Dylan Crews
C Riley Adams
LF Robert Hassell III
2B Trey Lipscomb

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Marlins in Jupiter

James Wood spring training 1

JUPITER, Fla. – The first game of the spring is always a big event, everyone excited to get started and watch real baseball. Now, though, the grind begins.

The Nationals play their first road game this afternoon, making the short 15-minute drive north to Jupiter to face the Marlins. They’ll do so with a very different lineup from Saturday night’s opener.

Joey Meneses is the only returning starter, getting a chance to play first base after serving as designated hitter Saturday. James Wood, who homered off the bench, gets a chance to start in right field. And fellow prospect Trey Lipscomb also starts at second base, a nice opportunity for him to show what he can do. Riley Adams will do the catching after Keibert Ruiz and Drew Millas worked Saturday night.

MacKenzie Gore makes the start for the Nats, hoping to complete his two innings in a much more efficient manner than Patrick Corbin did in the opener. As was the case Saturday, there will be another starter coming out of the bullpen today, with Jake Irvin following Gore and scheduled to pitch two innings himself. Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey are among the relievers on tap.

And another note: Jen Pawol, hoping to become the first female umpire in MLB history, will be calling balls and strikes today after handling the bases Saturday night.

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With focus on defense, Lipscomb fitting in at first big league camp

Lipscomb Wood Hassell spring training

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Trey Lipscomb hadn’t been invited to major league spring training before this year, but you would never know it with the way he comfortably sits at his locker among his fellow top prospects at the front of the Nationals’ spring training clubhouse.

Dylan Crews, James Wood, Brady House and Robert Hassell III occupy the first four lockers by the front door, with Darren Baker, Lipscomb and Nasim Nuñez next down the line.

That’s a lot of young pedigree to be included in, but Lipscomb has earned the right to be there with them.

The 2022 third-round pick out of the University of Tennessee was arguably one of the most consistent bats on the Nats farm last year. After a mid-June promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, the 23-year-old slashed .284/.310/.438 with a .748 OPS, 15 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs and 45 RBIs with the Senators.

“First full season, enjoyed it,” he said looking back on his 2023 campaign. “I was blessed enough, fortunate enough to play every day, stay healthy, so knock on wood that's still there. But it was fun. You learn some things that you don't learn in college like playing six games a week. In college, you play three, maybe four a week. But playing six games a week and just learning things about your body, it's really cool to see during the season.”

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Lipscomb proved his worth with versatility

Trey Lipscomb Harrisburg defense

PROSPECT REVIEW: TREY LIPSCOMB

Age on opening day 2024: 23

How acquired: Drafted in third round in 2022 from the University of Tennessee

Ranking: No. 14 per MLB Pipeline, No. 15 per Baseball America

MLB ETA: 2025
* Projected by MLB Pipeline

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2023 Nats All-Prospect team

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Now that the 2023 season is a wrap, we’ve taken broad looks at the year that was for the Nationals. Individual player reviews will start coming out on a daily basis this week, with Mark Zuckerman handling the major league roster and me taking a look at some of the top prospects.

But before we take a deeper dive into each player's performance, I wanted to have one overarching view of the minor league system in the form of a fun exercise.

Overall, the Nats’ minor league system did not fare too well this year in terms of win-loss records. The Dominican Summer League Nationals finished 11-39, the Florida Complex League Nationals 24-25, Single-A Fredericksburg 65-63, High-A Wilmington 55-75, Double-A Harrisburg 59-77 and Triple-A Rochester 66-80.

But among those results, there were some really strong individual performances.

“The best part of the minor league season was that all the players that we really were looking forward to take a step forward, we believe have,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We think that was a success in that regard.”

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Nats announce 2023 Minor League Award winners

James Wood Harrisburg red

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.

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

Dylan Crews LSU yellow swing

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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House settling into new home in Harrisburg

Brady-House-Harrisburg-2

BOWIE, Md. – The Nationals have added another top prospect to Double-A Harrisburg’s roster. If you squint really hard, you can see the potential lineup of the next competitive team in Washington.

Just over a month after he reached High-A Wilmington for the first time, Brady House was promoted to Harrisburg earlier this week.

“It was an awesome feeling getting the call up,” House said ahead of his second Double-A game against the Bowie Baysox (Orioles) on Wednesday. “I'm sure everyone is happy and excited whenever they get the news that they're moving up somewhere. Just getting here and getting used to things and figuring things out and how they work around here, it's been nice so far. It's been a lot of fun so far.”

The Nats’ No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline and No. 3 per Baseball America, House needed only 16 games with Wilmington before earning his next promotion. Over his two weeks in High-A ball, he slashed .317/.368/.540 with a .908 OPS, five doubles, three home runs, 13 RBIs and three stolen bases.

He wasn’t even there long enough to realize how quickly he moved on.

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Homegrown House and Lipscomb earn promotions

Brady House Wilmington

When it comes to the Nationals’ farm, a lot of attention turns to James Wood and Robert Hassell III. And rightfully so as they are the top two prospects in the organization and two of the five that came back in the blockbuster Juan Soto trade.

But there are other top prospects making moves in the minor league system who were here even before that trade.

Brady House and Trey Lipscomb can both be found on top 30 Nats prospects rankings by many outlets. And both played well enough to start the season to rise the ranks of the minor leagues.

Less than two weeks after Wood earned a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, House was promoted to High-A Wilmington and Lipscomb to Harrisburg, the first tastes of those levels for both prospects.

“Two of our young prospects,” Nats manager Davey Martinez said Friday of the promotions. “Brady has been swinging the bat really well, so he gets promoted up to Wilmington. And then Lipscomb, who I really liked in spring training, can play the field and swing the bat as well. He gets the opportunity to go to Double-A and see what he can do in Double-A.”

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Quiet Wood is secretly the funny leader of talented Wilmington roster

James-Wood-Wilmington

WILMINGTON, Del. – James Wood is quiet for his size. At 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, one would think he would have just as big and loud of a personality.

That could also be assumed given he is the Nationals’ newest top prospect and one of the highest-ranked minor league players in all of baseball.

But that is far from the case for this 20-year-old. Since coming to the Nationals last summer in the blockbuster Juan Soto trade with the Padres, Wood has been nothing but humble, reserved and soft-spoken.

At least in the eyes of the media.

According to his teammates at High-A Wilmington, Wood is one of their leaders while also being one of the funniest guys on the team.

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Nats' plans for pitchers and prospects in Lakeland

davey martinez staring

LAKELAND, Fla. – Three-hour bus rides are less common in spring training now. But every once in a while, they pop up on the schedule to a collective groan from the clubhouse.

The Nationals have grown accustomed to playing a majority of their Grapefruit League games within a 45-minute drive of their West Palm Beach home over the past seven springs. But today they find themselves in Lakeland after a 6:45 a.m. bus departure and ahead of a three-hour trip back tonight.

These long trips usually bring a lot of minor league players, with veteran major leaguers able to stay back and get their work in at the home complex.

The Nats are essentially going with a bullpen game, even though most of today’s pitchers are being stretched out as starters. Chad Kuhl will start the game, with Thaddeus Ward, Anthony Banda, Jake Irvin and Jackson Rutledge set to follow, each scheduled to pitch about two innings.

“These guys are gonna get stretched out,” manager Davey Martinez said. “Irvin, I think, is gonna go two-plus. Rutledge, try to get two out of him, too. Kuhl will get two innings as well. These are guys I want to see, so it will be nice to get them out there and compete.”

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Nats make first camp cuts, prospects make trip to Jupiter

Adon throwing gray

JUPITER, Fla. – Things are starting to heat up at Nationals spring training as today is the first of 20 straight days with games before the end of camp.

With no more off-days before the team departs for D.C. and a handful of players away from camp over the next few weeks to participate in the World Baseball Classic, the Nationals need to start ramping up their regulars. That means less playing time for younger players who were longshots to make the team anyways.

The Nationals announced their first round of cuts this morning, removing 14 players from major league spring training.

Right-hander Joan Adon was optioned to Triple-A Rochester, and nine players were reassigned to minor league camp: right-handers Zach Brzykcy, Gerardo Carrillo, Anthony Castro, Tommy Romero and Jackson Tetreault; left-handers Alberto Baldonado, Evan Lee, Francisco Perez; catcher Brady Lindsly; infielders Lucius Fox and Erick Mejia; and outfielders Yasel Antuna, Donovan Casey and Derek Hill.

Brzykcy (forearm), Hill (hamstring) and Tetreault (scapula) are rehabbing injuries.

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Draft tracker: Nats make Day 2 picks of 2022 draft (final update)

bennett ou

The second day of the 2022 MLB Draft is underway, with the Nationals set to make eight picks between the third and 10th rounds this afternoon.

They started this year’s draft by selecting 18-year-old outfielder Elijah Green out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The son of former NFL tight end Eric Green, he is said to potentially be “an impactful superstar,” according to longtime assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline.

In the second round, the Nats selected left-hander Jake Bennett out of the University of Oklahoma. They got their big starting pitcher in Bennett, who is listed as 6-foot-6 with a wingspan over 70 inches on the mound. The Nats previously drafted Bennett out of Bixby (Okla.) High School in the 39th round of the 2019 draft, but the southpaw decided to follow high school teammate and current top prospect Cade Cavalli to Norman. They are now reunited in the Nats farm system.

Then they turned their attention to the eight picks on Monday, and by the end of the afternoon, the Nats had eight more prospects for their minor league system.

“I thought it went really, really well," Kline said on a Zoom call with reporters after the conclusion of the 10th round. "It was one of those drafts where it was a position-player-heavy draft. And so the pitchers you wanted, you either got them or you didn't. You ID'd them early. Some of them were hurt. Some of them were healthy and got hurt. Some were hurt and got healthy. It was just one of those years.”

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