The Nationals took one step closer to the start of spring training yesterday by announcing the first round of non-roster invitations to major league camp.
The first batch of invites includes top prospects Dylan Crews (No. 1 in Nats system per Baseball America), James Wood (No. 2), Brady House (No. 3), Robert Hassell III (No. 7), Trey Lipscomb (No. 16) and Darren Baker (No. 28), all of whom will be attending their first big league spring training.
Other non-roster players invited yesterday include outfielder Travis Blankenhorn, first baseman Lewin Diaz, left-hander Joe La Sorsa, catcher Brady Lindsly and first baseman/outfielder Juan Yepez.
Two weeks from today, Nationals pitchers and catchers will hold their first workout to start the 2024 campaign at the team’s facility in West Palm Beach. Six days later the first full-squad workout will take place.
As general manager Mike Rizzo looks to fill out the roster before the team convenes in a few weeks, which top prospects just missed out on a major league camp invite?
The Nats already added four prospects to the 40-man roster to protect them from last month’s Rule 5 draft: right-handers Zach Brzykcy and Cole Henry and left-handers DJ Herz and Mitchell Parker.
Other players who are still technically considered “prospects” but are on the 40-man include Cade Cavalli, Jackson Rutledge, Drew Millas, Nasim Nuñez and Jacob Young.
Some might look at various Nats prospect rankings and wonder why Elijah Green didn’t get an invite. Although the team is still high on the former first-round pick, he is only 20 years old and still very raw with his tools. After struggling at the plate and dealing with a wrist injury last year, Green needs to prove he’s healthy and get more experience before joining big league camp.
The same can be said for Cristhian Vaquero, whose raw abilities and inexperience are reasons for the 19-year-old to be held back for another season or two.
There also isn’t a lot of room in the outfield for those two, which also works against giving Daylen Lile an invite. The 21-year-old former second-round pick may struggle to find room among the outfielders on the Nats roster and farm. If he can advance up to Double-A this year, maybe he can earn an invite in 2025.
Jeremy De La Rosa is also affected by the crowded outfield. The 22-year-old got an invite last year, but he was dropped from the 40-man, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Rochester in November. He will need to prove that he can finally fulfill his potential at Double-A or Triple-A this year after only topping out at High-A in 2022 and 2023.
Israel Pineda was designated for assignment on Saturday to make room on the 40-man roster for Joey Gallo. If he passes through waivers and stays in the organization, he could provide depth at the catcher position. Pineda missed most of camp and the first half of the season last year with a broken pinky finger.
Yohandy Morales is an experienced college player and second-round pick who ascended to Double-A before the end of last season. But even with that and first-round pick Crews getting an invite, it may have been too early for the 22-year-old third baseman. Morales’ future position is yet to be determined; some figure he fits better at first base while others think his athleticism will allow him to stay at the hot corner. But there won’t be enough reps to go around at third with Nick Senzel, Carter Kieboom and House getting most of the playing time in camp. The Nats have time to figure out Morales’ future before bringing him to his first major league spring training.
Fourth-round pick Andrew Pinckeny would have been an even further stretch, though he has a similar case to be made as Morales.
On the pitching side, it would have been interesting to see Jarlin Susana in his first major league spring. The 19-year-old right-hander wouldn’t be long for camp, but the Nats could have wanted to see him work with their major league pitching coaches before sending him back down to the minors league side. But with Susana not yet pitching above Single-A, the team will practice more patience with their flamethrowing prospect.
Despite a handful of top names not getting an invite to spring training, the Nationals are bringing six of their best young players to camp, including their consensus top three prospects. If pitchers and catchers reporting isn’t enough to get Nats fans excited for the start of the new baseball season, then that certainly should be.