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

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.”

Lipscomb also learned that with a focus on improving his defense entering last year, he can be a versatile asset in the infield. At Harrisburg, he played 42 games at third base, 15 at first base, 11 at shortstop and eight at second base, while only committing three total errors. In the Arizona Fall League, he played nine at third, five apiece at short and first, and two at second.

By the end of both seasons, he had been named the Nats’ minor league Defensive Player of the Year and the Gold Glove Award winner at third base across all minor leagues, proving his hard work in the field paid off and his critics coming out of college were wrong.

“It meant a lot because that was one of the knocks on me coming out of college was getting better at defense,” said Lipscomb. “So I really took pride in that, getting better every day and working with guys that we had in the organization. Just telling them what I wanted to do. And it all started here last year in spring training, so just here to do it again.”

Entering the 2022 draft, the Frederick, Md., native was said to have “the tools to become at least an average defender at third base,” while also having “quick reactions and a solid arm, but his instincts and footwork need improvement,” per MLB Pipeline.

Clearly, he took those scouting reports to heart and worked on them all last year, proving his defensive abilities across the infield.

“It means a lot. But I think it happened because we have so many guys in the organization who take pride in defense,” he said. “So just coming out here every day and competing with them and working with them, I think it really paid off.”

His new hardware – and first locker in a major league clubhouse – were the payoff.

Now at major league spring training while entering just his second full season in the organization, Lipscomb will get to show off his defensive versatility in front of the big league coaching staff, who will give him reps at all four infield positions. He isn’t expected to break camp with the team, but even on the first day of full-squad workouts, the young infielder caught manager Davey Martinez’s eye.

"He'll play some third, but we want him to play second a lot this spring,” said the skipper. “Possibly play some short. He did it in the Fall League. And we'll see how far that goes. We might put him at first base, as well. He's a good athlete. He's another guy today that hit the ball really well. He's got really good hands, good feet. He's fun to watch."

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