Reetz works on fundamentals as he moves up Nats chain

Nationals catcher Jakson Reetz finished off his 2019 campaign with work in the Arizona Fall League, batting .333 with a .519 slugging percentage.

“It was awesome,” Reetz said. “I was really happy that I got the chance to go and play. Nationals guys, I got to play with them. I got to meet a lot of other new guys. Our team was awesome. We had a lot of fun. It was definitely a great experience for me.”

reetz-banks-freeman-pnats-carolina-all-star-classic-sidebar.jpgReetz, 23, was a third-round pick by the Nats in 2014. He played 96 games for high Single-A Potomac and then played with the Surprise Saguaros in Arizona.

“Big thing for me was I was just going there to play and get at-bats,” Reetz said. “I was just going out there and competing.”

Reetz (Twitter: @Jakson_1), who works out in the offseason in Omaha, Neb., slashed .253/.370/.441 with 18 doubles, two triples, 13 homers and 55 RBIs for the P-Nats this past season.

“I think my season went well. The second half of my season went very well,” he said. “It was a great second half for me. I need to keep continuing to build off of that. I liked what I saw in the second half and I think I can keep that up. I need to keep working on everything. The biggest thing is the hitting aspect. That’s what I really worked on in the second half, was trying to get all my at-bats 100 percent focused in on. Just trying to do damage up there and square the ball up every at-bat. And then good things started to happen for me.”

Nats manager Davey Martinez is always telling his hitters to focus on looking for their pitch in the zone and hitting up the middle. Reetz said a key for him is to go up to the plate with the mindset of a hitter and not use his strategic knowledge as a catcher. Trying to outthink the pitcher and the catcher while in the batter’s box can sometimes have a negative impact on the at-bat.

“That’s a huge thing with hitting, and goes along with catching too,” Reetz said. “When I go up there, kind of not playing the game as a catcher, playing it as a hitter. Because sometimes you can get your own self out just by thinking about what that catcher is calling, what that pitcher is going to throw instead of just being a hitter and going up there and hitting it.”

A catcher who frames pitches well can go a long way in helping his pitcher last longer each appearance, and Reetz focuses on that skill.

“I think you have to work on it every day,” Reetz noted. “But as the more you catch, and the more you get familiar with pitchers, I think that it helps that because you have the tendencies of what their pitches are going to do. It’s easier to frame when you know what it’s going to do.

“I just try to beat the ball to the spot, working from the ground up, that’s the biggest thing. If you can do those two things you are going to be successful behind the plate with receiving.”

Another key for a catcher to be successful is blocking the plate and knowing when to turn the glove over to scoop or block a pitch.

“If you can get that low pitch, pitchers love to pitch to you,” Reetz said. “If they love to pitch to you, you are in that lineup just a little bit more. As soon as you can’t see the bottom of the ball any more, that usually means you better be ready to block.

“Michael Barrett, our (Nationals) catching coordinator, talks about it pretty frequently. As soon as you can’t see the bottom of the ball any more, you should probably be ready to block it.”

Barrett, a former big league catcher, has been working with the Nats’ prospects for several seasons. The veteran’s knowledge has meant the world to Reetz’s development.

“He was my first manager when I got drafted,” Reetz said. “He’s been huge part of my growing up becoming a catcher in the minor leagues in professional baseball. He’s helped me a ton. Every once in awhile he just throws out information and you are like, ‘Whoa! Never even thought of that.’

“Even like little things where you can get umpires to kind of be on your side a little bit. Having a conversation with that umpire from the first pitch of the game, the get-go, even before the first pitch of the game. Walking up and shaking their hand before the game starts goes a long way. They have such a hard job the way it is, and a lot of people really don’t understand that.”

And now after two seasons with the P-Nats, Reetz is hoping to make that next step up the ladder to Double-A Harrisburg in his dream to eventually reach the majors.

“We don’t know until we break for spring training, but I would love to be there.”

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