Nats prospect watch: Reetz showed off power in second half

A big second half was important to catcher Jakson Reetz’s potential move up in the Nationals organization.

Reetz, a third-round 2014 selection in the First-Year Player Draft, hit .282 with 12 homers and 38 RBIs for high Single-A Potomac after the All-Star break. In the first half, he had hit .220 with only one homer. His slugging percentage jumped from .300 to .563. The Carolina League All-Star told me his focus at the plate from July on was critical to those number jumps. He finished with 18 doubles, two triples, a career-high 13 homers and 55 RBIs.

Nationals minor league hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich said Reetz has looked self-assured in the batter’s box, and that allowed his natural talent to shine through.

Nationals-Helmets-in-Rack-Sidebar.jpg“He got to where it was the first time he had confidence going to the plate,” Gingrich said. “He doesn’t have to think about the mechanics of his swing anymore. He got his lower half involved last year during spring. Then he got his hands into a comfortable spot last year, probably in June. He found just a comfort level at the plate.

“So getting his lower half involved, getting his hands and his upper body in a better spot, and then having that comfort in the box, and then having some success. That just led to confidence and then he was just a different hitter. He didn’t think anyone could get him out. Even if he had a bad day, he knew the next day, he was going to come back out and have a good day. So you started to see the power that he possesses. You started to see the hitter that everyone thought possibly he could be down the road.”

Reetz is a rare breed. Drafted out of high school from Firth, Neb., (population: 599) Reetz spent at two seasons at low Single-A Hagerstown and then two at Potomac. Battling through an injury that slowed down his 2017, Reetz has grown up in the organization, breaking through in 2019 with a career-high 96 games.

“Sometimes it takes a kid three years, sometimes it takes a kid six years,” Gingrich said. “Jakson has played five years to finally get to where he knows what he is doing, knows what he is working on, and he knows the things that he needs to continue to improve on. Now he doesn’t just focus on mechanics, as opposed to he’s working on the things he now needs to improve on. It was good to finally see it that second half in Potomac. Now he is different kid when you see him walk around. He knows he has a chance to be very good. Now let’s see him go up the ladder and see how he continues to do.”

Reetz, 24, is listed as the No. 28 Nats prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, one of four catchers on the team’s top 30. After the regular season concluded, Reetz continued to show that confidence at the plate with a team-best .333 batting average for Surprise in the Arizona Fall League, helping guide the Saguaros to the championship game.

Gingrich said the next step for Reetz is what you would expect for most hitters trying to get the majors: being as consistent as possible recognizing and hitting off-speed offerings.

“The things he needs to work on include pitch selection that he swings and being able to handle off-speed pitches in the zone. Once that happens (he will be good to go, because) he can hit a fastball, boy. I love guys that hit fastballs.”

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