Important 2022 season awaits top 2021 draft pick House

We spend the majority of our time here talking about major leaguers, but with the lockout now preventing teams from making any transactions involving players on 40-man rosters, let’s take an opportunity to delve deeper into some of the Nationals’ top minor leaguers. We continue this weekly series with the organization’s No. 2 prospect ...

SS BRADY HOUSE

Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 215 lbs.

Age on opening day 2022: 18

How acquired: First-round pick, 2021 draft, Winder-Barrow (Ga.) High School

2021 stats (Rookie-level Florida Complex League): 16 G, 66 PA, 59 AB, 14 R, 19 H, 3 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 7 BB, 13 SO, 0 SB, 0 CS, .322 AVG, .394 OBP, .576 SLG, .970 OPS, 4 E

Thumbnail image for Brady-House-Team-USA-Sidebar.jpg2021 analysis: With the 11th pick in last summer’s draft, the Nationals knew they were going to wind up with the best young player they’d been in a position to select in a decade. And they wound up with the consensus best high school position player in Brady House. Having just turned 18 in June, the Georgia high schooler packed a ton of power into an impressive frame, given his young age. He also possessed elite arm strength that allowed him to reach the mid-90s as a pitcher and make strong throws from deep in the hole at shortstop.

After signing him for a $5 million bonus (higher than the designated $4.547 million slot for the No. 11 pick), the Nats sent House to West Palm Beach to begin his professional career. He spent three weeks working out and getting himself back into game shape before making his debut in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League on Aug. 23.

With only a few weeks left in the season, House was limited to 16 games. But he showed more than a glimpse of his skills in that brief stretch. He homered three times in his first four games, one of them a grand slam. He showed enough patience to produce a 10.6 percent walk rate, while not striking out at an overly concerning rate (19.7 percent).

In the field, House was charged with four errors, a high total for only 16 games played, but hardly surprising at this level or on the back fields at spring training complexes. All told, things went about as well as the Nationals could’ve hoped for their top pick, given the limited amount of time he had to play before season’s end.

2022 outlook: The 2021 season offered just a glimpse of House’s abilities, and gave him a chance to get his feet wet in professional ball. The 2022 season will offer much more clarity about the timeline for his path to the big leagues, where his true strengths lie and where his weaknesses show up.

The Nats figure to have House open in Fredericksburg, where he’ll still be among the youngest players in low Single-A. His success there over the season’s first three months will determine how quickly the organization wants to move him up the system, and whether he makes it to high Single-A Wilmington sometime in the summer.

In order to earn that promotion, House is going to have to do more than just hit for power. (Everyone already knows he has that skill set.) He’ll need to show he can consistently hit the ball to the opposite field, maintain good plate discipline and become a steadying presence in the field. Questions abound about his chances of making it as a shortstop, or if he’ll need to switch to third base at some point. He adamantly wants to remain at his natural position, but he can’t afford to give evaluators any reason to make a switch yet.

Above all, House’s timeline for development will have as much to do with his maturity as his on-field performance. A supremely confident 18-year-old, his greatest test may be the not-as-easy-as-it-sounds act of playing baseball every single day for six months while taking long bus rides and sleeping in two-star hotels. If he can handle the grind of that life while also performing at the plate, the Nationals won’t hesitate to push him closer to D.C.

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