As Spring Training wraps up, the Nats are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the number one spot in the Grapefruit League. That’s right: this team’s AAAA players and number-98s are better than anyone else but New York’s on this side of the Mississippi.
Here’s what’s new in West Palm:
Juan Soto Is Extreme (Fangraphs)
Juan Soto's numbers garner historical comparisons — and that's because of his incredible approach at the plate and his ability to crush fastballs. But his real room to improve lies in hitting the off-speed stuff — which he tends to lay off of incredibly well thanks to his incredible understanding of the strike zone.
Howie Kendrick, Tony Sipp take steps toward Opening Day (MLB.com)
Sipp threw a fifteen-pitch bullpen, while Kendrick will need three or four games before the season to prove that he's healthy. Along with Michael A. Taylor, they'll stay back in West Palm to continue working towards a return. Also: Davey Martinez only wants one leadoff hitter, but he refuses to say who it'll be.
Michael A. Taylor progressing quickly (MLB.com)
Taylor has run on the field, taken BP, played long toss, played catch, run in the pool, and much more — apparently, his knee didn't have too much inflammation, and he lucked out from there.
New at Nationals Park for 2019: Steamed buns, pupusas and so many oysters (WaPo)
Oysters! Lobster Rolls! Po' Boys! Steak sandwiches! House-steamed buns! Chinese-Korean fusion! Hebrew National is Back! Plastic straws are gone! Compostable cartons! Hawkers finally accepting cards and Apple Pay!
Doolittle returns to form, Hellickson wraps up strong spring (MASN)
After Sean Doolittle's implosion last week, he shut down the Cardinals with little fanfare and few problems. (And he has a technical explanation for what went wrong last time!) In the meantime, Jeremy Hellickson went another five scoreless and will stay in West Palm for one extra cycle to stay in sync with his spot in the rotation.
Taylor not surprised by quick progress from leg injuries (MASN)
“The very next day, I felt better,” he said. “Obviously not 100 percent, but I was happy with how I felt. They told me I could wake up the next day and my knee be like a balloon. But I woke up, there was very little inflammation ... and I felt like I was walking better and everything.”
Nationals receive 2019 Bobby Murcer Award from Baseball Assistance Team (MASN)
The Nats' players and coaches donated the most money to the Baseball Assistance Team, which helps baseball players through crises and gives scholarships for former players getting a degree.
Sipp, Kendrick likely to stay in Florida extra days (MASN)
“We’ll definitely leave them back here,” Martinez said. “But we talked and, regardless of what happens, I want them all there for opening day. Like I said, these next few days we’ll see what goes on.”