As he worked his way through the 2022 campaign, which ended with Washington’s Nationals 55-107, firmly established as the 5th place team in the five-team NL East, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked to reporters about how closely he was tracking the organization’s minor leaguers and the prospects in the system who’ll one day, should the fates allow it, populate the big league roster.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m constantly looking,” the manager said, “especially like after the games, I’ll go back and I’ll see what everybody’s done, and how they’re doing. And we got some good stuff going on. I’m pretty excited about what’s happening. I know the guy we got in this trade [for Juan Soto and Josh Bell with the San Diego Padres], [Robert Hassell III]. He finally started doing what we thought he could do, and he’s hitting the ball well, he’s playing good defense, so that’s exciting. So, all these guys that we got are doing well. I’m even looking at some of the draftee guys that we’ve had, we drafted that third baseman [Trey Lipscomb], it seems like he’s doing pretty well.
“So you know it’s great to see all these kids that we’re getting, these young kids that potentially might help us here, and some of the other kids that you don’t hear about.
JAKE ALU— Harrisburg Senators (@HbgSenators) July 8, 2022
it's 1-0 Playeros in the bottom of the third! pic.twitter.com/oZT3p2Ju7X
“This [Jake] Alu kid that’s swinging the bat awfully well in Rochester, he’s done well. I know they’re trying to work with him at third base, but he potentially could help us here in the future as well.”
Alu, a 25-year-old, 2019 24th Round draft pick by the Nationals, followed up on an impressive .281/.332/.444, 22 double, 10 HR season between Class-A and Double-A in the Nats’ system in 2021 (in which he put up a .303/.357/.490 line at High-A Wilmington before making the jump to Double-A Harrisburg), with a .299/.365/.506 campaign between Double and Triple-A in which he hit a combined 40 doubles and 20 home runs.
“We got some good things going on,” Martinez continued. “Obviously we all know about [2020 1st Round pick Cade] Cavalli, and we all know about some of our young pitchers that will be here. But I’m excited about what the future [holds] for us here, especially with these young guys, and the guys we got here. These guys are major league players right now here, but they’re young. Like I look out there, and 21, 23, 24, and that excites me that they got a chance to play here and play here for many years.”
“There’s a lot of good things happening,” Alu indirectly agreed with Martinez when he traveled to Washington, D.C. in late September to receive The Nationals’ Way Award, which goes to the player in the minors, “… who best demonstrates the professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, determination, and work ethic required to play the game the ‘Washington Nationals’ Way.’”
“Especially this year,” Alu said. “All the way up to the young talent that’s here. Even at the upper levels you see some guys, and they have young talent up here, and just definitely headed in the right direction. It’s pretty exciting.”
The Nationals were excited about what they got from Alu at the plate and in the field in 2022:
“The left-handed hitting Alu led Washington’s Minor League system in average (.299), slugging percentage (.506), OPS (.871), doubles (40), extra base hits (62), total bases (254) and tied for first in RBI (81). He ranked second in on-base percentage (.365) and hits (150). He had two separate hitting streaks of 14 games from June 28-July 16 and Sept. 11-Sept. 27 ... Alu opened his third professional season at Double-A Harrisburg before being promoted to Triple-A Rochester on July 12.
“At third base, Alu led all of Minor League Baseball (infielders and outfielders) with 17 defensive runs saved, according to Baseball Info Solutions.
“In addition to his 114 games at third base, Alu also spent time at second base (9 games) and designated hitter (6 games).
Earlier this month, the club expanded on the praise for Alu’s work when they added him to the 40-man roster to protect him from selection in this year’s Rule 5 Draft.
“The left-handed hitting Alu finished the 2022 campaign on a season-high 20 game on-base streak,” the Nationals noted, “… hitting safely in 19 of the 20 contests. He recorded two separate hitting streaks of 14 games from June 28-July 16 and Sept. 11-Sept. 27.”
Making his Triple-A debut, Jake Alu started the scoring in his 1st AB, smacking a 2-run 2B to LF.— Nationals Player Development (@Nats_PlayerDev) July 13, 2022
Between @HbgSenators and @RocRedWings this season, Jake has 26 2Bs, tops in the organization. @jake_alu1 // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/DFytbaF3aG
The Nats’ big league skipper, in a late September talk with reporters, said Alu definitely had the attention of decision-makers in the organization when they discussed potential options for call-ups to the majors.
“Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about him,” Martinez said. “And they said he has hit. He’s hit everywhere he’s been. He’s really working on his defense. They put him at third base. I know the other day, I talked about second base, if he’s capable of playing second base, so they put him over there and he did well, but we want him to continue to play third base, second base, I even believe that he can play some left field as well. But he has hit, and I like the fact that he puts the ball in play. And he does have occasional pop, but for me he’s a doubles guy that can move the baseball.”
“And that’s kind of intriguing for me moving forward,” he continued.
“Still young. He’s definitely going to be with us next year, I don’t know if he’ll be in Spring Training or not, but I’d like to get eyes on him, and see what he does with us a little bit. So we’ll see what happens, but he’s had a tremendous year, so he should be proud of himself, but I have noticed, and we have noticed, and we’ve watched him, and like I said, we’re just trying to figure out what position is best for him moving forward.”
His defensive versatility is a clear positive in Martinez’s mind.
“Yeah, I want him to be versatile,” the manager said. “If he can hit the way he hits, we can put him in different positions. Like I said, even putting him in the outfield, in left field, if he can play some left field for us it would be awesome.”