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Rapid rise of Nationals’ prospect Jackson Cluff continues

Infielder is among those non-roster players invited to Spring Training …

Surprise Saguaros v Glendale Desert Dogs Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

WASHINGTON – It has been a busy few months for Jackson Cluff, the infielder drafted out of BYU by the Nationals in the sixth round in 2019.

And the news keeps getting better for Cluff as he was among those non-roster players invited to Spring Training by the Nationals on Monday.

“Staying healthy is my No. 1 goal, and [staying] on the field,” he told Federal Baseball last month. “And No. 2 is to help the Nationals win at some point.”

Cluff played for Single-A Hagerstown after he was drafted in 2019.

When the 2020 minor league season was called off due to the pandemic, Cluff was among those in Fredericksburg, Virginia as part of the alternate site roster.

Cluff is considered a top infield prospect in the Nationals’ system by Baseball America despite a 2021 season that was filled with injuries.

He played five games in the Gulf Coast League and for Single-A Fredericksburg last year and in 35 games for Double-A Harrisburg. All told, he hit .214 in 159 at-bats.

But in the Arizona Fall League, he was named the top defensive player while hitting .342 with eight steals in 22 games for Surprise manager Mario Lisson, who was also the Fredericksburg skipper last year.

“It was a good feeling; it gave me confidence,” said Cluff, noting he has played in just 107 games in the minors since signing with Washington.

His off-season kept getting better.

He was married in January to former BYU soccer standout midfielder Mikayla Colohan (now Cluff), who signed in January with the Orlando Pride in the women’s pro league NWSL. Her team began the season on Feb. 27 against Montreal.

Back at Spring Training now, Cluff pointed to a tradition set by Ryan Zimmerman, who recently announced his retirement after playing for the Nationals since 2005, when he discussed an interaction with the veteran infielder.

In his first Spring Training game with the Nationals in 2019, Cluff learned a lesson from the former University of Virginia standout.

Cluff got to the clubhouse before some of the older players arrived, but Zimmerman was there.

“I went and put my stuff in the locker but he kindly told me to wait until the big leaguers put their stuff in a locker,” Cluff told Federal Baseball.

“He was nice to me; he said it in a nice way.”

Cluff got one at-bat that day off the bench and a few days later Spring Training shut down in Florida and Arizona due to the pandemic.

Cluff worked out in Florida earlier this year with Drew Mendoza and Andrew Karp, a pair of Florida State products who have been in the Washington system.

Other non-roster infielders invited to Spring Training by the Nationals were Maikel Franco, a former Philadelphia and Baltimore slugger; Jake Noll, one of the top hitters at Triple-A last year with Rochester; Adrián Sanchez, a veteran of the Washington minor league program; Andrew Young, Richard Urena; and Dee Strange-Gordon, who broke in with the Dodgers in 2011 and has 333 steals in the majors.