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Washington Nationals’ Hitting Coordinator Joe Dillon makes quick impact in minors

Outfielder and Nats’ prospect Jake Randa, the son of a former Major Leaguer, has benefitted in Florida from a new instructor …

World Series 2019 Game 4- Houston Astros at Washington Nationals Photo by Jonathan Newton /The Washington Post via Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Some of the changes in player development have already had an impact on outfielder Jake Randa, 23, who was drafted by the Nationals in 2019 and played last season for Single-A Fredericksburg.

Randa has spent time this month in minor league Spring Training working with, among others, Joe Dillon, the former assistant hitting coach for Washington who is now the hitting coordinator in player development for the Nationals.

Dillon was the assistant hitting coach when the Nationals won the World Series in 2019 and he spent the past two seasons as the hitting coach for the Phillies.

“He is in there to make sure we get better, which is really nice,” Randa told Federal Baseball from Florida on Wednesday night. “I like Joe; it is obviously the first time I have got to work with him. I like the way he goes about his work and his business. He has a lot of feel for the players. Right now is about him getting to know my swing. I have done a lot of talking with him about it.”

Randa has also worked with instructors who have been in Washington’s player development system for several years, including hitting coach Troy Gingrich, Virginia native Mark Harris, and Jeff Garber, who played shortstop at James Madison University in Virginia.

He was drafted in the 13th round in 2019 out of Northwest Florida Junior College by the Nationals.

Randa, 23, hit .220 in 305 at-bats last season for Fredericksburg. He spent this past off-season hitting the weights six days a week in Scottsdale, Arizona.

He said he lost about 20 pounds from the previous year and is now around 190 pounds; he now has about 10 percent less body fat than before the 2021 season.

“I was not where I wanted to be, body-wise, last year. I made that my single priority this off-season. I was in the gym six days a week from Nov. 1 until the day I left for camp,” said Randa, who showed up a week early in West Palm Beach to prepare for minor league camp.

“I definitely needed to do that moving forward. I really realized how important it is. I put a lot of distractions to the side. We got a plan together when I got back and we hit it hard.”

One of the minor leaguers he worked out with was pitcher Troy Stainbrook, a California native who was drafted out of college at Biola by Washington in the 30th round in 2019.

Stainbrook pitched in 31 games out of the bullpen for Single-A Wilmington in the Nationals’ system last year and had an ERA of 5.31.

Randa had two homers and three steals with Fredericksburg in 2021.

“I do have a lot of goals for myself and I want to be sure I am fully prepared and reach those goals,” Randa said of the coming season. “I feel like I can cover the outfield a little bit better this year if I get the chance.”

He has played in some intrasquad games in Spring Training and has seen time at the corner outfield spots.

His father, Joe Randa, was a teammate on the Royals in 1995 with outfielder Michael Tucker, who was born in South Boston, Virginia, and played at Longwood in Farmville; outfielder Jon Nunnally, who was born in North Carolina and went to Hargrave Military in Chatham, Virginia; and pitcher Chris Haney, who is from Orange, Virginia and played in college at Charlotte.

Joe Randa, who lives in Arizona, was born in Milwaukee and was an infielder that made his major league debut with Kansas City in 1995 and also played for the Royals in 1996 and again from 1999 to 2004.

He ended his career with the Pirates in 2006 and some of his teammates on that club include future Nationals Nate McLouth, Oliver Perez, and Zach Duke.

“I guess I finally grasped the concept of listening to my parents this off-season,” the Nationals’ prospect said. “A lot of the advice was noting what I did good last year and obviously noting what you did bad and picking away to try and make it better. We spent a lot of time this off-season talking – not only the approach at the plate but overall what you are thinking about. Baseball is a very, very, very hard sport and it centers around failure. You are going to fail but how you respond to the failure is [going to] determine whether you are going to make it or not.”

The new manager for Fredericksburg this year will be Richmond native Jake Lowery, the top catcher in the country in 2011 while at JMU.

Lowery made his pro debut as a manager last year in the Florida Complex League after playing in the minors for Washington.

“He will be a really, really good fit there,” Jake Randa said of the Single-A affiliate.