When Stone Garrett suffered a season-ending ankle injury in late August this past summer, the Nationals decided to call up 24-year-old, 2021 7th Round pick Jacob Young, a University of Florida product who’d worked his way up from A-ball to Double-A to Triple-A this season, putting up a combined .305/.376/.418 line along the way.
“He’s a well-above average runner,” Kris Kline, then the Director of Scouting Ops for the club, who is now a Special Assistant to Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo, said, in offering a scouting report on Young after the second night of the 2021 Draft.
“He can throw, he’s a really good hitter, the thing that I loved about the bat was just his ability to grind out at bats. He doesn’t give at bats away. Very competitive in the box.”
Young got his feet wet with 26 games at Class-A Fredericksburg in 2021, and he played 115 games there in 2022 (putting up a .262/.360/.331 line with 10 doubles, eight triples, two home runs and 52 stolen bases in 59 opportunities), and then he moved up to play at High-A Wilmington, Double-A Harrisburg, and Triple-A Rochester this season before he got the call to continue a somewhat meteoric rise through the system.
“Jacob has done really well,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said once the outfielder was called up the majors in August. “He’s one of our young, up-and-coming prospects that has developed really well down there in the minor leagues for us. So we’re going to give him an opportunity to play. He just got here today, so we’re going to ease him in. But I’m looking forward to watching him play up here and utilize everything he can do, because he can do a lot of different things. He can play outfield, all three outfield positions. He’s a leadoff-type guy. He gets on base, steals bases for us. He’s got a lot of speed. But we’re going to ease his way in and hopefully he does well, as good as he’s done in the minor leagues, he comes up here and can give us a little bit of a spark again.”
Martinez talked excitedly about getting to see Young up close and on a regular basis over the final month-plus of the season.
“I’ve watched the way he’s played the game,” the sixth-year manager said. “He plays the game the right way. So he’s going to get a chance to go out there and play for the most part every day. Like I said, we’ll play him some center field, play him some left field, and then we’ll go from there. But I want to see what he can do.”
Martinez acknowledged the quick rise for Young, but said he’d earned the shot.
“He’s done well,” Martinez explained. “He’s a college guy that understands the game. And he’s done well everywhere we put him. I saw him when he was really, really young, and the guy stole like 80-something bases, so he understands the game, he understands what he needs to do, and he’s a very smart kid.
“I’ve talked to him over the years, I’ve liked his attitude, I’ve liked his preparation, I’m looking forward to watching him play.”
Over 33 games down the stretch, in which Young played center field for the Nationals, he made some impressive plays which caught his manager’s attention.
“He was an unbelievable defender,” Martinez said a few days into Young’s run in the majors, “… anywhere, all three [positions], but he can go get’em, and he plays defense really well.”
Young put together an 11-game hit streak early in his run, going 14 for 39 (.359/.405/.487) with five doubles in that stretch.
“He’s playing really well, you know,” Martinez said in early September, “… and I’ve known Jacob, I’ve seen him play, known him for a few years now, and know what he can do, and to see him have success so far early in his major league career is awesome, but he’s a guy who loves to play the game, he plays it the right way, he sees things that can help us win games, whether it’s bunting, his defense, stealing bases, running the bases really well, ‘cause he’s always looking to go get extra bases when he hits, but he’s done really, really well, and I’m proud of him.”
BONUS JACOB YOUNG CONTENT:
Jacob Young stole 13 bases in his 33 games in the majors, without getting thrown out in any of the attempts, adding to his 39 stolen bases in 46 attempts in the minors this past season.
A reporter asked Martinez at one point how his speed on the basepaths compared to that of CJ Abrams, who stole 47 bases in 51 attempts this season, setting the single-season mark in D.C. (2005-present). Who’s faster out there, Young or Abrams?
“That would be a good race,” Martinez laughed.
“I tell you what I love: [Young’s] angles around the bases are really good. He runs the bases really, really well. But they’re both really fast. I watched them both in one game hit a triple, they both were scootin’.”