Irvin in Camp:
Jake Irvin, who turned 26 on Saturday, was a 2018 4th Round pick out of the University of Oklahoma whose rise in Washington’s system was set back by Tommy John surgery in 2020, but the Nationals added the hard-throwing right-hander to the 40-man roster this winter, protecting him from selection in the Rule 5 Draft, and he’s in camp with the club in West Palm Beach, FL this year, back on track after he returned to the mound this past season.
Irvin, the Nats noted in a press release on their 40-man additions, “… went 0-4 with a 3.83 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 24 starts between High-A Wilmington and Double-A Harrisburg,” in 2022. “His 24 starts were tied for the most of any Nationals’ minor leaguer, while his 107 strikeouts ranked sixth in the system.”
The former Sooner hurler, who is a towering 6’6”, 225-pound pitcher, has made a real strong impression on the Nationals’ manager early in camp.
“He’s at full-go right now,” Nats’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters on Friday night in Florida, “… so we’re going to let him participate and have Spring Training like normal. He threw the ball well. The ball comes out really well for him, so the biggest thing for him … is to keep an eye on his mechanics, don’t let him get too fast, and fluidity, consistency throughout his delivery, but he’s a good one, and we’re hoping that he can stay healthy and help us sometime soon.”
Rutledge Is Tall Too:
Jackson Rutledge, who’ll turn 24 in April, had been around in the organization since he was drafted 17th overall in the first round in 2019, and the 6’8” righty was added to the 40-man roster over the winter as well, after a 2022 campaign in which he, “… went 8-6 with a 4.90 ERA in 20 starts for Single-A Fredericksburg in 2022,” as the club noted in a press release after the moves.
“His eight wins were tied for the most in Washington’s Minor League system. He struck out 99 batters in 97.1 innings pitched,” the club added.
Rutledge dealt with injury issues (with his shoulder and with blisters) in ‘21, but impressed in the Arizona Fall League late that season, and after a solid season this past summer, and the 40-man addition, he has impressed early in camp, though the club is watching him closely given his injury history.
“My biggest thing with Jackson, one, is health,” manager Davey Martinez said on Friday afternoon. “Keeping him healthy, and two, getting him to understand that, ‘Hey, throwing the ball over the middle of the plate is not a bad thing.’ Guys still got to hit, right? You don’t have to be fine. He wants to be — a lot of times you see him and he wants to be really, really fine with everything. It doesn’t work that way. You got to be consistently good on throwing the ball over the middle of the plate … up and down, not side to side. So, his bullpen today, when we slowed everything down for him, he did that, and now all of a sudden, his misses were not horrible, so that’s something that we need to keep working on with him, but he’s got all the tools to be really good, now we just got to bring him in, hone everything together, and get him consistently over the strike zone.”
Hot Corner House:
Brady House, the Nats’ 2021 1st Round pick (11th overall), dealt with injury this past season as GM Mike Rizzo explained in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies late last summer.
House had a .278/.356/.375 line, eight doubles, and three home runs over 45 games and 203 plate appearances on the year before he ended up on the IL in June.
Why didn’t he end up returning?
“House is just a guy that,  years old, had a terrific first half of the season before he got COVID and then he got a little bit of a back injury and looks like he’s going to be a power-hitting type of middle of the lineup guy for us in the near future,” Rizzo told the Junkies.
“He didn’t come back and play in any games,” Rizzo added, “... but he’s doing baseball activities, and we’re expecting him to be good to go for minor league Spring Training next year.”
Early this year at Spring Training in West Palm Beach, reporters noted House was working at third base and asked Rizzo about the move, which has been discussed by the organization as a possibility since he was drafted, though the infielder initially expressed a desire to stay at short if possible.
The injury issues and time off apparently led the club to make the move with their 6’4”, 215-pound infielder, who is the top-ranked infielder and the No. 5 overall prospect in the system on MLB Pipeline’s organizational rankings.
“As early as when we drafted him, we always saw him kind of growing out of shortstop and moving him to third,” Rizzo told reporters on Friday.
“That was the conversation we had right after the draft.
“But we always like to give the players an opportunity to play where they feel the most comfortable before we make any changes.
“We rarely change hitting styles or pitching styles until we’ve had him for an extended period of time.
“I think with Brady’s body type and his skill-set, I think he transfers over to third base very comfortably and very smoothly. He was a big shortstop over there, kind of looked like a third baseman playing shortstop, and so that was our thought process since we drafted him and talked to some — a lot of good players that have gone through that transformation — Troy Glaus comes to mind, Matt Williams comes to mind, these guys were big shortstops that moved to third base and became Gold Glove kind of players.
“We broached the subject with Brady early on and I think that he’s on board, and then when he tweaked his back last year, we thought this was a good time to move him to the position we think he’s going to play in the big leagues for us.”