In discussing the balance he considers when contemplating signing a free agent to a long-term deal which could potentially block a young player in the organization, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters at the Winter Meetings he wasn’t going to do anything to block an up-and-coming prospect.
“We’re not going to block guys,” Rizzo said clearly. “But if we’re fortunate enough that we have this influx of guys that are knocking on the big league door, then that’ll be a good day for us here. We — players, they tell me when they’re ready, they’ll let us know by their play on the field and we’ve never had a problem with moving players quickly to the big leagues, if they can perform up there.
“And we will have no qualms about putting them to the big leagues now.”
For a club which is two-plus years into their organizational rebuild, with high-end talent in the system after all of the trades and high draft picks in recent years, it’s an approach that is echoed top-to-bottom in the front office.
“The player will always tell you,” recently-promoted Farm Director Eddie Longosz said at the Winter Meetings in early December when he too was asked about their decisions on player promotions in the minors and, eventually, hopefully, to the majors.
Rizzo and Co. have been aggressive in the decisions they’ve made, with a group of the top prospects in the system this past year finishing up together at Double-Harrisburg and poised to take the next steps in the near future. How do you know when it’s time for a promotion to Triple-A or the majors?
“They’ll tell you with their abilities and you’ll see that,” Longosz said.
“That’s a Mike [Rizzo] question with some of them, obviously there’s that group to advance, but I’m glad we challenged them this year.”
Dylan Crews, the 2023 No. overall pick, current No. 1 prospect in the Nats’ system, James Wood (No. 2), Robert Hassell III (No. 8), Brady House (No. 3), Yohandy Morales (No. 7), and Trey Lipscomb (No. 14), all played together in Harrisburg, and Longosz was watching all of them closely.
“It was fun to watch those players move quickly and succeed well, fast,” he said.
“And some are going to fail at times but this whole group — especially a lot of them were college players, obviously, they were mature, they were polished, and they needed to be challenged, and we did that.
“So I was glad that they did that, and we’ll see where they start. We haven’t really talked about that yet, as far as the system, where everyone’s going to be, but it will be a good decision wherever they end up.”
Having their top two picks (Crews and Morales) from this year’s draft (both of them college juniors) make their way to Double-A in their first pro seasons was an obviously positive development in the Nats’ GM’s eyes.
“I think it went well,” he said of how their development was handled and how they handled the challenges.
“We’re excited about the first 5-6 rounds that we went after, and seeing all those guys at that Double-A level I think it was important to get them together, and important to have them finish the season at that level.”
As the club builds their big league roster this winter, the future is always front of mind, with the current needs considered and the organizational ranks part of the picture as well.
“We still got some pieces that we need to add,” manager Davey Martinez said when asked what’s still to be done before the start of Spring Training. He did, however, say beforehand, some the core of the next competitive roster is already up in the majors, and the next wave is close.
“When I say that, we still got a lot of young kids that are coming up that could possibly help us, the Brady Houses, the Woods, even Hassell, Lipscomb, [who] I saw playing in the [Arizona Fall League]. Those guys are coming. The future’s bright here, it really is. I’m excited about it.”