Back on January 30th, the Washington Nationals announced which of the organization’s top prospects were going to be in big league Spring Training this year. The list they released for 2024 included outfielders, “Dylan Crews, Robert Hassell III, and James Wood, as well as infielders Darren Baker, Brady House, and Trey Lipscomb,” who will each be taking part in their first Major League Spring Training.”
When he spoke at the Winter Meetings in early December, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said he thought the players they eventually invited would certainly benefit from being around all the big league players as everyone prepares for the ‘24 campaign.
“I hope they’re all in big league camp because I want to see ‘em play,” he told reporters.
“They will definitely get a lot. The biggest thing is really getting to know them and work with them, and kind of give ‘em an idea of what we’re looking for and how we want to attack the game. That’s going to be the biggest thing.”
It’s not just the manager, his coaches, and the Nationals’ front office personnel who want to see what the top prospects in the organization do this spring.
Josiah Gray, who turned 26 in December, and is headed into his fourth season in the big leagues, said in a recent MLB Network Radio interview he was excited to see some of the top prospects in the system up close in Spring Training.
“I’m just looking forward to seeing how they work,” Gray told MLBNR hosts Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette. “You know the organization is head over heels for these guys, and just to see the way they prepare and the way they take at-bats. I’m going to be on the top step during all the games just watching and seeing what they do and how they do it, just because I’m as eager as anyone in the organization just to see the new lifeline of talent that’s coming up.”
Assuming the prospects who’ve received invites don’t make the Opening Day roster, the club will have to make decisions on where they send them to start the season.
Crews, who was the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, Hassell III, Wood, House, and Lipscomb all finished the year at Double-A Harrisburg in the Nats’ system last year, and Baker played the majority of the season at Triple-A Rochester, with the club taking an aggressive approach to their development according to new Scouting Director Eddie Longosz, who was happy to see the organization challenge their top prospects.
So how will the Nationals’ brass determine when these players are ready to take the next step, whether it’s a promotion to Triple-A or, eventually, the majors?
“The player will always tell you,” Longosz said. “They’ll tell you with their abilities and you’ll see that. 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. It was fun to watch those players move quickly and succeed well, fast. 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.”