Nats' future OF depth on display in first full-squad workout

February 20th, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The contact of the bat, the enthusiastic yells on defense, the clicking of cleats on the pavement as they moved from field to field and -- a few times -- the smack of a home run ball landing on the opposite side of the outfield fence.

The Nationals held their first full-squad workout of Spring Training on Tuesday at CACTI Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. While the entire team already had reported to camp, this morning workout marked the official kickoff of camp.

“We started off today with a lot of energy,” said manager Dave Martinez. “It felt like I’ve seen these guys for a month now. But always the first day to get them all in one room was awesome.”

Nats camp this year represents the team’s present and future. Alongside returning players and newly acquired veterans is a group of Washington’s top prospects, including 2023 No. 2 overall Draft pick , in their first Major League camp.

“It was good,” said outfielder , ranked as the Nationals’ No. 2 prospect and No. 14 overall, per MLB Pipeline. “It was like the first day of school, kind of. Everyone’s here, and everyone’s a little excited.”

Before Martinez and the coaching staff got a look at what the players had been working on this winter in live batting practice, the skipper wanted to set a standard for the upcoming season. He gathered a group of position players at first base to discuss his goals for baserunning.

“I think we’ve got to make a priority,” Martinez said. “I always talk about three things that we need to do every day, and that’s one of them. The other two are you’ve got to pitch and throw strikes, and we’ve got to play really good defense. Hitting’s always going to go back and forth. But we could do a lot of things by running the bases and running them well. So I wanted to make sure I sent the message this year, and I’ll continue to do that all spring.”

Veteran Joey Gallo, who signed a one-year deal in January, appreciated the early expectation setting.

“[The first few days are] fundamental stuff and basics of how we’re going to go about things as a team,” Gallo said. “I think it’s good to set in stone now and have that urgency of, ‘We’re going to run the bases the right way and hustle.’”

Once the players took the field, the versatility of the Nats’ future outfield depth was on display. Wood was in right field for drills, with Crews (Nationals’ No. 1 prospect, No. 7 overall) in center field and Robert Hassell III (Nationals’ No. 8) in left field. The staff has talked to the trio about playing each outfield position interchangeably in camp.

“We’re ready,” Hassell said of the overall impression of the team. “That’s what it looks like to me. Everybody seems like they came in ready.”

And the first full-squad workout was not complete without some notable at-bats. Crews hit an oppo homer off right-hander Cole Henry (No. 18) and Wood took left-hander Robert Garcia deep.

“I feel like it’s early, so a lot of times I kind of go up there, just try to control the zone, control what you can control,” Wood said. “So to square one up like that, it feels pretty good.”