Breaking down the next steps for these prospects

March 11th, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Infielder turns 26-years-old next month, and he finished last season in Triple-A. Outfielder just turned 21 in January, and he reached High-A in 2022. They are in different stages of their careers, but both have shown potential to be part of the Nationals' future. 

So when they were optioned on Friday in the latest round of Spring Training cuts, the roster moves prompted the question: What are the next steps in the development of this pair of prospects?

Jake Alu
MLB Pipeline prospect ranking: Nationals’ No. 27
2023 Spring Training (7 games): .333/.385/.417, 4-for-12, 2 RBIs, .801 OPS
2022 Double-A/Triple-A (132 games): .299/.365/.506, 81 RBIs, 20 home runs, 40 doubles, .871 OPS
Roster move: Optioned to Triple-A

After leading all Nationals Minor Leaguers in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, doubles and extra-base hits last season, Washington protected Alu from the Rule 5 Draft this winter. Alu, the recipient of the 2022 annual “Nationals Way Award,” arrived in camp with defensive versatility to contend for a backup infielder spot. He has played the majority of his pro career at third base, with experience also at second and the ability to play the outfield as well. 

Luis García, CJ Abrams and Jeimer Candelario are expected to start at second base, shortstop and third base -- respectively -- and veteran utility infielder Ildemaro Vargas has returned for his second season with the Nats. With infielders Jeter Downs and Leonel Valera continuing to get looks in camp, Alu will have more opportunity to take at-bats with the reassignment.

“It was tough,” manager Dave Martinez said. “The reality is, I think we want to get him just to play every day.”

The Nationals’ plan is for Alu to play third base, second base and left field the remainder of camp. Martinez emphasized to him that final decisions have not been made, and the team will monitor his performance in the coming weeks in Florida. MLB Pipeline projects his big league debut as this season.

“I like him,” Martinez said. “I think this guy swings the bat well, he plays the game the right way. … Somewhere along the line this year, he’ll help us.”

Jeremy De La Rosa
MLB Pipeline prospect ranking: Nationals’ No. 8
2023 Spring Training (9 games): .300/.364/.300, 3-for-10, 1 stolen base, .664 OPS
2022 Single-A/High-A (101 games): .280/.358/.436, 67 RBIs, 11 home runs, 39 stolen bases, .794 OPS
Roster move: Optioned to Double-A

De La Rosa has been a member of the Nationals since signing in 2018 as an international free agent. Last season, he turned heads in his first pro season of 100-plus games played and was named Washington’s Minor League co-Hitter of the Year.

De La Rosa joined the Nats in big league camp after being protected in the Rule 5 Draft. He had added muscle -- “A good kind of big, it didn’t slow him down,” said Martinez -- and was lauded for his high energy and work ethic.

“The biggest thing for me is, he really understands that he needs to take his walks and not chase,” said Martinez. “That’s something that he worked on really hard. Last year, he improved a lot. So hopefully, he continues to improve.”

In the advancement to Harrisburg this season, Martinez would like De La Rosa to play all three outfield positions. (Last year, he played the majority of his games in center.) While the Nationals' top three prospects -- James Wood, No. 1; Robert Hassell, No. 2; Elijah Green, No. 3 -- also are outfielders, Martinez sees De La Rosa in that mix.

“We’ve got an abundance of outfielders in our organization, but we feel like he’s right there with all those guys,” Martinez said. “We’ll get him going. For him, it’s just about him getting his reps, getting him comfortable.”