Next wave of Nats prospects eyeing 'special year'  

March 5th, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- While the Nationals are getting a look at some of their big league-ready prospects -- such as Cade Cavalli, Thaddeus Ward and James Wood -- this spring, many of their up-and-coming top prospects are prepping over in Minor League camp.

Two of those players are Nos. 10 and 16 prospects -- outfielders and . White made waves last year in his first full professional season, and Lile was in West Palm Beach recovering from Tommy John surgery.

“I'm glad to be back out here, especially [after] missing a whole season,” Lile said on Sunday prior to the Nationals’ 6-2 loss against the Astros at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. “I mean, [it was] devastating. But it helped me work on the right body parts to be able to come back out here and have a healthy season.”

Lile, 20, and White, 19, are gearing up for a season in which they’ll hopefully be climbing the ranks in Washington’s farm system. They’ll each face plenty of competition, though, as the Nats’ system is stacked with talent.

“We’re really deep [on position players], especially in the infield and outfield,” White said. “So it’s just really whoever can hit the best, that’s who’s going to move up.”

For Washington, White’s hitting isn’t an issue. The Nats know he can hit -- his 11 home runs and .258/.353/.432 slash line at Single-A Fredericksburg prove that. A strong fastball hitter, White has been putting in work to identify breaking balls and lay off those low in the zone.

After last season, Washington knew it wanted White to face tougher competition. So, the Nats told White to head into the offseason preparing to play some first base this year.

“I got the call after the season, ‘Hey, we're going to move you to first to try to get you to move up in the system,’” White said. “And I was like, ‘OK, cool.’ They told me to go home in the offseason and just work on [playing first], and I'm making tremendous improvements.

“I definitely appreciate it, them showing me basically what they think I'm capable of doing. I'm never going to complain if it gets me on the field. I'm going to do it.”

White boasts plus-power (a 60 scouting grade). As he becomes more able to see pitches and cut down his strikeout rate -- it was 27.2 percent last year, though it dropped to 22 percent in the final two months of the season -- he has a legitimate chance at making his mark and keeping the Nationals interested in his development.

Lile, meanwhile, is excited to put his arm to the test after successfully rehabbing, during which he was able to pick former top prospect Carter Kieboom’s brain as Kieboom also worked his way back from Tommy John surgery.

“It was so hard,” Lile said. “But the guys that I had around me like [Kieboom], he was down here with me. I just picked his brain about certain stuff and he's helped me along the way, with him being a big leaguer and then coming through the ranks.”

After spending a year working back, Lile feels confident. He might have “launched” his first throw after surgery -- he was expecting it to be “nice and smooth” -- but with an arm that feels “brand new,” he’s ready to get back into the grind now that he’s had time to work on his mental game, too.

“The biggest thing was the mental side of the game, learning how to deal with that,” Lile said. “Learning from the failures and not being too up, not being too down -- to stay level-headed.”

Lile boasted an advanced hit tool and solid power before surgery, plus an ability to draw walks that highlighted his patience. Getting him back into action and hitting the ground running in the outfield will be the next step for the Nats.

Right now, Lile and White are just happy to be back to work -- and sharing a clubhouse.

“Me and Elijah [Green] played on FTB [Florida Travel Baseball] together,” White said. “Me, James [Wood] and Daylen, we all played against each other. … It’s really amazing. It feels like yesterday we were just teenage kids out there having fun, playing travel ball, drinking milkshakes after the game and all that. And now it's like, we're here.”

“We're super talented,” Lile said. “We got a lot of athletes. We got a lot of young talent. It's going to be a special year for all of us. And I see us in a couple years winning a World Series for sure.”