Minor League standouts collect honors from Nats

September 27th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato’s Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Nationals recognized top performances this season with their 2023 Minor League Awards, presented in a pregame ceremony at Nationals Park on Sunday morning. Categories highlighted hitter, pitcher, defensive player and baserunner of the year, as well as the Nationals Way Award. 

This year’s list of honorees included back-to-back winners: (2022 Co-Hitter of the Year) and  (‘22 Baserunner of the Year). 

See more on these standout seasons and how the players reflected on their success.

Hitter of the Year: OF James Wood (No. 7 overall prospect, Nationals’ No. 2)

Wood finished his first full season in the Nationals system slashing .262/.353/.520 across High-A Wilmington and Double-A Harrisburg. He led all Nats Minor Leaguers in homers (26), RBIs (91) and slugging percentage. Wood, 21, also ranked second in doubles (28), triples (8) and OPS (.873). 

“I’ve grown a lot, even on and off the field,” said Wood, who was acquired from the Padres last August in the Juan Soto blockbuster trade. “I think going through a whole season like I did this year, I feel you learn a lot, especially from your teammates and your coaches.” 

Wood’s accolades this season included being named to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, South Atlantic League Player of the Week and Eastern League Player of the Week.

Pitcher of the Year: LHP Andrew Alvarez

Alvarez became the first Nationals pitcher since 2018 to post a sub-3.00 ERA in a full Minor League season, going 7-7 with a 2.99 ERA across 129 1/3 innings (26 games, 22 starts) across High-A and Double-A. 

“Last year, I was doing a little bit of both [starting and pitching in relief],” Alvarez, 24, said. “... I started in college towards the back end, so it was pretty much just continuing to make sure I was getting my body right and being able to withstand a long season.” 

Alvarez, a 2021 12th-round Draft pick, paced the organization’s Minor Leaguers in ERA, innings pitched and WHIP (1.17), while ranking second in strikeouts (116) and opponent’s batting average (.229). He also was named the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week.

Defensive Player of the Year: INF Trey Lipscomb (Nationals’ No. 14 prospect)

Lipscomb played every infield position this season as he advanced from High-A to Double-A. His fielding percentage at second and third base improved to .981 this year from .929 in 2022, and he did not commit an error (39 chances) while playing shortstop for the first time in his pro career.

“Coming into this season, I really wanted to push my defensive work, and I think that’s what I did,” Lipscomb, 23, said. “I was playing everywhere … I’d played them before, but to know the speed of the game at the different positions, I feel it was something cool to learn throughout the season, not just only playing third base.”

Offensively, Lipscomb (.272/.311/.419) ranked first among the Nats Minor Leaguers in hits (139) and doubles (29). He was named Player of the Week twice during the season. Lipscomb was a third-round Draft pick by Washington in 2022.

Baserunner of the Year: OF Johnathon Thomas

Thomas stole a career-high 65 bases, the most by a Nationals Minor League player since Rafael Bautista (69) in 2014. He was one of only five Minor Leaguers to tally at least 65 stolen bases and 60 runs scored this season. Thomas, 23, also ranked second among all Single-A players and fifth among all Minor League players in stolen bases this year. 

“Teams were always trying [to throw me out], especially if I got on first -- ‘Oh he’s going to run, he’s going to run.’ And they were right -- I was going to run,” said Thomas with a laugh. “Even if I get thrown out or whatnot, I’m coming again. So just keep going until I’m there.” 

Thomas, a 19th-round Draft pick by the Nationals in 2022, recorded 15 multi-stolen base contests. He went 11-for-11 in stolen bases from July 6-23.

Nationals Way Award: OF Jacob Young (Nationals’ No. 29 prospect)

Young, who advanced from High-A to the Major Leagues this season, received the award for demonstrating “professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, determination and work ethic required to play the game the ‘Washington Nationals Way.’” 

Leading up to his big league debut on Aug. 26, Young ranked second among Nats Minor Leaguers in batting average (.305), hits (132), on-base percentage (.376) and stolen bases (39). He has become the Nationals’ everyday starting center fielder. 

“I just wanted to have a good, full season, kind of put it all together and get better and grow as a player,” Young, 24, said. “The opportunity kind of came that way. I’ve been blessed to have that opportunity, and I’m just trying to take advantage of it.”