The Washington Nationals have not gotten off to a good start to the 2023 season. Of course, this was to be expected. Despite the few young and exciting players, a power-lacking lineup and subpar pitching combine into a perfect storm of hard-to-watch baseball. However, a much more interesting Nationals team can be found just 50 miles southwest of the Navy Yard.
The Fredricksburg Nationals are the Nationals’ lowest level minor league affiliate. Often the first stop for high school and college draftees on their route to the big leagues, Fredericksburg is currently the home to the most top-30 Nationals prospects out of all Nationals affiliates. The FredNats are loaded with talent in all positions, making them the most fun affiliate to watch in the organization. Just a couple weeks into the season, we highlight who to watch on the Nats’ low-A team.
The FredNats’ infield is highlighted by 19-year-old 2021 first-round draft pick Brady House, who returns to the FredNats after being limited by injury in his first full professional season. Displaying tremendous power potential at the plate, House’s recent move to the third base makes his path to the big leagues more clear. Early in the season, House leads the team in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in.
Start your Saturday morning right with No. 5 prospect Brady House’s home run from FredNats Opening Night ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/fFhRj1ovhF
— Nats Farm (@NatsFarm) April 8, 2023
Tied with House for the team lead in RBI is Sammy Infante. Just 20 years old, Infante is another power hitter at the plate, having endeared himself to fans by leading the FredNats in home runs in 2022. Off to a strong start in 2023, Infante will look to prove his bat and defense as capable of sticking at shortstop over his competitors.
One of Infante’s competitors at shortstop is his teammate Armando Cruz. An international free agent, Cruz is one of the youngest players on the team but already boasts the best defensive capability. Smooth and athletic, Cruz is a defensive lock at the shortstop position. A contact hitter, he will have all of 2023 to prove at least average hitting ability to make the move to the next level in 2024.
The FredNats hold one of the biggest names in the Nationals’ deep system of outfielders: Elijah Green. Green boasts a lethal power and speed combination, already leading the team in stolen bases. Getting off to a strong start highlighted by a walk-off single on April 9th, Elijah Green has come back into contact with his swing-and-miss struggles. If able to cut down on his strikeouts and make more consistent contact, Green’s power, speed, and defense should carry him through the minor league ranks rather quickly.
Speed is also an integral part of Brenner Cox’s game. Cox is one of the youngest players in the Carolina League after getting drafted out of high school last year. A former two-sport athlete also playing football, Cox is athletic, and defensively sure enough to play any outfield spot. With plenty of time for the bat to develop, Cox’s hitting ability will decide what position he ultimately ends up in.
Less defensively capable, and without the blazing wheels like Green and Cox, Daylen Lile relies heavily on his bat. After getting drafted in 2021, Lile missed the entire 2022 season due to a Tommy John surgery. A smooth swing from the left side has the potential to build more power as Lile develops, already boasting an impressive line drive ability.
Jake Bennett likely won’t be in Fredricksburg for long. After getting drafted out of Oklahoma, Bennett made his pro debut on opening day for the FredNats, striking out eight over five scoreless innings. He ran into more trouble in his second start but still boasts a repertoire capable of seeing high-A and possible AA ball sooner rather than later. As a college pitcher that doesn’t rely heavily on velocity, Bennett is a low-floor player, having a lower chance of not succeeding in the big leagues than many other pitchers. He looks to balance out the rotation with his consistency in years to come.
Jake Bennett impressed in his professional debut, completing 5.0 nearly perfect innings on 60 pitches.
He did not allow a run or a walk, and only allowed one hit, while striking out eight. pic.twitter.com/xuIZ9u9bUO
— Nationals Player Development (@Nats_PlayerDev) April 8, 2023
Much the opposite of Bennett, Jarlin Susana relies almost entirely on his fastball. The 18-year-old has hit 103 on the gun multiple times, making him easily one of the most fascinating pitchers to watch across all of the minor leagues. Struggling with consistency and pitching deep into games, Susana hopes to build up his workload and improve his command. Read more about Susana here.
There’s no doubt that the next time the Nationals big league team will be contending again, it will be with some players currently playing for low-A Fredricksburg. The collection of so many highly rated prospects is nothing short of special. Recent draft picks and international signees shape a star-studded lineup headlined by teenagers. With a long season of major league struggles ahead of the Washington Nationals, the Fredricksburg Nationals are making a case for being the team to watch.
Leave a Reply