Too many outfielders in the kitchen, and one sent a meatball over the fence!

The tattoo on his forearm reads, Always remember,” and for a while — and for a different reason some forgot. Baseball fans, and the media, are a fickled group that can forget about you if there is a new flavor of the day. James Wood is not a new flavor — he isn’t even an acquired taste. He is a top prospect in all of baseball at No. 14 overall, and Wood had one of the most exciting first weeks of Spring Training in Nats’ history. The lefty was making the national news, which obviously happens when you lead all of baseball in the first week of baseball with three homers.

With a tough lefty, Jesus Luzardo, starting today — Dylan Crews got a rare start amongst the veterans in the lineup. The LSU product was the second overall pick in the draft and ranked at the No. 7 overall prospect in baseball. He did not disappoint in the power and hustle department in today’s game. While Wood still leads the team in batting average, homers and OPS, Crews just inched a little closer with his homer and double today to surge back into the baseball vernacular of prospects of note, or in this case — just a reminder to remember him.

Yesterday, Crews was gushing about his teammate and deflecting all praise onto his teammate who deserves it. Wood’s gaudy 1.413 OPS can certainly excite you. Crews stated that Wood is big league ready, and in a TalkNats poll, over two-thirds of those that voted agreed if Wood keeps it up, he should make the Opening Day roster. Should.

James Wood, in my opinion, he’s big league ready for sure. Just the way he handles himself every day, and the way his at-bats are, it just looks so easy. The way he can hit anything at any moment, no matter what count it is, and be able to drive a ball 450 feet, it’s unbelievable. Pretty cool to see. He’s a special player, and I’m glad he’s on my team.”

— Crews said on the Grant & Danny Radio Show on 106.7 yesterday

We should be happy for all of Wood, Crews, Robert Hassell III have Spring Training OPS of 1.413, 1.284, and 1.087 respectively. That young trio of prospects could be the future starting outfield for the Washington Nationals at some point in the near-future — not Eddie Rosario, who appears to be a short-term add for the Nats. Today, he was signed to a one-year minor league deal for $2 million if he makes the MLB roster with another $2 million in incentives.

The team has Victor Robles in his final season of team control, and players like Jacob Young, Daylen Lile, Elijah Green, and Cristhian Vaquero are the other top prospects looking for a shot — plus you have Lane Thomas with team control through next season. The team has Alex Call and Stone Garrett who were both starters for most of the mid-season with Thomas. That does not even include all of the other outfielders recently signed like the versatile Joey Gallo on a MLB deal plus several on MiLB deals like Jesse Winker, Jordan Qsar, and Travis Blankenhorn.

Sure, you could put Gallo at first base and Winker at the DH, then what happens to Joey Meneses, Garrett, Young, and Call if you assume the starting outfield like some are speculating will be Rosario, Robles, and Thomas on Opening Day. Just yesterday, it seemed like Wood, Young, and Thomas have shown best in Spring Training and have earned spots. With three weeks to go, we shall see.

Yes the kitchen is crowded — which is a good problem to have since the team has spots to fill for now and the future, and might have some trade bait. The crowded outfield won’t stop Nats fans from dreaming of a reunion with Juan Soto after this season, especially after Soto claimed that he “never wanted to leave Washington.” Well, he had 440 million reasons to stay — and sources told us, at the time, that ownership left themselves some wiggle room to go higher on the offer as we reported at the time in terms of more dollars and higher AAV — but Soto’s side did not counter to the team’s offer, leading general manager Mike Rizzo to chart a new course and trade Soto for a package that netted Wood, Hassell, CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, and Jarlin Susana to the Nats.

That Soto trade had baseball analysts lined up to say that it was the greatest haul in return for a trade in baseball history, much like football analysts said about Herschel Walker‘s transformative trade in football to Minnesota nearly 35 years ago. Jeff Passan of ESPN called the Soto trade return, “a King’s Ransom.”

So today we celebrate Crews, and why not, he earned it. Over the weekend, the revisionists wanted to revive the debate that Rizzo should have drafted Wyatt Langford instead of Crews. That debate might persist longer than Brooks Lee over Green who were top draft picks in 2022 with Green chosen by the Nats instead of Lee. Green, like Hassell, had tough 2023 seasons, and if Crews has an 0-2 when Langford clobbers two homers — that is where the conversation will go until the time that Crews can silence his detractors. It comes with the territory. Wood strikes out twice today — and all of a sudden — his praise from last week turned to worry mode for some. Recency bias is how some live their lives. Small sample sizes will drive you crazy.

You can tell the fans to enjoy the ride, but that is not everyone’s personality. The Crews’ homer traveled 393 feet at 102.4 mph, and that came after a double to the same spot in right-center field that hit off the wall in his first at-bat. The videos were posted, and those fickled fans hopefully forgot about that kid who was drafted after Crews for the moment.

“I was hoping a little sooner than later, but it felt good to get a barrel in and help the team win today. I think the off-day helped a lot, just physically and mentally, to kind of get the feet underneath me again.”

“I haven’t hit a home run in a game in months because of the offseason and stuff like that. To get the first one out of the way — it’s always a good feeling.”

— Crews said after the game

The Nats are scheduled to face another lefty starter, Jose Quintana, in a game tomorrow night. Maybe manager Dave Martinez will start Crews again. Could Wood start against the lefty? Martinez has probably already penciled up his lineup for tomorrow so we will see. You have to think that Crews will get another start. Unfortunately for the late game substitute players, they are getting limited at-bats. That is part of the issue with Spring Training baseball.

“He stays in the middle of the field, he’s got a lot of power to all fields, but to see him stay on a couple balls today like that was really, really impressive. It was a good day for him. He’s a baseball player — he’s [the] first one in the cage, he comes ready to play.”

— Martinez said about Crews

We need many more days on a constant replay like Tuesday of last week when Wood, Crews, Hassell III, Brady House and Nasim Nuñez all had hits in the same game. More importantly we need wins and a reason to believe in the future of the Washington Nationals.

The surprise of today was not that Crews bashed a homer, as we expect him to do that, rather the news that the Nats might have committed to another $4 million in payroll with the Rosario signing, at a time when we thought the team was done in adding payroll. Rizzo has said over and over that the goal is to win games. A source told us that the deal on Rosario was a good fit. In the short-term, it could make sense.

“I won’t say anyone doesn’t have a chance [to make the Opening Day roster], but they have to kick the door down — and force us to put them on the team.”

“It’s not the best guys long-term, it’s the best guys right now, and it has to make sense for their development. We’re here with few positions set in stone — competition is rampant, which I think is good for a young team, and if any of these guys are ready to go, we’ve shown no apprehension [in the past] to bringing young guys to the big leagues.”

“When you’re ready for the big leagues, everyone will know it, and we’ll bring you, but our goal is to win games. …”

— Rizzo said on the Grant & Danny Radio Show on 106.7 yesterday

Some players will be nervous about their future employment — and whether Wood or Crews make the Opening Day 2024 lineup or not is part of what Rizzo has to figure out — and for their part, Wood and Crews need to make that decision really tough on him to send them back to the minor leagues.

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