Time to honor commitments to the top prospects!

We are now at the final weekend of the Grapefruit League, and the 15-10 Washington Nationals have assured themselves to have clinched a winning record with just three games remaining that include a split-squad doubleheader tomorrow, and a Sunday afternoon finale. The team will then fly to Washington, D.C. after Sunday’s game. Monday is a day-off, and Tuesday is the On Deck: Nationals Futures Game. Of course, Thursday is Opening Day in Cincinnati. Josiah Gray will start one of the games tomorrow on regular rest and pitch Opening Day on regular rest.

Yesterday’s walk-off winner had to get you excited for how that all transpired. James Wood led-off the inning, lefty on lefty, and followed the slider’s break to the outside and smashed to the extreme opposite field for the game-tying home run at 8-to-8. Alex Call stroked a single to a .414 batting average and an 1.193 OPS. He stole second base, and then Dylan Crews was inserted as a pinch-hitter. He hit the line drive single to win it in walk-off fashion. His first walk-off hit of his professional career.

“I was kind of fighting up there and was able to get a good enough pitch, and do something with it.”

“I just felt good, especially going the other way. That’s something I’ve been trying to get back to. I wasn’t trying to force it over there, but I think that’s the part of the field I really wanted to stay at.”

— Wood said about his 9th inning game-tying home run

If not for Wood’s home run and Call’s single, the Crews’ walk-off hit would not have mattered. That is how every play, every failure, and every success becomes part of a baseball game. It is taking advantage of the opportunity as it presented itself. If a runner was on-base for Wood, he would have hit the walk-off home run. But he was the lead-off batter in the ninth inning with bases empty. Call had bases empty before he hit his single.

While you wish that Call was the next iteration of Ted Williams as a .400+ hitter, we will have to wait on that to see what the Nats do with him. On Wood, his .341 batting average and 1.198 OPS is the true future of this team. Crews is trying to get back to what he did to start his pro career last year.

“They’re not afraid of a big moment, and they stay in the moment. Both of them were very calm, understood what they needed to do up there and both did a great job.”

— manager Dave Martinez said

Crews has had his struggles, but also hitting into a lot of bad luck. You could say Call has had the good luck. Now if Call has made a mechanical adjustment or fixed his eyes or has a logical reason for his torrid Spring Training then maybe we can take that as a sign that he can be an asset as the team controls him for several more years.

“Growing up, you learn to calm your nerves down and just treat it like another at-bat, but it’s very exciting. Just to string some at-bats together and potentially win the ball game at the end, it’s a good feeling.”

 “The way you prepare everyday and the way you treat every game, it should be like it’s a regular season game or Game 7 of the World Series. It was a good win tonight for us.”

— Crews said about his walk-off hit and the team win

But keep in mind, this outfield is stacked for the future with Jacob Young, Robert Hassell III, Daylen Lile, Cristhian Vaquero, and more. It was the reason the team moved T.J. White from the outfield to first base last year. This is a good problem to have. Then there is Elijah Green who was the team’s first round pick of 2022. That is EIGHT NAMES for five spots plus the DH role.

While it is fun to think about the future, the players have to meet their top-end potential to really get this from paper to reality for a future Washington Nationals team. The “Futures Game” on Tuesday will be a chance to see many of these players facing veteran pitchers.

So let’s discuss this roster after completing 25-games into Spring Training: Wood and Trey Lipscomb have earned spots on the Opening Day roster. When general manager Mike Rizzo made his point nearly three weeks ago that top prospects would have to kick the door down — they did.

“The [top prospects] have got to kick the door down and force us to put them on the team and win the job. We want to take the best guys, not the best future guys, the best guys right now.”

— Rizzo on the Grant & Danny show on 106.7 in early March

NYNat compiled numbers for Wood and Lipscomb. They are all impressive, and here are Lipscomb’s stats in Spring Training versus Double-A last year: K%: 14.3% vs 18.2% in AA; BB%: 10.2% vs. 3.6% in AA; ISO: .159 vs .153 in AA; wOBA: .420 vs .333 in AA; and WRC+: 157 vs 102 in AA.

There is no guarantee that any player’s numbers will translate, and that is never a guarantee. You put them on the roster and hope it works. If not, they both have minor league options. They did what Rizzo asked and kicked down those doors. Now Rizzo has to honor his commitment.

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