July 5, 2022

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Lara racks up strikeouts in start No. 2

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Welcome to the Nationals prospect update, where you’ll find news, promotions and standout performances, all year long.

Lara continues impressive start for Fredericksburg (April 17)
The two runs he allowed notwithstanding, Andry Lara put together an impressive performance for Single-A Fredericksburg. The No. 6 Nats prospect recorded seven of his 12 outs via the strikeout in his second start of the season. Lara scattered three hits, walked two and surrendred a pair of runs in four innings, leaving him with a 2.57 ERA. The 19-year-old struck out the final two batters he faced during his 67-pitch outing.

Signed as an international free agent in 2019, Lara made his pro debut in 2021 and experienced mixed results. The right-hander made 11 appearances (nine starts) and finished with a 4.66 ERA, striking out 52 in 48 1/3 innings across two Minor League levels.– Michael Avallone

Fox delivers in big league debut (April 10)
After playing in 480 Minor League games, 24-year-old infielder Lucius Fox made his Major League debut on Sunday afternoon for the Nationals. Ranked as Washington’s No. 23 prospect, he earned the start at shortstop while Alcides Escobar got the day off.

“I probably played the game in my head three times last night and this morning,” said Fox, who found out he was in the starting lineup around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday. “Waking up at 6 a.m., thinking I’m late to the field. Then 7 a.m., thinking I’m late. I was going through different situations. But I just trusted that, with my work and my preparation, that I would be prepared for any task that came to me today. I was really excited, kind of butterflies.”

Fox immediately brought his exuberance to the field at Nationals Park, making a quick-thinking diving stop and throw from his knees to nab Pete Alonso for a second-inning out at first base.

“I thought the first one was going to be a routine ground ball,” Fox said. “I was happy that I was able to get to it. I felt the energy from the crowd on that one. After that, I was like, ‘OK, same game.’ A lot more eyes on you, but the same game.”

As the afternoon progressed, Fox played a key role in the Nationals’ first win of the season. Down 2-1 in the eighth, he delivered a game-tying bunt to plate Dee Strange-Gordon and eventually scored the go-ahead run off Nelson Cruz’s RBI single.

“I couldn’t control myself,” Fox said. “I was so excited to see the crowd involved, and to get our first win, it was special. I definitely felt the energy from the crowd. It was an amazing time. It was a dream come true.” — Jessica Camerato

Major League path for top prospect Cavalli (April 8)
The Nationals’ No. 1 prospect, right-hander Cade Cavalli, made his first Minor League start of the season for the Triple-A Red Wings on Thursday when he tossed four innings against the Mud Hens. He allowed three runs, four hits (including a homer) and one walk while fanning four.

Cavalli is on pace to make his big league debut this season, and the Nationals have criteria they will be monitoring as he builds up his innings.

“He just has to do kind of the minute things to become a full-packaged Major League starter,” general manager Mike Rizzo said Friday. “We want to see him use all his pitches. I watched him pitch last night; his stuff was very, very good. He threw a lot of changeups, which was part of the developmental process that we have in place for him.

“Just see him take another step forward. The stuff is there, it’s Major League ready. Now he has to harness it, command it and do the little things it takes to win at the Major League level.” — Jessica Camerato

Casey’s homer, triple lead Rochester (April 6)
Donovan Casey shook off his four-strikeout performance on Opening Night with a four-RBI performance in the season’s second game. The No. 19 Nats prospect sliced a run-scoing triple to shallow right, just out of reach of Triple-A Toledo right fielder Daz Cameron. With the Red Wings leading, 3-2, in the seventh, he took a 2-2 pitch over the center-field fence for a three-run homer. Rochester went on to win, 6-3.

Obtained from the Dodgers in last year’s blockbuster trade that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to Los Angeles, Casey batted .269 with a .759 OPS in 123 games with Double-A Tulsa and Harrisburg and Rochester. The 26-year-old left the yard 16 times and amassed 44 extra-base hits, 72 runs and 55 RBIs plus 22 stolen bases. — Michael Avallone

Adon earns starting spot (April 5)
Following a strong Spring Training performance, No. 8 prospect Joan Adon earned a spot in the Nationals’ starting rotation to open the 2022 season.

“Adon, for me, is a guy that’s young that we see that has a future here,” manager Dave Martinez said on Tuesday at the close of Spring Training. “He’s actually throwing the ball really well, and I want to give him an opportunity and see what he can do.”

Adon, 23, made his Major League debut last year in the 2021 season finale against the Red Sox. He turned heads by striking out nine in 5 1/3 innings. Over his Minor League career, Adon has thrown 268 2/3 frames in 76 games (42 starts). Last season he progressed from High-A to Triple-A.

“We’ll monitor him, but he’s fairly good-to-go,” Martinez said. “He’s a strong kid. He’s very mature for his age. The thing that we like is that he understands that he needs to throw strikes.” — Jessica Camerato

Fox renewed chance at Opening Day roster (April 4)
On Thursday, Lucius Fox embarked on a two-day drive from West Palm Beach, Fla., to Rochester, N.Y., to begin the season with the Triple-A Red Wings. On Sunday, he flew back to the Nationals’ training complex with another chance to make the Opening Day roster — and what would be his Major League debut.

“It’s special,” an enthusiastic Fox said Monday morning, running on three hours of sleep and adrenaline. “I’ve been working my whole life for this opportunity and this moment. I always envisioned how I’d feel but I can’t put it into words.”

A recent left quad strain to super utility veteran Ehire Adrianza created the need for a backup infielder. Fox – ranked as the Nationals’ No. 23 prospect by MLB Pipeline – has the most experience at second base and shortstop, but he also had been getting reps in camp at third base.

The 24-year-old hit .400 with a home run in eight Spring Training games before being optioned to Triple-A last Monday. Fox will travel with the team to Washington, D.C., for Opening Day on Thursday, but roster decisions have not been finalized.

“He’s full of energy,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He plays with a lot of emotion. … He’s a joy to be around. He loves the game. He loves playing.”

The Nats claimed Fox off waivers from the Orioles, just 11 days after Baltimore claimed him off waivers from Kansas City. Playing at Nationals Park would feel like an easy fit for Fox, who grew up such a fan of former Washington shortstop Trea Turner, he committed to N.C. State because of him.

“This is going to be my first time going to D.C.,” Fox said. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about the city, about the fan base and I’m excited to get going.” — Jessica Camerato

Cavalli reassigned to Minor League camp (April 2)
Cade Cavalli is on track to make his Major League debut this season, but he will open it with Triple-A Rochester. The Nationals reassigned their No. 1 prospect – and MLB Pipeline’s No. 39 overall prospect – to Minor League camp on Saturday.

“At this point, we feel like he still needs to work on some things,” manager Dave Martinez said. “As we all know, he’s going to be a huge part of our future. We want to start him down there, get him going and just let him build up innings. He hasn’t really pitched that much in the last few years, so we’re going to keep a close eye on him, for sure.”

Cavalli, 23, has played one season of pro ball since being selected by the Nats with the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 Draft. Last year, he went 7-9 with a 3.36 ERA and a Minor League-leading 175 strikeouts over 123 1/3 innings across three levels.

The electric right-hander got a look at Major League competition this spring. Viewed as a starter, Cavalli also pitched out of the bullpen in order to get innings in a lockout-condensed schedule. He went 1-1 with a 14.04 ERA — mostly attributed to his final spring outing on Wednesday against the Cardinals — and 11 strikeouts over 8 1/3 frames.

The Nationals are tasking Cavalli with working on his fastball location, throwing strike one, becoming more comfortable with his changeup, working faster with runners on base and sticking with the mindset of “three pitches or less.”

“He showed us some really good things this spring,” Martinez said. “I told him, ‘The door’s going to be wide open for you here in the future. Just go down there and continue to compete.’ As we all know, he’s definitely going to help us.” — Jessica Camerato

No. 1 prospect Cavalli struggles in fastball-heavy outing (March 30)
Cade Cavalli, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 39 overall prospect, struggled in his third Spring Training outing on Wednesday against the Cardinals. The electric right-hander allowed 11 runs (10 earned) on eight hits (one homer) and one walk, and struck out two in 2 1/3 innings, short of the Nationals’ four-inning goal.

While viewed by the Nats as a starter, Cavalli entered the game in the sixth inning, pitching out of the bullpen for the second time in camp so the team could take a look at him in game action within the lockout-condensed schedule.

“That’s baseball. It happens sometimes,” Cavalli said. “They hit me around. I was in the zone for most of the time. Obviously, I got a little fastball-heavy.”

Manager Dave Martinez thought Cavalli, at times, was “trying to do a little too much.” Martinez discussed working more changeups into Cavalli’s delivery, and he also encouraged the prospect to view the outing “as a learning curve.”

“Honestly, I’m glad it happened,” Cavalli said. “That was really good. That was a great mental exercise of, ‘I’ve got to get to the next pitch, can’t give in.’ You’ve got to compete. You’re the man in the arena right there. You’re in battle. I went to battle, and I lost today. But I’m going to keep my head up and learn from it, work, and it’s going to be good.”

Cavalli is likely to make one more appearance before the Nationals determine whether he will return to Triple-A Rochester to start the season or if he will make the Opening Day roster for his Major League debut. Cavalli pitched 123 1/3 innings (7-9, 3.36 ERA, 175 strikeouts) in his lone season of pro ball in 2021.

“It’s natural as a human to wonder where you’re going to be, but that’s a really good mental exercise to be where your feet are — be present,” Cavalli said. “That’s all you can do. You can control what you can control, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. So I’ll keep trying it.” — Jessica Camerato

Five top-30 prospects optioned, re-assigned (March 22)
Right-hander Jackson Rutledge, the Nationals’ No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was among 10 players involved in the first round of Spring Training roster moves on Tuesday. Of Washington’s top 30 prospects, Rutledge, infielder Jackson Cluff (No. 22) and catcher Israel Pineda (No. 25) were re-assigned to Minor League camp, while lefty Evan Lee (No. 18) and outfielder Yasel Antuna (No. 12) were optioned to Triple-A.

Antuna went 1-for-3 over two games, Cluff was 0-for-2 with a run scored in three games and Lee fanned two batters in one scoreless inning. Pineda and Rutledge did not appear in a game.

The club’s top prospect, right-hander Cade Cavalli, remains with the Nationals. He struck out six in three frames in his Spring Training debut on Sunday, but the team is not rushing his Major League debut after just one season of pro ball. — Jessica Camerato

Vaquero set to continue development at DR academy (Feb. 26)
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Nationals anticipate touted international prospect Cristhian Vaquero will spend 2022 at their academy in the Dominican Republic. Washington signed the 17-year-old center fielder from Cuba, who was ranked No. 2 on MLB.com’s Top 50 international prospects list, to a deal worth $4,925,000 in January.

“Really looking forward to getting him in the fold so we can start moving forward with him,” director of player development De Jon Watson said on Saturday.

Watson lauded Vaquero as “big, strong [and] athletic” with an above-average defensive skill set that has the potential to become “well above average.”

“He’s going to be a fun, exciting player,” Watson said. “From the videos that I’ve seen, really electric hands from both sides of the plate with emerging power.”

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