Nationals Notebook: Prime prospect meets the big league lights

Washington Nationals Futures' James Wood in action during an exhibition baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Tuesday, March 26, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)(AP/Nick Wass)

The Washington Nationals’ summer of possibilities took multiple major hits last week when they got swept in San Diego before dropping two of three at Tampa Bay. And the hopes of their first winning month since June 2021 went up in flames, but that doesn’t matter now.

As July begins, the team is expected to welcome prime prospect James Wood to Washington for his major league debut. The Rockville, Maryland, native was a second-round pick in 2021 by the San Diego Padres and was part of the Juan Soto (and Josh Bell) trade in August 2022 before hitting .293 with 17 RBI in 21 games at Class A Fredericksburg.

Wood batted .262 with 26 homers and 91 RBI in 129 games at the Class A and AA level last season and then became the spring training sensation (.364 with four homers and seven RBI over 22 games) before continuing his tear at AAA Rochester (.353 with 10 homers and 37 RBI over 52 games).

Can the 21-year-old make the leap this summer? Even if he can’t in the present, Woods represents the future. One hopes it’s not just now but also wow.

Digesting the Division: Philadelphia (55-29) leads the NL East by eight games after Sunday’s 7-6 rally past Miami which salvaged a series split with the Marlins. Alec Bohm homered in the win to give the third baseman 68 RBI on the season (his career high is 97). Atlanta (46-36) took two of three in Pittsburgh but has been playing .500 ball since the end of April.

The New York Mets (40-41) moved past the Nats into third place and actually stood a game over .500 before dropping two straight to Houston. And their momentum is more than merely Grimace throwing out the first pitch a few weeks ago. Infielder Jose Iglesias doubles as a Latin pop music artist performing under the name “Candelita” and they’ve been playing his new single “OMG” in the clubhouse after wins.

Washington (39-44) remains almost 10 games ahead of Miami (30-54), who has a great chip for the trade deadline in reliever Tanner Scott (6-5 with 12 saves and a 1.50 ERA over 35 appearances).

Break up the Birds: The Baltimore Orioles (53-31) took three out of four games against the very team that eliminated them from the 2023 playoffs (Texas), and it’s bounce-back from getting swept in Houston has them percentage points ahead of an imploding New York Yankees (5-11 to finish June) team in the AL East. They battle the Pinstripes right before the All-Star break, but this week they’ll go on the road to face AL West-leading Seattle as well as cellar-dwelling Oakland.

Diamonds Direct Diamond King: Jake Irvin struck out five while allowing just one hit and run over six innings in the Nationals’ lone victory of the week. The right-hander wrapped up a 4-1 June where he posted an ERA of 2.31 over six starts and has already doubled the victory total posted during his rookie season.

Last Week’s Heroes: Reliever Jordan Weems allowed one run in 4.1 innings over four outings while Jacob Barnes surrendered one run in 3.2 frames over two appearances. CJ Abrams hit .500 with five runs scored and three RBI. James Young scored a team-high six runs.

Last Week’s Humbled: Joey Meneses batted .136 while Eddie Rosario and Ildemaro Vargas each went 1-9 at the plate. Dylan Floro allowed three runs in one inning of relief while Hunter Harvey surrendered three runs over 1.2 frames. MacKenzie Gore coughed up five runs over five innings and the lefthander’s ERA for June ballooned to 5.13.

Game to Watch: On Monday against the red-hot New York Mets, Gore tries to begin July on the right note while James Wood makes his long-awaited MLB debut. The visitors also start David Peterson, a name I have been accused of having at least twice in my life on a local TV station. OMG!

Game to Miss: On Thursday, we celebrate Independence Day. Jake Irvin pitches in the series finale against the Mets. The Mets have yet to name a starter, which means we very well might get one of those dreaded “bullpen games.” The game also starts at 11:05 a.m. Choose your independence.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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