With Starlin Castro on administrative leave, the Nats again stretched thin on the infield …
WASHINGTON – Starlin Castro was placed on administrative leave here before Friday’s game, with mega-prospect third baseman Carter Kieboom still on the Injured List at Triple-A, and the Nationals started a 24th-round draft pick at the hot corner for Double-A Harrisburg on Friday night.
Castro, able to play at several infield spots, was put on leave by Major League Baseball for at least seven days while it investigates a domestic violence allegation, according to MLB.
”We don’t tolerate that kind of behavior,” an emotional manager Dave Martinez told reporters Friday. “There’s no place for it as far as I am concerned.”
The Nats then went out and got hammered 24-8 by the Padres – the most runs allowed since the team moved to Washington in 2005 – as veteran Jordy Mercer made the start at third. He certainly isn’t the long-term solution at third as the Nationals must ponder whether to deal for prospects at the trade deadline.
The same night, there was not a lot of comforting news coming from any big-time prospects at third base at the top four levels of the minors.
Here is a look at who started at third base on Friday down on the farm:
*With Kieboom on the IL and hitting .248 in 137 at-bats with Rochester, career journeyman and Northern Virginia product Brandon Snyder started at third base for the Red Wings. He had two hits to lift his average to .221 at Triple-A. A former first baseman in the majors, Snyder also ended up pitching 2.2 innings in a mop-up role as Rochester lost 13-8 at Syracuse. He gave up five runs.
*At Double-A Harrisburg, the starting third baseman on Friday was Jake Alu – drafted out of Boston College in the 24th round in 2019.
He was hitting .360 in his first 14 games with the Senators after he hit .303 in 39 games with high Single-A Wilmington.
The Harrisburg roster also includes third baseman Gilbert Lara, who hit .250 in his first 15 games for the Senators this year.
Infielder Jackson Cluff, who has played mostly short, was back with the Senators after spending time at Wilmington.
He was drafted out of BYU by the Nationals in 2019 in the sixth round. Friday was his third game back with Harrisburg after spending time with Wilmington.
“The Nats trust us a lot to do a lot of our training on our own,” Cluff told Federal Baseball in February, after he worked out in Utah this winter.
“When it comes to strength and conditioning, we had a program in the fall.
“It was my goal to put on a little extra weight and speed development. They check in on me a couple of times per month.”
*Omar Meregildo started at third for Wilmington on Friday – he can play other spots on the infield, which is usually the case for the Nationals in how they develop players. He was hitting .214 with eight homers and 27 RBIs in his first 165 at-bats this season.
Other third basemen listed on the roster include Cole Daily, a 22nd round pick out of Notre Dame in 2018 by the Nationals, and J.T. Arruda, taken out of Fresno State in the 11th round in 2019. Daily was hitting .200 this year through Friday, while Arruda was at .224.
*Junior Martina, who can also play short, started at third for Fredericksburg on Friday. He was hitting .239 with two homers and 17 RBIs in his first 180 at-bats this year. Another infielder for Fredericksburg is Jake Boone, who is more of a middle infielder. The son of former big leaguer Bret and grandson of former All-Star catcher Bob, Princeton product Boone was hitting .175 in his first 80 at-bats at the pro level this year after he signed in 2020 as a non-drafted player.
“I have been working really hard, just trying to stay ready for when we need to report,” Boone told Federal Baseball before Spring Training.
“Nothing is certain; they try to get us updated as well as they can.”
The Nationals, in the past, developed All-Star third basemen Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon.
For now, unless Kieboom can get healthy and start hitting, there doesn’t appear to be a can’t-miss third baseman down on the farm.
Of the Nationals’ draft picks this year, none were listed solely as a third baseman on MLB.com’s draft tracker — though there is talk of making first round pick Brady House, a high school star as a shortstop out of Georgia, a third baseman.
The Nats drafted Kieboom out of a Georgia high school in the first round in 2016.