FredNats’ ‘repeat offenders’ to make case for promotion

by | Apr 2, 2024 | ALLFFP, FredNats, Sports

Jake Lowery can empathize with the 25 players on his opening day roster who have spent at least some time in a Fredericksburg Nationals uniform prior to Friday’s opener against the Delmarva Shorebirds.  

After all, Lowery is entering his third season as FredNats manager.  

“Junior year here, no big deal,” Lowery said with a chuckle during Tuesday’s FredNats media day at Virginia Credit Union Stadium. “Some of the guys who are coming back and I realize they want to move up as well, but I’m like, ‘they should be with me.’” 

While Lowery jokingly referred to such players as “repeat offenders,” a second or even third go-round at the Class A level hardly marks a death sentence for a prospect’s chances to reach the big leagues. Lowery noted that due to the contraction that hit the minor leagues back in 2021, there’s no longer a true rookie league level. 

“Some people have to come back here,” Lowery said.  

Among the most prominent returners is outfielder Elijah Green, a 2023 first-round draft pick who’s back in Fredericksburg after strikeouts and a sprained wrist — persistent issues that weren’t necessarily unrelated — hindered his first full season as a professional.  

“I think it was just making that transition from playing 25 games to 100-something games and playing every single day,” said Green, who was selected fifth overall as a high school senior out of IMG Academy. “I think this year I know what I’m getting myself into.” 

In 75 games with the FredNats last season, Green batted .210 with 139 strikeouts in 281 at-bats, a nearly 50% rate. He also stole 30 bases.

One newcomer to the FredNats — if not the Carolina League — is right-handed pitcher Samuel Vasquez. Washington acquired Vasquez, who spent the past two seasons with the Cleveland-affiliated Lynchburg Hillcats, in December’s Rule 5 draft. 

Lowery says he counseled Vasquez, a flame-throwing reliever who will close out games for Fredericksburg, not to fret about another April spent at the Low-A level.  

“We’ve already told him it doesn’t matter where you start,” Lowery said. “Just because you’re starting here, don’t worry about that. You could be in the big leagues this year.” 

Lowery, too, has ambitions of one day climbing the organizational ladder. The Richmond-area native and former JMU standout has managed the FredNats to winning records in his first two seasons at the helm, with a playoff appearance in 2022.

But where patience is concerned, he’s trying to practice what he preaches to his players.  

“I’ve seen other managers move up or go get coordinator jobs, it’s just part of it,” he said. “I’m excited to lead this group, no matter where I am. Whether I’m in A ball or in AAA.” 

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