After an outstanding performance at the Arizona Fall League, all eyes should be on Jackson Cluff.
When people talk about the Nationals farm system, Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry, Jackson Rutledge, and Brady House are always the first to be mentioned. Understandable. Those four are seen as building blocks and the future of the Nationals.
Daylen Lile, Andry Lara, and TJ White also all come to mind. Young players who are raw, but have the ability to turn into solid role players. Someone who has continued to go under the radar is Jackson Cluff, the Nationals sixth-round pick in 2019.
A college standout at BYU, Cluff spent his 2019 season with the Nats A affiliate, hitting .229, with five homers, 19 RBIs, and an OPS of .687. He also added 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts. Cluff then spent part of the 2020 season at the Nationals Alternate Site.
2021 marked his first full year in the minors, but a broken thumb and then later a broken hamate bone in his wrist derailed his season. When he was able to stay on the diamond, Cluff was never able to get into a groove at the plate. At AA, he slashed .190/.278/.278, with an OPS of .556 in 35 games.
However, he isn’t known for his bat. Instead, Cluff will go as far as his glove takes him. An elite defender, Cluff is a natural shortstop but can also play second and third.
After battling multiple injuries Washington’s front office wanted to see more of Cluff, so they invited him to represent the Nationals in the Arizona Fall League. Finally healthy, the 25-year-old made his presence felt both at the plate in the field.
He slashed .342/.432/.456, with a homer, 14 RBIs, and an OPS of .887. On the basepaths, he was a perfect 8-8 in stolen base attempts. Defensively, Cluff was named the AFL Defensive Player of the Year, capping off an excellent rebound for the righty.
Entering the upcoming 2022 season, Cluff will start at either AA or AAA and will need to prove his Fall League season wasn’t a fluke. Mainly, he will need to demonstrate he can be consistent at the plate.
After his strong performance this fall, all eyes will be on him this Spring. Time to see if he can thrive under the spotlight.