The Washington Nationals give out the “Nationals Way Award” every year, and Jake Alu was this year’s recipient.
This award is given to players who demonstrate what it means to be a National, and Alu did just that. Not only did he lead Washington’s minor league system in just about every hitting statistical category, he led all of minor league baseball in defensive runs saved, according to Baseball Info Solutions.
Alu saw action between Harrisburg and Rochester this season, Washington’s AA and AAA affiliates, and hit 20 home runs between the two teams. Jake hit .323 in 59 games at Rochester with 11 home runs, ending the season red hot and forcing his name into the organizational conversation at third base
The Nationals have a hole to fill at third base. Why not give Jake Alu a shot? The 25 year old minor leaguer is coming off an extremely successful season with the bat and glove. He is expected to be at spring training in 2023. Not many Nationals fans know who Jake Alu is due to his age, 25, and prospect status, not currently in the Nationals Top 30 list.
A product of Hamilton, New Jersey, Alu was a four year starter at Princeton Day School. As a senior, he hit .523, according to bceagles.com. His impressive high school career was more than enough to earn him a scholarship to attend Boston College.
Alu is no stranger to battles in his baseball career. In his freshmen season at Boston College, Jake only logged 4 at bats. In his sophomore season, he was awarded a starting spot in left field, a spot where he was unfamiliar. He took that spot and ran, hitting .331 that season, according to baseballreference.com. The following is a video from Boston College’s 2016 fall scout day.
After leading the team in batting his sophomore season, Alu struggled in his junior season, amounting a .216 batting average. This has proved to be a fluke season for him, as he came back his senior year and raked, hitting .339 and slugging 4 home runs.
Following his outstanding college career at Boston College, it was only enough to earn Alu a 24th round MLB Draft selection. Standing at just 5’10” and 22 years of age at the time of the draft, those attributes likely caused Jake to fall to the later rounds. Despite those “limitations”, Alu has done nothing but produce since being drafted.
His worst batting average in a single season in the minor leagues is .257, and that was just after Alu was drafted in short season Auburn. Alu has a minor league career batting average of .286, according to baseballreference.com. If all Jake has done at the minor league level is produce, why hasn’t he gotten his shot in the big leagues?
The idea of Carter Kieboom has hindered the ability of Jake Alu to get to the major leagues. Kieboom, the teams top prospect years ago, has battled injuries the past few seasons and has been given multiple opportunities due to his previous prospect status. In his short time in the big leagues, Kieboom has struggled at the plate and in the field. The routine plays are complicated and strikeouts come in large numbers.
Throughout his career in the minor leagues, Jake Alu has made all the routine plays and consistently hit for average. Despite posting strong numbers every year, he has not earned a spring training invite. This year, that should change and expect Alu to come into camp with motivation, similar to his approach at Boston College.
In a communitynews.org article, Boston College Coach Mike Gambino said, “Don’t be surprised if you look up in a couple years, and Jake Alu is playing every day at Double-A as kind of like your super utility guy. He’s just such a baseball player. When you watch him play, he plays hard. He can bunt, he can run, he can move a runner, he can situationally hit, he can hit the ball out of the ballpark. He can do so many things. He can play second, short and third, right field and left field. If he picks up a couple steps to make center field an option, then you’re gonna have a guy that’s a left-handed hitter who can hit for average and do all the little things you need him to do offensively and play six different positions.”
Coach Gambino was exactly right in his quote about Jake Alu. He is the complete baseball player and someone you want on your team. The Nationals are looking for players who are willing to contribute in multiple spots that give the team a spark, someone that can be a glue guy. Anticipate Alu to be battling for a starting spot at Spring Training in 2023.