Washington Nationals Minor League Spotlight: Robert Hassell III

Mar 17, 2021; Mesa, Arizona, USA; San Diego Padres shortstop CJ Abrams (left) with outfielder Robert Hassell III against the Chicago Cubs during a Spring Training game at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2021; Mesa, Arizona, USA; San Diego Padres shortstop CJ Abrams (left) with outfielder Robert Hassell III against the Chicago Cubs during a Spring Training game at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Trade Deadline acquisition outfielder Robert Hassell III has quickly asserted himself as the top prospect in the Washington Nationals Minor League system. 

The 21 year old center fielder is no stranger to success in his baseball career. In 2014, Hassell III competed in the Little League World Series representing Nashville, Tennessee. The lefty made his name known at the biggest stage for a young baseball player.

Hassell III would continue his dominance into high school, committing to the University of Tennessee during his freshman season. Robert hit .407 during his first high school season and changed his commitment to Vanderbilt University. Two years later, Hasell III was named the Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year. That accolade boosted Robert’s draft stock heading into his senior year.

Hassell III was selected with the eighth overall selection in the 2020 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres. The Friars have a prominent history of selecting high school players, drafting five prep players with their last five first round picks. As all 2020 draft picks were, Hassell III was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Following his draft selection, Robert was assigned to alternate-site training camp as the minor league season was canceled. Hassell III did not lose a step in his game following the lost season.

Hassell III was assigned to the Lake Elsinore Storm following a non-roster Spring Training invite with the Padres major league team. “Bobby Barrels,” the nickname teammates and fans call him, tore up Low-A competition for 92 games. Hassell III amassed seven home runs with 65 runs batted in, and more impressively struck out a mere 65 times in 365 at-bats. The top prospect is known for his outstanding vision and discipline at the plate. Hassell III has averaged a strikeout percentage of 23 percent during his minor league career, just above the major league average of 22 percent. Robert really does have advanced vision at the plate, his walk percentage is 13 percent for his career, far above the major league average of eight percent. Hassell III is also known for his ability to hit the other way, showcased in the highlights below.

Hassell III received a promotion to A+ affiliate to the Padres, the Fort Wayne TinCaps after his 92 game tear. Robert played in 18 games for the TinCaps and never got in a groove at the plate, hitting just .205. The power was evident in his swing as he cracked 4 home runs, but Robert struck out 25 times in 78 at-bats. Hassell III must have an extreme work ethic, because every off-season he seems to improve his game. In 2022 for the TinCaps, Hassell III solidified his prospect status in a big way, compiling 10 home runs, 55 runs batted in with a .299 batting average in just 75 games.

Then the trade occurs.

Robert Hassell III was sent to the Washington Nationals in a package for Juan Soto and Josh Bell. Minor League life can be fast paced, and in the span of a few hours, Hassell III was the top prospect for the Washington Nationals. When asked about what it feels like to be a part of such a historic trade, Hassell III said, “It is exciting for sure. It gives me another opportunity to go out and do my thing and show what I can do to this organization.” Below is the full MASN interview with Robert Hassell III.

What is next for Hassell III?

Getting healthy. Following the trade to the Nationals organization, Hassell III struggled for A+ affiliate Wilmington and AA affiliate Harrisburg, hitting .205 and .222 for each team. It was revealed by team personnel that Robert was dealing with a right hand injury, but did not reveal the severity. Hassell III would go on to finish the season and receive an invite to the Arizona Fall League to represent the Washington Nationals. Just six at bats into his fall league, Hassell III exited the game due to a right hand injury. Later it was revealed that broke the hamate bone in his right hand, ending his Arizona Fall League. Not much footage of Hassell III in Arizona is available, below is a short clip of a swing in one of his at-bats.

In each of his first two professional off-seasons, Hassell III has taken major strides in some aspects of his game. In his third, the main focus will be to get his right hand healthy. The best ability for any athlete is availability, and Robert cannot progress as planned if he is injured. The expectation is for Hassell III to be fully healthy for spring training, and I would expect him to be at the major league camp. Do not expect Robert to break camp and board the plane to Washington, as he needs more minor league experience.

The Nationals thinnest position group is outfield, at both the major and minor leagues. Washington cannot allow their need for outfielders to overrule Hassell III’s development. In his development, Robert has been a slow starter at each level, a fast track to the majors could hurt Hassell III’s learning curve. I would anticipate the top prospect would start in AA due to his slow start last year, but do not be shocked if he begins the year in AAA.

According to mlb.com, Hassell III’s MLB ETA is 2023, which aligns exactly with where I believe he is as a prospect. If Hassell III continues like his records show, he should be called up to Washington late season. Some things might have to fall into place for that to happen. If the Nationals see success from Victor Robles or recently signed Stone Garrett, the need for Hassell III could decrease. If Robles and Garrett are still struggling in late July/early August and Hassell III is swinging the bat well, I would call him up. Washington is not expected to compete next season, so development of their players should be most important. Fans want to see their top prospects get a chance to compete in D.C.

Robert Hassell III is absolutely the real deal, Nationals fans. The lefty has a smooth swing, can hit for power and play a swift centerfield. Mlb.com has him rated as the Nationals top prospect and the 22nd overall prospect in baseball. Involved in a trade involving superstar Juan Soto, Hassell III has expectations to fill for Nationals fans. Expect to see him in the Curly W soon enough.