Is Robert Hassell III’s Spring Training Success a Sign of a Return to Form?

As he continues to settle back in after a hamate injury and a poor 2023 season, Robert Hassell III is already making waves in Spring Training.

Feb 20, 2023; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Washington Nationals outfielder Robert Hassell III (55)
Feb 20, 2023; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Washington Nationals outfielder Robert Hassell III (55) / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, I wrote a piece on Robert Hassell III, where I expressed that his struggles were not entirely indicative of how he would fare in the future. With how he has looked in Spring Training so far, he may just be proving my point. 

Hassell did not exactly impress anyone with how he played following surgery to fix a broken hamate. In his 15 games with the Fredericksburg Nationals in Single A, he slashed .189/.377/.302 with a .679 OPS over 53 ABs. The only part of his stats that even slightly stood out was that he walked more than he struck out, with 16 walks and 9 Ks. 

Despite these numbers, Hassell was moved up to Double A Harrisonburg, where he would continue to struggle. He slashed .221/.317/.324 and still had a low OPS of .645. Hassell also did not continue his trend of walking rather than striking out as he struck out a staggering 161 times compared to his 68 walks. 

However, these numbers are actually higher than expected because of a very solid September last year from Hassell. He managed to make much more contact with the ball with a .281 average and a .700 OPS. Hassell definitely still struck out more than he would have liked with 16 Ks, but this month showed clear promise. Hassell demonstrated that he was making progress to settle in and that as he continued to regain some of the abilities the hamate injury cost him, he would start to get back on track. 

Fast forward to this month, where Hassell has been given a shot to prove that he still has the potential that landed him in Washington as part of a package for Juan Soto, and he seems determined to make good on those expectations. 

In two showings against the Astros this Spring Training, Hassell has started to do just that, and has shown Nats fans a glimpse at the skill that initially had him generating so much hype as a prospect before his first season in Washington’s system.

On February 25th, Hassell went 2-for-3 against Houston and scored a run, with one of those hits being a ball seared into left center for a stand up triple. 

When the Nationals met the Astros again on February 27th, Hassell continued to show the power he’s capable of, with an opposite field home run he got every piece of. His ability to go oppo is something I touched on last year, and if it continues to be something he can capitalize on, he will see more success. After only hitting 9 home runs in AA ball in 2023, Hassell coming into 2024 and not only making good contact but continuing to lift the ball is incredibly promising and may just signal a return to form. 

Now it is only Spring Training. This could just be an overreaction to a prospect succeeding that I’ve been outspoken about and have continued to root for. 

Nonetheless, this success is very exciting, especially considering that Robert Hassell III is still only 22 years old. He has definitely struggled, and it’s no surprise that it’s difficult for him to make a name for himself alongside his fellow outfield prospects James Wood and Dylan Crews, but this is clearly a step in the right direction. If he keeps this up, Nationals fans are in for a very enjoyable ride watching this outfield take shape.