Q&A with Nationals Outfield Prospect Jared McKenzie

Recently I had the opportunity to connect with Nationals' 2022 fifth-round draft pick and former Baylor Bear Jared McKenzie, who is currently getting ready to head down to Florida for Spring Training with the team.
Houston Astros v Washington Nationals
Houston Astros v Washington Nationals / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

For Nationals fans who aren't familiar with his name, Jared McKenzie is currently an outfield prospect in the system and spent all of last season with the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks. As a college player, he was a 3-year starter for the Baylor Bears, and racked up a number of honors including being a 2020 Freshman All-American, 2021 All-Big 12 First Team member, and making All-Big 12 Second Team in 2022, while being on the Golden Spikes Award watch list before his final collegiate season. In his career with the Bears, he had .346/.425/.555 splits and a .980 OPS, and the sweet-swinging lefty once even hit a 489 foot home run (see below).

In 2022, McKenzie turned pro, and was selected by the Nats in the 5th Round of the 2022 MLB Draft with the 141st overall pick. He got off to a hot start in the minors, playing 17 games with Low-A Fredericksburg and had .400/.425/.614 splits for an absurd 1.039 OPS while also stealing 11 bags without being caught. In 2023, he was assigned to High-A Wilmington where he spent the entirety of the season and accumulated .212/.281/.320 splits for a .601 OPS in his first full season of professional baseball, one that he says was an adjustment year for him.

As a former Baylor Bear myself, I was very excited to get the chance to talk about the organization and get an inside look at the game with Jared, and I hope you enjoy!

Q: What has been the biggest focus of your off-season in terms of baseball?

A: "Primarily minimizing my movements. This last season I got myself into trouble at times by having too much head movement in my swing. I've really tried to focus on being as simple as I can be more of a stride rather than a lift with my front leg in order to have less movement."

Q: With you spending last season with High-A Wilmington, have you received any insight as to where you're going to begin this season?

A: "We typically don't receive any information as to where we will be assigned to for affiliate ball until we're at Spring Training. I think ultimately no matter where it is, the goal will be to stack as many good days and at-bats as I can."

Q: How hard is it to hit Wilmington as opposed to other parks that you've played in?

A: "I would definitely say for the most part it's not a hitters park, but there's a lot of real-estate in the outfield for balls to land. On a good day, balls can leave the yard down the lines pretty often but it's not very common to see balls hit out in the gaps."

Q: Being a 3-year college player at Baylor, do you think it helped you experience immediate success in pro ball?

A: " I think there was definitely a lot that I benefitted from in college. A lot of it I would say has to do with off the field stuff as far as being away from home, learning to have a routine, nutrition, and experience in the weight room. I commend a lot of guys who have the opportunity to sign out of High School. I know that at that age my transition into professional baseball at 18, it would've been tough for me to acclimate professionally."

Q: What has been the biggest adjustment from college to pro ball and from Low-A to High-A?

A: "Playing in the Big 12 allowed for me to experience playing against really good competition, but I think ultimately the transition from college to professional baseball is that every day you're facing the best talent that you typically would only see once or twice a series in college. After having my first full year under my belt, I think the biggest adjustment is staying mentally locked in. It's a long season full of ups and downs and the talent across every level is there. Obviously, you have guys who are the elite of the elite with talent off the charts, but I think the guys who can be the most consistent are the ones who have the most success. (Staying) Consistent in their routines, how they go about each at-bat, and staying true to their plan despite the rough patch everyone experiences throughout the year."

Q: Who is the teammate you've enjoyed playing with the most thus far in your professional career?

A: "I'm not sure if I necessarily have a favorite teammate I've ever played with, but fortunately I have been able to play alongside some really talented people. James Wood and Brady House have some of the most gifted abilities and for a couple months I was able to watch their batting practice and at-bats, which are unlike most."

Q: Lastly, what is your favorite memory in this organization that you've had thus far?

A: "My roommate starting in Spring Training last year and through his two months in High-A was Jacob Young. It was by far one of the coolest things to see him progress through the system and make his debut last year. Playing this game isn't easy and everyone's goal is to play at the top and to see someone do it so quickly who you've spent every day with through June was pretty surreal."

I just wanted to give a big shoutout to Jared for taking the time to answer my questions and help me with this piece, and give him a follow on his socials: Instagram @jaredmckenzie2 and on X @Jared_McKenzie2