SCOTTSDALE – Robert Hassell III always believed he would remain with the San Diego Padres as the MLB trade deadline approached on Aug. 2, but that plan changed when he was dealt to the Washington Nationals as a part of the Juan Soto trade.
Now Hassell is watching his former team from afar as it prepares to host its first postseason game in 15 years. The Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers are tied at one game apiece in the National League Division Series, while Hassell is hoping he contributes to a future playoff run with the Nationals.
But first, the outfield prospect needs to heal his broken hamate bone in his right hand, suffered on Oct. 5 in his second game with the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League. While his call to the show may not be imminent, especially now with the injury, Hassell had more immediate goals to accomplish in Arizona.
“My goal is to keep it simple, put the barrel on the ball and put the bat on the pitcher’s best stuff and look for what I am going to get, not what I want when I am up at the plate,” Hassell said before the injury.
“These pitchers are going to come and bring their best stuff day in and day out. This whole month if I am looking for what I want, then I am going to be searching a lot, so I have to be ready to hit their pitch. I also want to continue to do what I do best and excel defensively, be smart on the bases and focus on hitting, because it is so difficult to do at this level.”
Before the end of his season with the Nationals, Hassell played 10 games for the High-A affiliate Wilmington Blue Rocks and 27 games for Double-A Harrisburg Senators for the remainder of 2022. His work was expected to continue this month in Peoria, where he had planned to pick up the tools that would land him on the Nationals’ Opening Day roster next season as the team’s top-ranked prospect.
“I am excited about all of it,” said Hassell, who was selected eighth overall by the Padres in the 2020 MLB Draft. “I cannot wait to get up there and meet all of the players and coaches and cannot wait to play in D.C. One of the big things is my buddy C.J. Abrams from the Padres is up there and so I want to get up there and play with him as soon as possible and I see him balling out and who does not want to do that, so to be able to get up there and play with him would be awesome.”
Although Hassell’s future is bright, he is still focused on the present. When he was called up to Double-A, he moved in lockstep with fellow prospect Darren Baker, who was drafted in the 10th round by the Nationals in 2021 and is the son of Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker. Called up at the same time, the duo connected and formed a bond with each other. Hassell and Baker were two of 10 Nationals selected to participate in the Fall League.
“I had the opportunity to meet him at the (All-Star Futures Game) and fast forward a couple of weeks, and he was my teammate in Harrisburg,” Baker said of Hassell. “This was my first year in professional baseball and I had just gotten to Double-A when he got there.
“At the time we really did not know anyone else on the team at the time, so we kind of just gravitated towards each other. He is my roommate now out here, so I spend a lot of time with Hassell. Living with someone you learn a lot about them, and he is a great guy for sure.”
Hassell, 21, has also received high praise from fellow teammate Drew Millas for his ability to carry himself with such maturity.
“Me and Hassell have grown really close to each other. I feel like not as crazy of a mentor, but he and I talk a lot,” Millas said. “He is a great kid and has a great head on his shoulders for how old he is. You do not really see it that often. I mean you see great young players all over the place, but the head that kid has, he is very mature for his age. So it is easy to talk to him.”
The midseason transition to a new team is not always easy for players, but for Hassell, the transition was not as difficult as he imagined.
It’s the same game, no matter where it’s being played.
“I settled in good in Washington and the biggest thing is obviously just meeting new people, seeing all the new faces, but at the end of the day it is baseball everywhere, so I was very excited and it is a great opportunity for me coming in,” Hassell said. “Everybody in the organization was very accepting and welcomed me in and I have settled in nicely I would say and it has been a blast so far.”