Prospects Ward, Stevenson among Nats' cuts

Baker says both stood out during Spring Training

Prospects Ward, Stevenson among Nats' cuts

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- This is what Nationals manager Dusty Baker calls his toughest decisions of the year, having to making cuts from his Spring Training roster. The Nats made their second round of cuts Monday morning, sending 10 players to Minor League camp and trimming their roster to 50.

Outfielder Andrew Stevenson, infielders Drew Ward and Corban Joseph, right-handers Dustin Antolin and Taylor Hill and left-hander Nick Lee, who underwent successful surgery to repair the stress fracture in his left elbow, were reassigned to Minor League camp. Right-handers Jimmy Cordero and Austin Voth and infielder Matt Skole were optioned to Triple-A Syracuse, and catcher Raudy Read was optioned to Double-A Harrisburg.

"It's probably what I look forward to the least during Spring Training," Baker said. "It's something that's got to be done, but we've got a lot more to go. The next one's going to be tougher as guys hope to make the club.

"You're taking names off the board slowly to try to get down to 25."

Baker named Stevenson and Ward -- Washington's No. 5 and No. 14 prospects, respectively, per MLBPipeline.com -- as two players who especially stood out.

Stevenson's walk-off single

Baker recalled a teaching moment with Stevenson earlier in the spring after he missed a fly ball Baker felt he had a shot to catch. Baker advised him to run like a wide receiver to track the ball and don't put his glove up too soon. The next time a similar ball was hit to him, Stevenson caught it.

"Just his overall game [has been impressive]," Baker said. "He can run, he's a good outfielder. He takes instructions well."

Ward got work at both third and first base, and he impressed Baker with the accuracy of his throwing arm. Ward set a new career high in home runs in 2016 with 14 as he advanced to Double-A Harrisburg for the first time, but Baker believes he is just beginning to tap into his power, considering his two home runs this spring were to the opposite field.

"When things like that start happening," Baker said, "it's going to make you a better player."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.