Coming off his best season as a minor leaguer, outfielder Nick Banks wants to take that success even further as he tries to improve his offensive approach.
“I’ve made a little bit of a swing change,” Banks said. “It’s about being a little more vertical—being quicker, more instant, shorter to the ball. I’d definitely say it’s an upgrade, but there are still some pieces in there from my old swing.”
Banks, a 2016 fourth-round pick out of Texas A&M, continued to play all three outfield positions last year in 114 games at high Class A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. He hit a cumulative .278/.338/.431 with 10 home runs and eight stolen bases in 10 attempts.
This offseason, the 25-year-old Banks has focused on his flexibility at least two days per week and worked on his strike-zone judgment. Last season, the lefthanded batter struck out 95 times and drew 34 walks.
“He’s working on staying connected and is starting to leverage the ball more consistently,” farm director Mark Scialabba said. “Nick understands that the next phase of his development is to continue to develop a more disciplined approach by staying in the strike zone and looking to do damage on pitches he should handle.”
Banks had the opportunity to play against top-level prospects in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .250/.295/.464 with three home runs in 56 at-bats.
Banks has long been driven by baseball. When he was 11, his family moved from Charlotte to Tomball, Texas, so he could play with the Banditos Baseball Club. He had pitched for them in a tournament in Orlando and pitched through high school, where his fastball was clocked as high as 94 mph.
“My parents thought it would be best for me, and I thought it would be best,” Banks said of the move to Texas.
Banks said he threw a couple of bullpens at Texas A&M, but his success in the outfield meant pitching was never an option for the Aggies.
“I loved pitching, but I didn’t like the recovery process,” he said. “I like playing every day.”
— Phil Rizzo, a Hall of Fame scout and the father of Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, died at age 90. “My dad is totally responsible for where I’m at today,” Mike Rizzo said. “Not only the way he brought me up in baseball, but that he gave me the love of the game, and we worked out hard together for me to become a good player. He taught me how to work hard, be aggressive, go after what you want and get it done.”
Phil Rizzo served as a senior advisor to his son for the past 11 years.
— The Nationals traded righthander Hunter McMahon, a ninth-round pick last year out of Texas State, for righthanded reliever Ryne Harper, who earned his first major league experience in 2019. Harper recorded a 3.81 in 54.1 innings out of the Twins’ bullpen before being designated for assignment this offseason to clear 40-man roster space for Josh Donaldson.