Destin Hood was a shortstop at St. Paul's Episcopal High School in Alabama and had never played the outfield when he was drafted in the second round in 2008 by the Nationals, who promptly moved him to left after he turned down the chance to play football at Alabama.
"It was tough," said Hood, the No. 8 prospect in the Washington system, according to MLB.com. "People say outfield is a little bit easier, but there are a lot of things you have to learn."
Hood, who began this season with Harrisburg, has had a first-hand look at a revamped Nationals' farm system. The big league team lost 102 games the year he was drafted and 103 the next when he played in the Gulf Coast League and the New York-Penn League. Then last year the Nationals won the NL East with help from 2008 Draft picks Danny Espinosa, Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi.
"It's been a lot of fun to watch," said Hood, 23. "Our coaches do a great job of being helpful and looking out for our best interests. I've learned a lot from them."
But doesn't more depth in the Minor League system make it harder to advance?
"Looking at it that way is never a positive," Hood said. "There are 30 teams out there, and you do your best every day. Those are our guys up there [in Washington], and it gives us more energy."
The Nationals remain high on Hood, who suffered a wrist injury after a swing at the end of Spring Training in 2012 and missed several weeks of the season.
"It happened about five days before I left Spring Training, before the season started," said Hood, who had hit .276 with 13 homers and 83 RBIs for Class A Advanced Potomac in 2011. "I was eager to get to Double-A. I played through some pain."
But he eventually realized the pain in his wrist meant he needed rehab. He spent time in Florida before hitting .176 in 17 at-bats with Auburn on a rehab assignment in the New York-Penn League.
With Harrisburg last year he hit .245 with three homers and 45 RBIs in 355 at-bats over 94 games.
"Last year was a learning curve for him," said Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy, who also guided the Senators in 2012.
LeCroy said Hood can play all three outfield positions but with Brian Goodwin, the No. 2 prospect in the Washington system, entrenched in center, Hood will see action at the corners.
Hood began this season with an average of .218 in his first 84 at-bats with three doubles, a triple, four steals and eight RBIs. He had three hits Saturday at Bowie in Harrisburg's 4-3 win in 13 innings.
"We think the world of Destin," said Doug Harris, the director of player development for Washington. "He's going through a learning curve."
Hood was able to watch Anthony Rendon first-hand before he was promoted to Washington after Ryan Zimmerman went on the DL.
"He has an idea of what he wants to do. He stays true to himself. I think that's what makes him a great hitter," Hood said.
On the mend: Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, who went on the DL with a hamstring injury April 14, made rehab appearances for Harrisburg on Friday and Saturday at Bowie. He caught three innings Friday and six innings Saturday, going 2-for-4 with a walk. "His [at-bats] and defense have been good," said Nationals director of player development Doug Harris. Ramos was slated to join the Nationals on Monday in Atlanta.
Turnaround is nice play: After a 68-73 record last season, Portland had the best record in the Eastern League at 13-9, despite a 4.35 team ERA. The Sea Dogs were hitting .268 with a league-high 10 triples and were 21-of-31 on steal attempts through Sunday. "As an organization we're stressing being aggressive," Portland manager Kevin Boles told the Portland Press-Herald after a 9-5 comeback win at Trenton on Sunday. "We saw some keys and tried to take advantage of them. We're trying to force the action. It's nice to come in and play well on the road, but it's a long process."
New league, no problem: Michael Almanzar, 22, is off to an impressive start in his first season at Double-A Portland. In games through Sunday he was hitting .322 with five homers and 16 RBIs. He hit .300 with 12 homers last year in the Class A Advanced Carolina League.