FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Off the field, Nationals prospect Brady House prefers to keep it lowkey. He spends his free time hanging with friends, playing video games and, during the offseason, bass fishing at local lakes back home in Georgia. Rather than lean into the hype that comes with being a first-round draft pick, he tries to cancel out the noise and focus on improving his game.
The mild-mannered shortstop doesn’t talk much about himself, but his play at Low-A Fredericksburg has been plenty loud enough. House is 20 games into his first full professional season and the early returns have reinforced why the Nationals used the No. 11 overall pick in last summer’s MLB Draft to help bolster their rebuilding minor-league system.
Entering play Sunday, House was hitting .341 with two home runs and an .895 OPS in 99 plate appearances. His 29 base hits stood as the second-most of any player in the entire minor leagues. Yet it’s not the number of hits that have impressed his coaches. It’s how he’s hitting them.
“Just his ability to hit the ball the other way, hit the ball hard,” Fredericksburg Nationals manager Jake Lowery said Tuesday. “He comes up with guys on base. We have such a good top 1-2 guys in the order. A lot of times, you see guys get overmatched or they get in their head a little too much but he’s been constantly driving the ball the other way. He can drive the ball in out of the ballpark. He just seems like he comes through nine out of 10 times, which is great early on.”
House is still just 18 years old, not even 12 months removed from graduating high school in his hometown of Winder, Georgia. He originally committed to play college baseball at Tennessee but opted instead to join the Nationals on a $5 million signing bonus. Listed at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, House doesn’t look the part of someone who’s barely old enough to vote.
That stature hasn’t been lost on scouts, many of whom questioned his ability to stay at shortstop long-term heading into the draft. House has seven errors already this season. He attributes the early mistakes to adjusting to the speed of the game at the professional level. Sticking at his natural position is important to him and he hopes to show that capability as he gets more comfortable in the minor leagues.
“If I can prove to myself and everybody else I can stick at shortstop then you can basically play anywhere if you can play there,” House said. “So I’d say just working on my mobility and staying healthy to make the plays at shortstop would be my goal.
“I’m working on it and practicing, just trying to get better every day. I’m not really looking at errors and stuff like that. If it happens it happens but I think a lot of my errors this year have come from throwing. So just piecing up little things and putting it together.”
House has been on a major-league trajectory for much of his life. He made the rounds at the top showcase circuits across the country throughout high school and led USA Baseball to 12-and-under and 15-and-under World Cup championships in Taiwan and Panama. Those experiences helped him learn at an early age how to deal with the pressure of playing with thousands of eyes watching.
“Just focus on the field and not the outside distractions and everything will come together,” House said. “Whenever I’m out there playing, I’m not paying attention to anyone that’s in the crowd. I couldn’t tell you how many fans were at a game if someone asked me the next day.”
Despite being no stranger to the spotlight, the teenager has shown a level of maturity that’s stood out to his peers.
Infielder Sammy Infante is roommates with House and one of his closest friends on the FredNats. Even though his arrival pushed Infante from his preferred position of shortstop over to third base, the two players have grown close. They talk often about everything from baseball and video games to their faiths and family lives.
“He’s really grounded as a person,” Infante said. “I would think that he would be more confident. Sometimes I would have to tell him, ‘Hey, you’re Brady House. C’mon, let’s go.’ I just keep him up and he’s having a great year.”
He’s off to one of the hottest starts in the minor leagues, but House is in no rush to be promoted to High-A Wilmington and beyond. He says he'll “leave that up to the coaches” and instead worry more about the things he can control — like his bat.
That bat is House’s one-way ticket to the majors. He’s shown so far that wherever the Nationals put him, his swing will play. Though House may not embrace the attention, it’s going to follow him as long as he continues to command the batter’s box like he has.
“When I had him last year, he still had loud noises coming off his bat,” Lowery said after working with House in Florida last summer. “He’s a first rounder for a reason. I would say this year he’s staying a little bit more in his legs but he still elevates the ball, hits balls hard. That’s one of his keys is just drive the ball the other way. He’s been doing that since Day 1.”