Daylen Lile, drafted in the 2nd round of the 2021 MLB draft out of Trinity High School in Louisville, Kentucky, is recognized by most scouts as one of the top pure hitters of the 2021 high school draft class. Lile entered the Washington Nationals farm system slotted at the top of the Nats’ prospect list according to MLB Pipeline and now sits at 9th overall prospect in the entire organization.
Daylen is a glimpse of what’s to come for Washington Nationals fans. He was gracious enough to sit down with me to discuss topics such as his offseason routine, experiences in the Florida Complex League, thoughts on the new development staff hires, and more. Talking to Daylen was a pleasure, it felt like talking to an old friend. I learned a lot about his passion for the game and his impressive work ethic. He is a player to watch in 2022, and don’t be surprised if his name is in the top prospect conversation until he makes it to the big leauges.
Above is Daylen Lile’s reaction after I noticed his shirt that reads “THE DISTRICT”. He bought it on his trip to Washington, D.C., and said, “it’s a really nice area, I love it.” Who doesn’t?
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
How are you? How is the offseason?
It’s going well. I’m just working hard each and every day.
You recently sent me a video of you hitting and mentioned that you’ve gained 17 pounds so far this offseason. What have you been doing this offseason?
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I work out with Maurice Urrutia (Instagram: muariceurrutia), he’s kind of the strength and conditioning guy I work with, and he does speed and agility.
Every Tuesday and Thursday I hit with a guy named Chris Burke who played six years in the league*. Then on those days I hit, I do prison workouts which is pushups, core work, etc.
Then for extra work, I’ll go to Legends Sports Academy. It’s right down the road from me and I’ve been going there since I was 14 years old.
*Burke played 10 professional seasons including 6 in the major leagues with the Astros, Diamondbacks, and Padres (2004-2009)
You’re an athletic guy, you ran a 6.70-second 60-yard dash, which is very fast. Are there any good agility/speed workouts you do regularly?
I ran a 6.70-second 60-yard dash, but I’ve run a couple of ’60s faster. With Maurice at the end of every workout, he puts me on this treadmill that goes uphill, and you basically control it yourself. So, I’ll do six sprints, for 10 seconds and see if I can get to my top speed and stay there consistently through six sets.
How do you think the increase in strength and athleticism will help you drive the ball?
I think for me, my game is just a line drive approach and I hit a lot of doubles, but working with Maurice, he’s getting me more mobile in my hips and making me use my lower half even more which is going to help me with my routes in the outfield, explosiveness, first step on the basepaths and developing power, which is all main focuses for me.
I’ve also learned how to float my leg up and go to the ball more. Not have a toe tap and take the extra movement out. In 2020, I was more upper body than anything, now I’m actually using my lower half and combining it with my upper body which helps me develop more power, more bat speed, and whip.
How much do you think the new additions to the Nationals’ development staff will help you?
I think the development staff will help me a lot. I’ve met a lot of the new guys, learned their background, and learned the things they grew up on. I think it’s really going to help me with my game offensively and defensively.
On the offensive side: working with the hitting coaches has helped with getting me to use my lower half and create a backspin while having that line drive approach.
The Nationals are very old-school. They play into my game which is to use the whole field, stay within that line drive approach, just get on base, move runners over, stuff like that.
Is there someone you’re especially excited to work with?
I just can’t wait to work with everybody and just learn different pieces of other people’s games. I want to learn where they come from, what their mindset is, what do they think. I’m looking forward to meeting all the coaches, players, just everyone.
I can’t wait to get down to Spring Training and pick everybody’s brain.
Is Coco Crisp a name that jumps out to you?
Yeah, I can’t wait to learn from him especially from a defensive standpoint, but also a baserunning standpoint.
You’re from Kentucky, and you were committed to the University of Louisville as a high schooler. Did you think about going to college or were you locked in on the pro ball as soon as you got that call?
College was important to me, I wanted to be close to my family and friends which is why I de-committed from Indiana and committed to Louisville. But also, when I de-committed from Indiana, Coach (Chris) Lemonis left and went to Mississippi State.
Ever since I committed, I knew I wanted to do something with baseball, and I’ve always wanted to get drafted out of high school and play professional baseball.
Was it a hard decision?
It was kind of in-between because I wanted a good education, but I also knew baseball was what I always wanted to do.
Before Louisville, you were committed to Indiana University. TJ White, the Nationals 5th round pick in the 2021 draft, was also an Indiana commit; did you know him before the Nats?
I committed my 8th-grade year and that was before TJ, so I really didn’t know him at that time. When I started playing on the national circuit with travel ball, TJ and I started playing against each other and that’s how we kind of got close, and here we are now, now we’re even closer.
How was the experience of being drafted?
It was a cool experience. I loved going through the process with the Nationals, they’re a great organization and I couldn’t be happier where I’m at. I do not regret my decision at all.
After being drafted, you were in West Palm Beach, Florida for a couple of weeks to play in rookie ball (Florida Complex League). What did you learn in your time down there?
I learned the mental part of baseball more than anything. Learning how to deal with the failure and flush all that while also not accepting it. I learned to push it to the side and think more positively because I know I have another day. So yeah, I would say the main thing I took away from it was the mental side of baseball.
The FCL is closed to the public and it’s barely covered by the media if it at all. Was it a weird atmosphere?
Yeah, it’s kind of weird because it feels like it’s a little intrasquad just going against other teams and the same team a lot. Not having a crowd there and not hearing the fans cheer or anything was also a little weird, but it didn’t affect performance or anything.
What’s the most intimidating thing about professional baseball?
For me, I’m not intimidated by anything or anyone. That’s just how I was raised. But I think the main thing for me is the failure and how to not accept it, but forget about it and just move on, so it doesn’t affect my play. I want to be the best player I can be.
I wouldn’t say I’ve had failures, but a lot of up and down moments. It’s helped me learn how to stay more consistent and only move upward and not so much go up, then down, then go back up. Just a steady incline.
When you start feeling a down moment, what do you change?
I really don’t change anything up, if there’s something I need to change I’ll just watch videos, but I like to do more than anything and not try to create bad habits fixing something that doesn’t need to be fixed.
So, when you’re between the lines, would you say you trust your gut, or are you more of a thinker?
I go more off instincts; I really don’t like to think of anything because once you overthink something it’s not the result you want to get. So, I’m more a trust and feel guy.
In the FCL, I was overthinking too much. I work hard and I think I’m one of the hardest working people I try to perfect my craft, but I just overthought some things down in the FCL when it came to game time. I really learned a lot about how to trust myself and not overthink anything.
Any goals for 2022?
I just want to move up in the system and stay consistent throughout the game and the season.