The Nationals’ No. 68 selection in the First-Year Player Draft is a big boy - 6-foot-6, 235-pounds right-hander Jacob Johansen, from Dallas Baptist University, has a 99 mph fastball and tallied 75 strikeouts as a redshirt junior.
Some believe that fastball is all Johansen can throw, and that it is a straight pitch.
Nationals scouting director Kris Kline disagrees, and believes the 22-year-old from Allen, Texas, can bring a lot to the mound, projecting him as a future Nationals starter.
“You got a guy who is 94 mph, touching triple digits on his fastball,” Kline said. “He maintains his velocity in the sixth inning, he is still at 96, 98 mph. He has got a curveball, slider and a changeup. The slider is an out-pitch now. It is a hard cutter that he will throw 88 to 90 mph, and will blend in to a slider.”
Kline sees promise in the curveball, although it is sometimes inconsistent. He believes once the Nationals coaches get to work with Johansen, they will be able to make his secondary stuff better.
“The curveball is at times an above-average pitch. It is a 75 to 78 mph power downward curveball,” Kline said. “This guy is at 22-years-old just scratching the surface and a late bloomer. If we look at him from his high school days until last year and until this year, it is a very positive, encouraging change in progression to where he is today.”
It is always hard to get scouts to compare prospects to big leaguers because they don’t want to put too much pressure on a young hurler. But Kline did see a comparison between Johansen and a hard-throwing right-hander.
“His delivery is very similar to Josh Beckett,” Kline said.
Johansen also reveals in his Dallas Baptist biography his favorite pitcher is Jonathan Papelbon.
Johansen was just 7-6 last season and has only 13 collegiate wins. Vice president of player personnel Roy Clark believes the won-loss record scared away a few teams, and that provided the Nationals with the chance to get him at No. 68.
“We know he doesn’t have good numbers,” Clark said. “If he had good numbers, he wouldn’t have gotten out of the Top Ten. Our guys feel like that there are a couple of things, easy fixes. We feel like when we get him signed and turn this kid over to the best player development system in baseball, in our opinion, we think we have a gem.”