The excitement the Nationals have for their new high school top draft pick, right-hander Mason Denaburg, is equaled in Baseball America’s Nats top 10 rankings.
Denaburg is ranked at No. 4 in the Nats top 10 as he heads into his first full season as a pro. Denaburg had a full ride to the University of Florida on his resume, dealing at 92-96 mph with his fastball and throwing a 77-81 mph curveball, according to this FanGraphs.com preview from April 2018.
The write-up described Denaburg’s changeup as “average” ... for now. That type of pitch is one that Nationals pitching coordinator Paul Menhart likes to help his young charges hone first. The Nationals first like to let their newly drafted pitchers get their feet wet, continue with the mechanics they used that were successful in the past, and let them breathe a bit in their first pro summer before they start teaching and adjusting. After all, the kid is only 19 years old.
Bicep tendinitis slowed Denaburg in his final high school season. He will hit the ground running this spring, back to full health after two outings in the instructional league in October.
Baseball America national writer Carlos Collazo studied Denaburg in high school and came away very impressed with the raw talent, which was advanced for a scholastic pitcher. Collazo went as far as to predict Denaburg would turn out to be one of the best athletes in the draft.
“Denaburg is a guy I saw in person pretty frequently throughout the summer prior to his senior year,” Collazo noted. “I saw him during his senior year, actually, during the spring. He showed dynamic stuff, a fastball that was up to 97 mph for me in person. A curveball that looks like a plus pitch.
“Denaburg was one of the most athletic players overall in the 2018 draft. I think that’s going to bode well for him moving forward as he learns how to repeat his delivery more consistently and throw strikes.”
Collazo noted that, like slugger Bryce Harper, Denaburg is a converted catcher.
“So, he has a lot of skills that you don’t normally see on the mound but he does have premium stuff,” Collazo said. “I think he is a guy that, if everything breaks right, he progresses through the system and manages to avoid any serious injuries, he dealt with some biceps issues are minor but are worth watching moving forward.”
Collazo has a prediction about Denaburg that will be pleasing to Nats brass and fans alike. He believes Denaburg may be one of those talents, at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, who could be a No. 1 or No. 2 starter down the line.
Collazo projects that the proper tutelage from the Nats’ pitching coordinators and coaches will be huge for a prospect who is far along, considering he just arrived out of high school and really just changed positions recently.
“If everything breaks right he could be a front-of-the-rotation starter with the kind of package of stuff that he has, the frame, and really the lack of pitching development and instruction that he has had to this point coming from his catching background,” Collazo said. A lot of upside from him.”