At the end-of-season strength and conditioning camp, right-handed pitcher Jake Johansen was one of the three strongest players on hand.
Johansen has the frame, a 6-foot-6 and 235-lbs., and worked very hard in his first season to command his tremendous fastball, which hit 94-96 mph and occasionally touched 99 mph.
Baseball America likes what its sees from Johansen. National writer Aaron Fitt has Johansen in the top 10 of the Nationals prospects.
No. 7 RHP Jake Johansen
"He has always had big time arm strength," Fitt said. "He never really put it together at Dallas Baptist. We kept waiting for it. You kept hearing reports he hit 99 mph or even triple digits during his career in college."
Fitt said the Nationals made a crafty move to go for him in the 2013 draft and have done a nice job of simplifying things for him since his arrival.
"I thought it was a neat pick by the Nationals in the second round," Fitt said. "It was a pretty aggressive pick. A guy, again, who hadn't really done it in college as far as a performance track record, but has the ability, clearly. It was a nice little gamble I thought."
Johansen pitched well for short-season Single-A Auburn, going 1-1 with a 1.06 ERA in 10 starts.
After his promotion to low Single-A Hagerstown, Johansen went 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA in two starts. In his final start on Aug. 31, Johansen went 4 2/3 innings and allowed only two earned runs.
"He put it together pretty well in his debut," Fitt said. "He made some adjustments. They really worked hard with him on becoming more aggressive and not nibbling and trying to outthink the hitter or trick the hitters. That was the phrase I kept hearing from people. That is what he used to do, try to trick the hitter. When you throw 99 mph, you don't need to trick anybody. You just blow it by them."
Fitt said it will now be interesting to see if Johansen can get his other pitches up to where his fastball is in terms of consistency.
"There is still some things he needs to do: His secondary stuff, the breaking ball has got to improve," Fitt said. "Is he going to scrap the curveball altogether or is he is going to try to work on that pitch? He is throwing the cutter now. There is a chance for a decent breaking ball there. At times this summer, I heard reports that it was better than in the past. There is risk here with the secondary stuff and the pitch ability."