It took quite a while for the Nationals to make their first pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
Once they were on the clock, they took a kid with a big-time power arm.
The Nationals have selected Jake Johansen, a right-handed pitcher out of Dallas Baptist University, with the No. 68 overall selection.
The 22-year-old righty, who checks in at 6-foot-6, 235 lbs., struck out 75 in 88.1 innings this season, his junior year at Dallas Baptist. Johansen went 7-6 with a 5.40 ERA in 15 starts this season, and over his three years at DBU, was 13-7 with one save and a 6.03 ERA in 46 games/23 starts, spanning 147 2/3 innings.
Johansen has hit 99 mph on the gun, but lacks quality secondary pitches, according to MLB Network’s Jonathan Mayo. Baseball America had Johansen ranked as the No. 182 overall prospect coming into the draft. ESPN.com had him at No. 66.
The Nats get the power righty at No. 68.
Update: I just got off a conference call with assistant general manager in charge of player personnel Roy Clark and scouting director Kris Kline, and now I’ve got a lot more that I can tell you about Johansen.
Despite how some scouts view the tall right-hander, the Nats see Johansen as a starter. Kline said that while Johansen’s secondary pitches need some work, they show promise, and he compared the 22-year-old’s arm action and delivery to Josh Beckett’s.
“If you put him next to (last year’s first-round pick, Lucas) Giolito, you have some pretty good looking bookends,” Kline said.
“He has starter actions. He repeats his delivery. It’s a clean action, it’s improved over the last year. You guys will see it for yourself. To me right now, he profiles as a No. 3 (starter) because the secondary pitches are a work in progress, but he does show flashes of above-average breaking stuff. ...
“There is no reason why this guy can’t, with a few tweaks from our staff, that this guy can’t be a front-line guy.”
Johansen made a visit to D.C. this week to work out in front of general manager Mike Rizzo and pitching coach Steve McCatty, and the Nats’ brass liked what they saw. Kline said that he’d seen Johansen pitch twice this year and also was impressed.
Johansen’s numbers at Dallas Baptist certainly don’t wow you, but the Nats are actually OK with that, in a sense.
“We know he doesn’t have good numbers,” Clark said. “If he had good numbers, he wouldn’t have gotten out of the top 10. But our guys feel like there are a couple of things that are good, easy fixes, and we feel like when we get him signed and we turn this kid over to the best player development system in baseball, in our opinion, we think we’ve got a gem.”
“There are just a few minor mechanical issues,” Kline added. “He’s a long-leverage guy with a tweak with his glove-hand, his front side, he gets exposed a little early. That helps. The other thing right now, he’s a little methodical, a little deliberate, and I think increasing his tempo is gonna help a lot also.”
As far as signability goes, the Nats don’t see there being any problems getting Johansen inked to a deal and possibly getting that contract done in the near future so that he can go out and get in a good amount of time this season with a minor league affiliate.
“We talked to him at length this week, and we felt good about it,” Clark said. “We felt like this kid wants to go out.”
Said Kline on that topic: “We wouldn’t have taken him if we couldn’t sign him.”
The Nats needed to watch a lot of other teams make selections before finally getting their first pick of the night, but that’s what happens when you have a 98-win season - putting you at the back end of each round - and then forfeit your first-round pick by signing free agent closer Rafael Soriano.
“It’s awful,” Kline said of the long wait. “It was like watching paint dry.”
Clark then jumped in.
“We feel like this guy is a great second-round pick, and we feel like Rafael Soriano is a great first-round pick,” he said.
Photo courtesy Dallas Baptist University Athletics