Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo opted for a couple dynamic outfielders with the team’s 58th and 69th picks in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft. Louisiana State University’s Andrew Stevenson was Rizzo’s first selection this year followed by Blake Perkins, a prep prospect out of Verrado High School in Arizona.
“We’re adding to our already fertile stable of athletes,” Rizzo said. “You know our motto here ... we go pitching, defense, athleticism. And certainly both of these guys fill those voids.”
Stevenson, who swings from the left-side, was named First Team All-SEC this season after batting .356 with five triples, 53 runs scored and 26 stolen bases. The speedster was also named to the SEC All-Defensive Team for the second straight year after his stunning play in center field.
“This guy plays 100 mph with his hair on fire,” Rizzo said. “That was a big part of why we were so attracted to him. We’ve got him up to 70-80 on a 20 to 80 scale as far as speed goes. (He’s) got the ability to steal bases. He’s a terrific defensive center fielder. We think he’s got the ability to be a leadoff type of guy in the future and a guy again that adds to our athleticism and speed part of the game.”
Stevenson’s LSU season is still ongoing as the Tigers have advanced to the College World Series.
“We love seeing our draft choices play at the highest level with pressure on them in big games,” Rizzo said. “This guy is no stranger to the national spotlight.”
“We’ve got great history on this guy, He’s a Team USA guy and plays for one of the best programs in baseball and is their best hitter. So we really like this guy and he’s a guy that we feel is gonna be an everyday guy for us.”
Perkins was named a 2015 Honorable Mention All-American after batting .461 with seven homers, eight doubles, eight triples, 35 RBIs and 51 runs scored in just 29 games during his senior season. He delivered a .583 on-base percentage, a .966 slugging percentage and a 1.549 OPS.
Nationals VP of Scouting Operations Kris Kline compared Perkins to current Marines center fielder Austin Jackson. The Nationals like Perkins’ versatility as well.
“We’re gonna give him the chance to switch-hit,” Kline said. “He’s been doing that since he was a freshman in high school, but never really took it into the game. He did it at the workout for us and it was loose. (Nationals hitting coach) Rick Schu liked it a lot.”
Perkins has committed to play at Arizona State beginning in the fall, but Rizzo feels the Nats won’t have trouble signing the 18-year-old.
“We take players that we feel that want to play for the Nationals and really do our due diligence on their make-ups and backgrounds and their signability,” Rizzo said. “We rarely draft a player if we don’t feel confident to sign him. So we feel good about these guys. We’ve only spoken to them in the regards to congratulate them by being drafted by us and we’re gonna leave the negotiating for a little bit down the road. But we feel good about it.”