Kline and Longosz thrilled with the Nats' haul on day two

The Nationals did a very nice job of finding top-flight talent on day two of the First-Year Player Draft, highlighted by the selections of a Friday night starter, the top Pac-12 Conference closer, an elite high school shortstop from South Florida and a batterymate at Oklahoma of first-round pick Cade Cavalli.

In the second round, the Nats picked right-handed starter Cole Henry out of LSU and the vaunted Southeastern Conference. Henry was 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA in four starts this season, and is known for his power fastball, a 12-to-6 moving curveball and a changeup that fades late in the delivery.

nats-spring-training-pitchers-2018.jpgNationals assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline was thrilled they were able to get Cavalli on day one and a pitcher of Henry's talent on day two.

"Cole Henry, really good delivery, command guy, big fastball that touches 97 mph," Kline said via Zoom call. "He's got life down in the zone. He shows the makings of a plus curveball. For Cole, he has the ability to spin it, he needs to learn how to commit to each one. I feel like it could be an above average pitch. The changeup is above average now. It's just a solid overall package. I see him as a quality No. 3 with the potential to be a No. 2 (starter)."

When asked how Henry's game compares to those in pro ball right now, Kline answered that his style is certainly different.

"I think I am unique in my own way," Henry said on a Zoom call. "I consider myself a competitor. I really like to compete and challenge hitters. I don't like to give anything away. Really just like to go out there and give my team the best chance to win and just compete until coach comes to get the ball from me."

With the compensation pick for losing free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon to the Angels as a free agent, the Nats selected Monsignor Pace High School shortstop Sammy Infante at No. 71. The 18-year-old Infante will forgo a scholarship from the University of Miami to turn pro and play for the Nats.

"As a player, I am always going to evaluate myself higher than everybody else," Infante said. "I know what I can do. I am healthy. So, I feel like there is no chance to waste. I want to be a baseball player. That's something I want to be my whole life. My dream was becoming a 'Cane, sleeping on campus, digging the campus life, but I am ready. I am healthy and I am ready to go, so that's why I am signing with the Nats."

Kline says Infante was just too good to pass up and was advanced for his age.

"Lean, athletic, defined body," Kline said. "Twitchy, he's got a high motor, high-energy guy. Loves to play, you can tell, he's always smiling. So much energy on the field, it was fun watching him. He has a good chance to stay at shortstop. He can throw."

Director of scouting operations Eddie Longosz said on the Zoom call that Infante's presence adds huge depth to the Nats infield.

"He's a phenomenal athlete," Longosz said. "It's going to be great to add with our mix of Trea Turner, Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia. He has got strength in his swing. The body is amazing but he has raw power right now, too."

UCLA closer Holden Powell was the Nats' third-round pick. He led the Pac-12 with 17 saves in 2019 and was a two-time All-American.

"I was always a starter my whole life pretty much, but when I got to UCLA we kind of had the pieces already in place in terms of the starter role," Powell said. "Coach John Savage at UCLA just wanted me to embrace that. Obviously, I took off with it from there. I wouldn't change it for the world at this point."

Powell began as most pitchers do, as a starter. But Kline said Powell will be a closer in the big leagues.

"It's presence stuff with command," Kline said. "Very aggressive approach. Fastball is anywhere from 93 to 97 mph with life. He's had outings where he's pitched two or three games at a time, so the velocity does back (down) from game to game. He's got an above average slider. I think he's in the role that he will always be in, and I think he's going to have success in that role."

Oklahoma catcher Brady Lindsly was a 2019 All Big-12 honorable mention selection, hitting .291 with 11 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 34 RBIs, with a .364 on-base percentage. Ironically, he was not the every-start catcher for Nats first-round selection Cade Cavalli, but has experience working with current Nats prospect Jake Irvin.

"I was just shocked, honestly," Lindsly said. "I thought I was looking at the free agent thing the whole way, and when I got the call I was just speechless. I heard it about when they called me and told me they were going to take me, like, seven picks before, and the draft just never moved slower. Oh, my goodness, I heard my name and just folded."

The Nats wrapped up the night with the selection of left-hander Mitchell Parker from San Jacinto College North in the fifth round, the same school that produced right-hander Jackson Rutledge last year. The 6-foot-4, 230-lb. Parker was drafted in 2018 by the Cubs and in 2019 by the Rays. Each time, he decided to return to school and eventually earned a scholarship to Kentucky.

"It's a funky, unconventional delivery (and) mechanics," Kline said. "It's deceptive. It's overhand slot. It's 90 to 97 mph but he's going to pitch around 92, 93 mph and he's got an above average curveball. Right now, he commands the curveball better than the fastball. A little fine tuning with the delivery (is next)."

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