The Nationals agreed to terms with third-round pick Holden Powell late Friday afternoon, a team source confirmed to MASNSports.com.
The right-hander was a Pac-12 Conference first-team selection in 2019 and had a career 2.26 ERA with 107 strikeouts through his junior season. He was also named the 2019 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year and was a first-team All-American.
"Obviously, (I am) grateful for the opportunity from the Nationals," Powell said via Zoom video call last week on draft night. "So pumped to be a part of it. I think when I got that call I kind of blacked out for a second. Hearing my name called was something special, and to hear it called by an organization like the Nationals, defending World Series title, great city. Can't wait to be a part of it."
Details on the signing bonus to Powell were not released. But the Nats have more than enough left in that slot for the 20-year-old closer. The pick value is around $618,200. The Nationals' second-round compensation pick, infielder Sammy Infante, reportedly received a $1 million signing bonus, over the MLB.com pick value of $884,200. The club went way under slot to sign their fourth-round catcher, Brady Lindsly ($20,000), and their fifth-round left-hander, Mitchell Parker ($100,000).
The 6-foot, 190-pound Powell uses his fastball, slider and curveball to confuse hitters, or get them to go for the bait of what looks like a hittable pitch. He is second all-time on the UCLA saves list with 26. Right-hander David Berg (Class of 2015) holds the school record with 49 career saves. Berg is currently the team's director of baseball operations and works with the pitchers.
"I mainly attack with the four-seam fastball as well as a slider against righties," Powell said. "Against lefties I am mostly four-seam curveball. Right now in the lab, I am kind of working on changeup. I think that could be a good pitch for me at the next level. Pro hitters, obviously, you got to get off the fastball a little bit more. My bread and butter is fastball-slider combo. I am always going to stick with that, see where that takes me."
Many closers get psyched up to take the mound and use their emotion to fuel their outing. Others come in and calmly focus on the catcher's hands and where they want to place each pitch. What demeanor does Powell tend toward when he looks to put a team away?
"I kind of find myself a little bit more amped up," Powell said. "But as I found the last couple of years, I am just trying to tone it down to get it to that perfect level where I am amped up but not overly amped to where it affects my stuff or command. With me it's just finding that perfect level to where I can attack and be competitive but not truly over the top with it."
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