Nats expecting bounceback for Green: "Don't sleep on Elijah"

When the Nationals selected outfielder Elijah Green with the fifth-overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, it was thought to be a steal for the rebuilding club.

How did MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 draft prospect fall to the Nats at No. 5? This would be the second year in a row one of the top high school bats seemingly slipped to the Nats after Brady House fell to them at No. 11 overall in the previous summer’s draft.

After posting a .939 OPS with four doubles, two homers and nine RBIs in 12 Rookie-level Florida Complex League games last year, we got the first glimpse of what Green brings to the table during his 75 games at Single-A Fredericksburg this year. And we potentially saw why four teams passed on him in the 2022 draft that made him available to the Nats at No. 5.

Green, who just turned 20 this last week, flashed his athletic skill set that made him a top draft prospect. He is an elite, yet raw athlete with speed, power and a strong arm. Per MLB Pipeline, his power (60), run (70), arm (60) and field (60) are all above average on a 20-80 grading scale.

He stole 30 bases in 35 attempts with the FredNats while also posting a .982 fielding percentage in 607 innings in center field.

But the concerns that surrounded Green leading up to the draft continued to surround him in his first full professional season, during which he missed almost six weeks with a sprained left wrist.

Green struck out 139 times in 332 plate appearances, a 42 percent rate. He also struck out 11 times in eight rehab games in the FCL, a 38 percent rate. His struggles with high fastballs that he had even during his time at IMG Academy continued to be an issue against Single-A pitching.

His hit tool suffered, too, as hit .218 on the season and just .210 at Fredericksburg, collecting only 21 extra-base hits between the FCL and Carolina League.

While frustrations could be mounting for the young outfielder after an injury-plagued season with poor results on the field, the Nationals still believe in Green and his confidence.

“The confidence is there. I can promise you that,” said new vice president and assistant general manager of player development and administration Eddie Longosz at last week’s Winter Meetings. “Tremendous kid, wants to learn, always asking questions. There's a lot of voices in Elijah's head, but he takes in all the information and wants to use it. He doesn't show his frustrations. I don't even know if he is frustrated a lot of the time because he's such a good competitor.”

Aside from staying healthy, the Nats’ main focus for Green this offseason is simple: contact.

Green’s 40 hit tool is the only one rated below average. The Nationals think he just needs more experience facing advanced pitching to improve his pitch selection. An improved pitch selection will decrease swings and misses and increase contact.

And when Green makes contact, it’s loud and powerful.

“His exit velocities are terrific,” general manager Mike Rizzo said during the season. “And we’ve got to get past the contact part of it. A lot of it is pitch selection, and that’s tough for a lot of young players. It was something James Wood went through out of high school, and we’ve had several players in the past that have gone through it. But he’s such a superb, elite athlete and his skill set is so great, I’m not worried at all about it. He’s a young player at a (Single-A) league, and he’s taking his lumps and he’s learning what to swing at and what not to swing at. Right now, he’s swinging at too many bad pitches. So that’s something we have to work on.”

“For him, it's just being consistent,” Longosz said. “I wrote in my report, as an amateur the sky's the limit with Elijah, and it really is. But it's maintaining that contact, getting the strikeouts down, the power is obviously there.”

There have been some concerns among the fan base and industry about Green’s development after a subpar first pro season. But similar concerns were raised about House after he only posted a .731 OPS with 11 extra-base hits and 59 strikeouts in 45 games during his first full professional season, and he was one of the Nats’ best all-around prospects while reaching Double-A Harrisburg this year.

A similar leap for Green isn’t necessarily expected in 2024, but it shouldn’t be totally out of the question either. With a healthy wrist and focus on contact heading into spring training, Longosz and Co. are expecting a strong bounceback for their former top-five pick.

“Don't sleep on Elijah because it's going to work out for him for sure.”

Nationals celebrate the holiday season with "12 Da...
Longosz on what excites him about Nats' farm syste...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to