Last year, the Nationals selected high school pitcher Mason Denaburg with the 27th overall selection in the First-Year Player Draft. The two-sport right-hander came into the draft recovering from biceps tendinitis, but hit the ground running in spring training. He was making very good progress and was healthy and strong in March. I sat down with him to talk about his experiences during first spring training experience.
So would the Nationals go to a high school pitcher again with the 17th selection in Monday’s draft?
MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis believes that because of a lack of top-flight hurlers available late in the top 20 projected picks, a bat might be the Nats’ pick this time.
Here is a rundown of a few of the mock drafts and who they expect the Nationals to go for at No. 17. This selection is a full 10 spots ahead of last year, so there will be some top end talent available for the Nats scouts to select.
Callis told me he believes the depth of pitchers is lacking in this draft. So that means the Nats may go for a bat at No. 17.
“They would like one of the top college arms, (but) bad year for college arms,” Callis said. “Don’t think (TCU left-hander Nick) Lodolo, (right-hander Jackson) Rutledge, (West Virginia right-hander Alek) Manoah, (Kentucky left-hander Zack) Thompson or Elon College right-hander George Kirby gets to No. 17.
“I think that leaves them with one of the guys from the second tier of college bats: (UNLV shortstop Bryson) Stott, (Baylor catcher Shea) Langeliers, (Texas Tech third baseman Josh) Jung.”
MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo has the Nats selecting Jung at No. 17.
“Jung has been solid and has a track record of hitting and on-base skills. Like with Langeliers, his 3-for-3 performance to start his Big 12 tournament doesn’t hurt,” Mayo wrote.
Melissa Lockard, who covers the Oakland Athletics for The Athletic, likes high school right-hander Matthew Allan from Seminole (Fla.) High School at No. 17. She also believes the Nats might have a chance at Thompson, who is recovering from a left elbow strain, but ultimately believes he will not be available at No. 17 and will be selected by the Phillies at No. 14.
“Allan is rated by many scouting services as the top high school pitcher in this draft. He has a classic starter’s frame at 6-3, 210 lbs., and a fastball that already reaches the mid-90s mph. He’s also an excellent athlete,” Lockard said.
My MLB Draft also predicts Allan to the Nationals at No. 17. Similar to Denaburg, Allan is also a verbal commitment to the University of Florida. So if he is drafted and signs with the Nats, I am sure there will be a few baseball coaches in Gainesville, Fla., who will be throwing their hands up in the air.
Allan has a 94-95 mph fastball that has increased in velocity by 11 mph since 2015, has a developing changeup and a best pitch breaking ball with “slider shape and curveball depth, (a) strikeout pitch”. He was chosen to play in the 2018 Perfect Game all-American Classic.
Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com likes the Nats looking towards Missouri outfielder Kameron Misner at No. 17.
“Misner has a good lefty swing and significant power potential, plus he draws praise for his makeup and worth ethic, but there are lingering concerns about his ability to make consistent contact at the upper levels,” Axisa said.
Based on their draft history, the Nationals go for pitching and pitching early and often. They have leaned toward stockpiling pitchers and catchers early in drafts, if there are strong candidates available.
But if there are not pitchers they covet around at No. 17 and they value a bat, that is a spot of need, too. So the Nats’ strategy might turn to best available player instead of just going for the top pitcher on the board.