Nats prospect watch: Denaburg building strength back in shoulder

A promising future awaits right-hander Mason Denaburg, who is looking to get back to full health and get back to baseball once the season (hopefully) gets back on track.

The 20-year-old Denaburg was a first-round 2018 selection for the Nationals, but has been recovering from shoulder issues this offseason and had most recently started throwing again in spring training. MLB Pipeline has Denaburg at No. 7 in their Nats Top 10 list.

No. 7 Mason Denaburg

“I see him a lot, but I have not seen him pitch a lot,” said Nationals minor league pitching coordinator Brad Holman. “He’s unfortunately been plagued with injuries and he had a little shoulder cleanout earlier this winter and he’s doing a throwing program right now, progressing along with that. Basically, he’s back out to 90 feet and two or three sets at 90 feet, and that’s been the extent of what I’ve seen from him.

“But I have heard great things and I am anxious to see a healthy Denaburg and what he can do.”

Denaburg-Throws-Side-Sidebar.jpgDenaburg tossed 20 1/3 innings for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals in 2019, appearing in seven games and starting four. He went 1-1 with a 7.52 ERA, striking out 19 and walking 14. He attended Merritt Island (Fla.) High School, which produced major league player and manager Clint Hurdle and former Nats right-hander Taylor Jordan.

The shutdown should not derail Denaburg’s throwing program. He will continue his rehab and time it up with the delay to hopefully get back on the mound in game-type situations as soon as real baseball is played again.

* The Nationals system is built around solid pitching and catching, a staple for general manager Mike Rizzo and vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline and his staff. But with trades and the like, the system is working to get back up to a solid level in the rankings. MLB Pipeline has the system ranked No. 29 out of 30 major league teams.

But Baseball America Nats correspondent Lacy Lusk said if you can still hit on a prospect every year, like a Juan Soto or a Victor Robles, and trade system talent for players that make a difference to winning a title, isn’t that the point of your system anyway? The biggest trade in the last few years was to get starting right fielder Adam Eaton from the White Sox for three pitchers, including Lucas Giolito. Eaton made several key plays in the World Series to lift the Nats to the championship.

“I think it’s going to be rated in the lower third by just about everybody,” Lusk said. “But if you have the one guy who clicks every year then you are doing OK, and a few pieces elsewhere. Certainly, making deals like right-hander Kyle Johnston for Daniel Hudson or even bigger deals with some bigger prospects was well worth it to win the World Series. It’s going to take a while to rebuild it.

“You’ve even seen them trade another prospect, their ninth-rounder (right-hander Hunter McMahon to Twins) from last year to get right-hander Ryne Harper. So the Nats are willing to make those moves. But based on who is running the system and their scouts I have confidence that they will be able to turn back towards the middle (of the pack) and still have (a good system) especially with some of their international guys, still have guys that can help the big club.”

The system is again chocked full of pitching talent at the top, including a pitcher as good as Denaburg. Eight of this Nats top 10 are pitchers, with infielders Carter Kieboom and Luis GarcĂ­a as the best two positional players. The Nationals scouts have always done an outstanding job of finding pitching talent, and that is where they will build back up from again in 2021.

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