More on Nationals pitching prospects from undrafted free agent Ray Torres IV. The catcher agreed to a deal with the Nats last week out of San Jacinto College North.
Torres played for the Central Florida Gators, an elite travel team that included several top selections in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft. The Gators boast two national titles and 49 college commitments.
One of the pitchers he caught was the Nationals’ top 2018 selection, Mason Denaburg. In 2018, Central Florida had 13 players drafted by major league teams. Torres said the right-hander Denaburg was a top pitcher on that team.
“He’s definitely one of the best pitchers,” Torres said. “Everyone asked me because on that team, there’s a bunch of guys. Right-hander Carter Stewart (pitching in Japan) was also on that team, as was (Cardinals 2018 first-rounder) Matthew Liberatore, and (another Cardinals 2018 first-rounder) third baseman Nolan Gorman.
“People ask me: What was the best pitcher that you caught as of today? I also caught (Indians 2018 compensatory first-rounder) Ethan Hankins and other top guys. Mason Denaburg is the name (I go to) because of his stuff and he is dominant on the mound.”
So, from a catcher who actually caught Denaburg, what makes the right-hander so good?
“It’s the whole package, really,” Torres said. “He definitely has the mindset of a major league pitcher being able to go up there and dominate.”
Denaburg pitched in seven games with four starts for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals in 2019, going 1-1. He had a 7.52 ERA with 19 strikeouts over 20 1/3 innings.
Last season in junior college ball at San Jacinto, Torres worked with Nationals left-hander Mitchell Parker, who features a unique three-quarters arm slot and holds the ball back deep, hiding the ball to the very last second before coming to the plate. Parker was a fifth-round pick for the Nats this year.
“Mitchell is really good,” Torres said. “His stats this year prove that. His delivery, the way he hides the ball, he has a lot of success because of the movement he has on the ball. It’s a good ball to catch, but it’s a hard ball to hit.”
Parker was outstanding at San Jacinto in 2020 where the Gators went 21-6. The left-hander went 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA in six starts. Over 30 1/3 innings, Parker struck out 64 batters. His strikeouts per nine innings was 18.99.
* Right-hander Zack Brzykcy reported on his Instagram page that he has agreed to join the Nationals as an undrafted free agent.
The Virginia Tech reliever appeared in seven games this season and overall had a 4-2 record with a 5.40 ERA and four saves while in Blacksburg, Va. In his career, the right-hander had 54 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched. The Hokies finished 11-5 in the abbreviated 2020 season. Brzykcy was an all-conference performer at Alexander Central out of Taylorsville, N.C., and was North Piedmont Conference Pitcher of the Year. The junior is listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 lbs.