It’s another tough blow for the oft-injured Denaburg, who since he was selected 27th in the country out of Merritt Island (Fla.) High School three years ago has thrown only 20 1/3 professional innings due to arm troubles.
The 21-year-old right-hander, who received a $3 million signing bonus, appeared in seven games (four starts) for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals during the summer of 2019 before he was shut down. He then had arthroscopic shoulder surgery that winter and was rehabbing from the procedure when camps were shut down last March due to the pandemic.
Denaburg wasn’t included among the other young pitching prospects who were at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg last summer, but he did participate in the club’s modified fall instructional league in Florida. He reported for camp this spring and was hopeful of enjoying a healthy season, but on Saturday night, he posted a photo of himself on Instagram in a hospital bed with his arm in a sling.
“These last couple years have been hard,” Denaburg wrote. “But there are better days ahead. You can control 2 things in life. Effort and Attitude. As long as you control those you will reach places you never thought were possible. I will continue to work on becoming the best version of myself to reach my main goal.”
Denaburg’s surgery adds to the growing list of setbacks for the Nationals’ top draft picks over a lengthy period of time, though they haven’t owned a top-10 pick since 2011.
After a wildly successful stretch a decade ago and drafted Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Drew Storen in a span of three years, the Nationals have seen only one of their first-round picks since 2012 produce more than 2.0 WAR in the big leagues: Lucas Giolito, who is now with the White Sox.
Erick Fedde (2014) is the only other first-round pick since who has any spent any significant time in the majors. Carter Kieboom (2016), Dane Dunning (2016) and Seth Romero (2017) have barely played in the big leagues (Dunning with the White Sox). Denaburg has been beset by injuries. Right-handers Jackson Rutledge (2019) and Cade Cavalli (2020) are now the organization’s top two prospects and impressed in big league camp this spring.
The Nationals lost their 2013 and 2015 first-round picks after they signed free agents Rafael Soriano and Max Scherzer, respectively.