After drafting two collegiate pitchers on Day 1, the Washington Nationals used their 8 picks in Rounds 3-10 to continue this trend, selecting 7 more college arms on Tuesday. Washington presently lacks pitching prospect depth due to offseason trades, thus the organization has prioritized replenishing the farm system with flame-throwing pitchers in the 2017 MLB Draft.
In the 3rd round, 103rd overall, the Nationals went with a (somewhat) local product, selecting William & Mary LHP Nick Raquet. An undersized southpaw, Raquet shows outstanding pure stuff, reaching 95-96mph with his fastball, along with the ability to spin both a slider and a curveball, plus will flash a changeup. A transfer from the University of North Carolina, Raquet had to sit out a year, so he has a “fresher” arm than most college picks. He has below-average to well below-average command, which when coupled with his size, likely portends a shift to the bullpen. The Nationals will likely develop him as a starter, but his ceiling is as a 7th/8th inning reliever, with a likely outcome of a matchup bullpen lefty.
Next in the 4th round, Washington chose LSU 2B Cole Freeman, a senior left-handed hitter who was drafted in the 18th round of the 2016 draft. Freeman is an undersized 5-9 174lbs who has performed well in his two seasons at LSU and last summer for Wareham in the Cape Cod League. He has above-average speed and shows outstanding bat-to-ball skills, allowing him to profile as a plus hitter. Freeman lacks much home run power, more likely collecting doubles and triples in the gaps, and has a below-average arm, giving him a difficult defensive profile. Washington will likely start him as a second baseman, with the backup option being left field or a utility profile. Because he is a senior, Washington should save a great deal of money against their bonus pool and will hope he can hit his way to the major leagues.
Round 5 found Washington picking another college pitcher, this time Texas A&M right-handed pitcher Brigham Hill. He spurned Oakland last year as a 20th round pick, preferring to return to college and improve his draft stock. An undersized right-handed pitcher listed at 6-0 185lbs (I might take the under), Hill pounds the strike zone with a 90-92mph fastball which touches 94mph, along with a devastating plus changeup. In addition he throws both a curveball and slider, with scouts preferring the curveball. He is known for his competitive nature, bulldog demeanor on the mound and off-the-charts makeup. His lack of size and present above-average breaking pitch keeps his ceiling rather modest, but Hill could move quickly if shifted to the bullpen. Hill’s ceiling is that of a #5 starter, with the most likely outcome being a role in middle to long relief. Hill is a nice value late in the 5th round.
Then in the 6th round the team plucked another college pitcher from the state of Texas, University of Texas RHP Kyle Johnston, an undersized righty at 6-0 225lbs. Johnston will show a low-90s fastball that can reportedly reach 96mph, along with an intriguing and potentially future plus upper-80s cutter. In addition, he will throw a changeup, but it is a distant third offering. Washington will likely start his professional career as a starting pitcher to quicken his development, but Johnston profiles as a middle reliever, with perhaps a set-up man ceiling.
Round 7 found Washington dipping into the Florida junior college ranks, choosing RHP Jackson Tetreault from the State College of Florida Manatee. Tetreault is a projectable righty standing a reported 6-5 170lbs, with the potential to add significant weight as he matures. Only a sophomore, Tetreault has a low-to-mid-90s fastball with some life, along with the ability to spin a breaking ball and throw a changeup. Scouts like his impressive arm speed and project him to add velocity in the future. He struggles with his command, as evidenced by his 40 walks in 80.1 innings pitched this season. Tetreault sounds like a project for the Nationals’ development staff, but there are some quality tools present for a 7th round pick.
Continuing a theme, in the 8th round Washington selected Samford University RHP Jared Brasher, a senior pitcher with a live arm. He possesses a big 93-98mph fastball with life along with a nasty swing-and-miss quality slider. Brasher is still available because he is undersized at 6-0 200lbs and has a poor delivery with several flaws, which contributed to his 30 walks allowed in 33.2 innings pitched. Brasher is a pure relief profile and projects as a middle reliever if things come together – this is an intriguing senior with a big arm.
The 9th round found Washington taking Michigan State University LHP Alex Troop, a redshirt sophomore who was a 2-way player for the Spartans. A large man standing 6-5, Troop is a lefty with a high-80s to low-90s fastball, along with a promising above-average changeup and a nascent curveball. He has an unconventional delivery, which is much less athletic than one might expect from a decent athlete. Scouts believe once he focuses exclusively on pitching, he could gain some velocity and refine his mechanics. He will be more difficult to sign than the usual 9th round pick, but Troop has a chance to develop into either a backend starter or reliever in the future.
With their final selection on Day 2, the Nationals chose another college pitcher, Missouri State RHP Trey Turner, a junior righty who was a 2-way player in college but will move to the mound as a professional. The information is scarce on Turner, as he made only 7 appearances this season, throwing 13.1 innings with 22 strikeouts. One of Washington’s area scouts must have liked his raw potential on the mound this spring. He will be the 9th pitching prospect Washington has added in the first 10 rounds of the draft.
Overall through two days of the 2017 MLB Draft, the Washington Nationals have stuck to their game plan, capitalizing on a deep collegiate pitching crop to fill an organizational weakness. I am surprised they have selected only one hitter and have not selected a high school pitcher or a seemingly challenging prospect to sign so far.
That said the pitchers they have chosen all seem to have big arms with excellent fastball velocity, along with the potential for quality secondary stuff. The development people will have their work “cut out” for them molding these arms into major league pitchers, but their are raw tools present with each. While I might quibble at a few of the picks, Washington has done a fantastic job through two days maximizing the talent they acquired considering their available bonus pool.
NatsGM Overall Grade -> B to B+