2017 MLB Draft Grades: Washington Nationals
Best pure hitter: 2B/OF Cole Freeman (4) was the only position player that the Nationals drafted in the first 10 rounds, where pitching was an obvious priority. While he has yet to get any at-bats in pro ball, he hit .321 in two seasons with two with Louisiana State and led the Cape Cod League in hitting (.376) in 2016.
Best power hitter: Jamori Blash (23) is the younger brother of Padres outfielder Jabari, but is a first base profile where his older brother can play the outfield. Blash has a ways to go in every facet of hitting at the pro level, but he has plus raw power in the bat.
Fastest runner: Freeman is the easy decision here with 70-grade speed to most scouts. He's an aggressive basestealer who also looks to take extra bases at every opportunity.
Best defensive player: Freeman has the tools to develop into a solid to above-average defender at the keystone. His natural quickness should allow him to have good range, but he also has quick hands that allow him to turn the double play and a solid-average arm.
Best fastball: The Nationals have four legitimate candidates for best fastball, with LHP Seth Romero(1), RHP Will Crowe (2), LHP Nick Raquet (3) and RHP Jared Brasher (8). Each of Washington's first three picks can regularly get into the mid-90s, while Brasher—a senior out of Samford who signed for just $10,000—has been up to 97 this summer in short stints. Romero's combination of mid-90s velocity, command and life give him the best fastball of the class.
Best secondary pitch: Romero has a sharp, hard-breaking slider that he's able to throw for strikes early in counts or use as a wipeout pitch to finish batters. The pitch is mostly in the mid-80s, but occasionally gets a tick hotter and is at least a plus offering.
Best athlete: OF Justin Connell (11) signed for $125,000 thanks to his aptitude and ability to play all three outfield positions, with a long-range chance to stick in center. He hit .323/.407./.365 in his debut with more walks (14) than strikeouts (10).
Best pro debut: After striking out 178 batters in 182 innings (8.8 K/9) at Auburn, 6-foot-7 RHP Gabe Klobosits (36) struck out 34 in 30.2 innings (9.9 K/9) across three levels in 2017, starting in the Gulf Coast League before earning promotions to the New York-Penn League and the South Atlantic League in late August. Klobosits posted a 1.47 ERA across the three leagues. He uses his size to get great downhill angle on the ball, and his fastball ranges from the low-90s to a peak of 96. He also has a solid slider.
Most intriguing background: SS Darren Baker (27) is the son of Nats manager Dusty, famous for being a Giants bat boy during the 2002 World Series. SS Jake Boone (38) is the son of ex-Mariner, Bret, while his uncle Aaron, grandfather Bob (who works for the Nats as vice president of player development) and great-grandfather Ray all played significant time in the majors. Neither Baker nor Boone signed, but the Nationals did manage to sign RHP Jake Cousins (20) , whose cousin is Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Cole Freeman Has A Lot To Prove
The LSU product knows how to grind and knows he has to work hard to reach his maximum potential.
Closest to the majors: Romero would be the most obvious choice here, but with real maturity questions left to be answered on that front, Crowe could beat him there and had the better pro start. Both are being developed as starters.
Best late round pick: Klobosits over Connell.
The one who got away: RHP Bryce Montes de Oca (15) has tantalizing potential with a lively fastball out of a 6-foot-7 frame, but medical history and control concerns will always be a large question mark for scouts. He's returned to Missouri as a senior.