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Nationals Draft Report Card

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Nationals' first-round pick Mason Denaburg (Photo by Cliff Welch)

BEST PURE HITTER: OF Gage Canning (5) had no issues at all in the New York Penn League to start his professional career, hitting .315/.373/.593 across 14 games before getting a promotion to Hagerstown where he began to pull the ball more frequently and saw his strikeout rate jump as well, as he dealt with a minor injury. When fully healthy, Canning brings a solid line-drive oriented swing to the table that should serve him well moving forward.

BEST POWER HITTER: OF Pablo O'Connor (27) has above-average raw power and started to tap into it more in games after he left the Gulf Coast League and started putting the ball in the air more consistently. Hitting ground balls more than 50 percent of the time in rookie ball left O'Connor with just four doubles in 10 games. He started lofting the ball more consistently after he was promoted to short-season Auburn. In 52 games there, O'Connor's isolated slugging improved from .120 to .166 as he tallied three triples and five homers.

FASTEST RUNNER: OF Cody Wilson (13) stole 19 bases in 21 tries (90.1 percent) during the spring for Florida Atlantic, and has plenty of pro potential on the bases as well, as a plus runner. However, he'll need to pick his spots better as a pro. In his debut he was successful on just three stolen base attempts out of eight (37.5 percent).

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Wilson's speed has allowed him to play a solid outfield as well. INF Cole Daily (22) was a solid defender at shortstop, third base and second base this summer, with just one error across 453 innings during his debut in the New York Penn League.

BEST FASTBALL: The Nationals first pick, RHP Mason Denaburg (1), touched as high as 97 mph during the spring of his senior high school season, with impressive arm-side life and control at lower velocities, while RHP Reid Schaller (3) sits in the mid 90s and touched 99 this spring for Vanderbilt after recovering from Tommy John surgery. Both pitchers could wind up with future 70-grade fastballs.


BEST SECONDARY PITCH:
LHP Tim Cate (2) had one of the best breaking balls of the 2018 draft class with a hammer curveball in the upper-70s to lower-80s, which Cate manipulated at will when healthy. The pitch has late-breaking action and is an easy plus offering at its best.

BEST PRO DEBUT: OF Jacob Rhinesmith (18) put together an impressive junior campaign with Western Kentucky and hit .283/.358/.380 in 63 games in the New York-Penn League this summer. He impressed Nationals coaches and evaluators with a consistent, professional approach at the plate with solid hands and a repeatable swing. In the outfield he takes solid routes with the ability to play all three outfield positions. He projects as an above-average defender in the corners.

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BEST ATHLETE: Denaburg is certainly in the argument here as one of the most athletic pitchers in the 2018 prep class, as a converted catcher who's capable of doing standing backflips. Wilson brings his athleticism to the bases and the outfield grass, has above-average bat speed and is the more quick-twitch athlete of the two players.

MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: RHP Ryan Tapani (21) will be able to pick the brain of his father, Kevin, who had a 13-year major league career pitching for the Mets, Twins, Dodgers, White Sox and Cubs. The elder Tapani posted a 4.35 ERA over 354 career starts, while Ryan had a successful pro debut, coming mostly out of the bullpen with low Class-A Auburn.


CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS:
RHP Jake Irvin (4) has a repeatable delivery and is a solid strike thrower. He looks more like a big league starter currently than Denaburg, Cate or Schaller. If Cate stays healthy he's a pitcher who could move through the system quickly as well, and Schaller could be pushed aggressively as a multi-inning reliever if Washington decides to push him in that role, though he started each of his 12 games this past summer.

BEST LATE-ROUND PICK: The Nationals don't have a lockdown obvious choice like the 2017 draft when they found Gabe Klobosits in the 37th round, but the Nationals are trying to see how much $3,000 can get them in the 27th and 28th rounds with a powerful bat in O'Connor and a solid pro debut from 1B Blake Chisolm (28), who hit .296/.427/.480 in the Gulf Coast League, with a physical 6-foot-5 frame.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY: RHP Cole Wilcox (37) was the most talented player that the Nationals failed to sign, but they took him expecting that he would wind up on campus at Georgia unless something fell apart with their earlier picks. RHP Zach Linginfelter (19) might have stung more to not get signed, as the team hoped to save enough money to prevent him from going back to Tennessee for his junior season after posting an 11.62 K/9 in the SEC this spring.

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