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Washington Nationals 2022 MLB Draft Report Card

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Best Pure Hitter: OF Jared McKenzie (5) entered the summer of 2021 as one of the better hitting prospects in the 2022 draft class, but he struggled in the Cape Cod League and his strikeout rate ballooned during the 2022 season with Baylor. However, McKenzie looked much more like the underclass version of himself during a 17-game pro debut with Low-A Fredericksburg. While there as an age-appropriate 21-year-old, McKenzie slashed .400/.425/.614 and posted a 184 wRC+. 3B Trey Lipscomb (3) could also make a case for this category after hitting .355/.428/.717 in his fourth season at Tennessee.

Best Power Hitter: There are a few players with impressive raw power in this Nationals draft class, including the previously mentioned Lipscomb (3) and 10th round senior sign 3B Murphy Stehly (10), but OF Elijah Green (1) is still the clear choice. He has otherworldly strength and physicality for his age and routinely showed an ability to translate his 70-grade raw power into game power. He has the potential to hit 35-plus home runs in the big leagues and showed the best exit velocities in this Nationals draft class during his pro debut. 

Fastest Runner: The fact that Green (1) could also win this category is a testament to his athleticism and borderline unicorn status on the diamond. He has turned in 70-grade run times. OF Brenner Cox (4) is a plus runner and could play a solid center field in part because of that, while OF Johnathan Thomas (19) was one of the best basestealers in college baseball—he went 62-for-70 (88.6%) and handily led Division I players in steals—and is a near top-of-the-scale runner. He’s the choice here among a few good options.

Best Defensive Player: Green (1) got the bulk of the playing time in center field in the Florida Complex League, but both he and Cox (4) have the tools to be above-average defenders at the position with speed and big throwing arms that should allow them to play all three positions at a high level if necessary.

Best Fastball: LHP Jake Bennett (2) throws a fastball in the 91-94 mph range from the left side and touches 95, but he gets good extension thanks to a huge, 6-foot-6, 234-pound frame and likely adds a bit of sneak to the pitch because of that. Another solid option for this category is RHP Riley Cornelio (7), who throws a 92-95 mph fastball with sinking life.

Best Secondary Pitch: Cornelio’s (7) mid-80s slider was a weapon for him during the spring with Texas Christian and flashed plus as a knockout pitch in two-strike counts. Bennett’s (2) sweeping slider is likely not as nasty looking at first glance, but he has better feel for the pitch and can vary the shape and power of the pitch depending on the situation. It’s an above-average offering. 

Best Pro Debut: It’s hard to choose anyone other than McKenzie (5) for this category, particularly after he saw his draft stock drop throughout the college season. His performance in the Carolina League could make him one of the more exciting steals of the 2022 draft class as a fifth-round pick, and he showed hitting ability, speed and power while playing all three outfield positions.

Best Athlete: Green (1) was the best athlete in the 2022 draft class as a whole—high school or college—so it would be odd for him to not be the choice here. The Nationals are very high on Cox’s (4) athleticism as well, so he gets the honorable mention.

Most Intriguing Background: The Nationals drafted a few notable bloodlines players, including Green (1)—whose father Eric played in the NFL for 10 years. But how about a day three pick, RHP Marquis Grissom Jr. (13)? His father, Marquis Grissom Sr., was a 17-year outfielder who made two all-star teams, was a 1995 World Series champion, earned four Gold Gloves for his work in the outfield and was a 30-win player over the course of his career.  

Closest To The Majors: Bennett (2) has the sort of tools and skill set that could move quickly. He’s a polished strike thrower with a well-rounded arsenal of pitches that are near big league quality now, and he showed an ability to make necessary adjustments in college that should bode well for his professional career. 

Best Late-Round Pick (Or NDFA): The Nationals drafted RHP Luke Young (11) with their first pick on the third day of the draft and signed him for $250,000—the seventh-largest bonus the organization handed out in 2022. He’s a massively projectable pitcher who has an exciting fastball/breaking ball combination now, but will need to refine his command and feel to get the most out of it.

The One Who Got Away: The only player the Nationals didn’t sign in the 20-round draft was SS JeanPierre Ortiz (20) and it’s likely the team selected him knowing they wouldn’t sign him. Ortiz was one of the better defensive shortstops in the high school class for 2022, with an offensive game that needs more refinement. He will head to Florida International for his college career.

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