The Nationals have a tendency of drafting pitchers in the first round. Is that going to change come draft night?
The 2020 MLB Draft is fast approaching, set for June 10. Earlier in the week, I took a look at a few potential players the Nationals could draft with their first-round pick. Here are a few more options the Nationals should consider taking in the first round.
Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks East (PA) HS
Originally part of the 2021 draft class, Nick Bitsko announced he was graduating early and immediately became one of the top prep arms in the 2020 draft. Already committed to UVA, he would have to be wooed away with his slot bonus to go pro. The 17-year-old would help replenish the Nationals farm system and there would be no need to rush him through the minors. With Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick still leading the rotation, Bitsko could take his time to develop.
“Bitsko is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, with plenty of projection and now stuff. He stood out particularly at the East Coast Pro Showcase over the summer, but he has shown consistent ability at every stop. Bitsko was up to 96-97 mph at East Coast Pro, with all fastballs in the 92- to 96-mph range. He combines it with a hard breaking ball that shows plus shape, thrown in the 78- to 82-mph range to get a lot of swings and misses. While he doesn’t throw it as much, he does have solid feel for a changeup. Bitsko isn’t pure power, either, showing the ability to throw all three pitches for strikes with a chance for future plus command.”
Washington may lean more towards a college arm, but Bitsko’s potential is intriguing.
Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio (TX) HS
Alongside Nick Bitsko and Mick Abel, Jared Kelley is one of the top Prep arms in the upcoming draft class. Known for his fastball that can reach 99 mph, Kelley was very productive during his high school career. Last season, his Jr. year, the righty had a terrific showing, posting a 0.22 ERA, with 144 strikeouts, in 65+ innings. This season, Kelley appeared in 12 innings before the season was canceled due to Coronavirus, but he made sure to leave an impression. Kelley recorded 36 outs with 34 of them coming via strikeout and at the same time, he didn’t allow a single hit.
“Few pitchers can create as much velocity with as little effort as Kelley, who can pump 93-96 mph fastballs and reach 98 with some running action. He already owns an advanced changeup with fade and sink, and he’s willing to throw it in any count. His third-best pitch at the moment is a hard slurve in the low 80s that lacks consistency but should develop into at least a solid offering.”
He is more likely to go in the middle of the first round, but if he’s available the Nats shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
Garrett Crochet, LHP, Tennessee
The Nationals are likely to target a pitcher come draft night. This time around we are looking at a college arm, Garrett Crochet. While at Tennessee, Crochet split time between the starting rotation and bullpen. He has some medical concerns, as he missed time due to a line drive fracture that dislocated his jaw. He also missed three weeks this past season due to shoulder soreness.
In the 2019 season, Crochet went 5-3, with a 4.02 ERA, and 81 strikeouts, while recording three saves. The lefties injury history could scare off some teams which could lead to him dropping to the Nationals. He is known for his fastball which ranges from 96-100. MLB Pipeline grades players pitches on a 20-80 scale and Crochet’s fastball was given a 65. MLB.com went into depth over the rest of Crochet’s pitches, stating,
“After working with a 91-95 mph fastball and topping out at 97 during the spring, Crochet dealt at 96-100 for most of the fall, and his heater already played better than its velocity because it has high spin rates. His 82-85 mph slider features above-average spin rates as well and his long arms create difficult angle on his breaking ball. He flashes a well above-average changeup at times, throwing it around 90 mph with deceptive arm speed.”
Expect Crochet to set up many batters due to his advanced heater. Come draft night, if either of these three drop to the Nats, fans should be excited.