Washington Nationals: Four Potential Second Round Draft Picks
By Max Rayman
Despite last year’s firesale, the Washington Nationals still have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Drafting at number five this year, they have an opportunity to add some much-needed top-tier talent to their system. But the Nats need to hit on more than their top pick if they want to drastically speed up the rebuild. The Nats are entering the draft with the sixth most bonus pool money ( $11,007,900) — meaning they will have the opportunity to sign a top-tier talent that might fall out of the first round.
Earlier in the month, we took a look at three prep and college bats the Nats should target in the first round. This time around we’re taking a look at players the Nats should target with their second-round pick.
Entering the season, Landon Simms was one of the top college arms, but only made three starts before undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Nats haven’t been shy about drafting pitchers with coming off an injury in the past and Sims has the potential to be a steal. Before transitioning to becoming a starter this season, he primarily relied on his fastball and slider — both of which are wipeout pitches. Per MLB Pipeline:
"“Sims’ high-spin fastball sits at 94-96 mph and touches 98 with a difficult approach angle and tremendous carry up in the strike zone, resulting in outstanding swing-and-miss (38 percent) and chase (29 percent) rates on his heater last season. His tight mid-80s slider is just as hard to handle and works against both left-handers and right-handers. He didn’t utilize a third offering as a reliever and didn’t pitch in the fall, but he says he believes in his changeup and is looking forward to using it.”"
He has the potential to become a mid-rotation starter — but due to injury and durability concerns will probably become little innings closer.
Once viewed as a potential top 10 pick, Brock Jones has seen his stock take a tumble due to swing and miss issues, but he has 60-grade power. A former two-sport athlete (he played safety), he’s projected to be a late first-round to either comp or early second-round pick– having led Stanford to the College World Series. This past season he slashed .324/.451/.664, with 21 homers, 57 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.115.
"“The 6-foot, 205 pounder keeps strikeout rates healthy and he draws an immense amount of walks. Jones has a sweet, compact left-handed swing coming from a wide base with an all-fields approach. He has above average pull-side juice and can really impact a baseball into the left-centerfield gap. He’s at least an above average runner, maybe plus. He’s a solid average defender with a fringier arm; a toolset built for centerfield with more reps and seasoning. Given the athleticism and trajectory of his game, many believe Jones’ game will continue to grow and flourish as he gets more and more comfortable committing to baseball full-time. For now, it’s above average tools across the board with the exception of the throwing arm.”"
Fans may be nervous about the Nationals drafting Jones due to him being a project — they don’t have the best past history when it comes to developing prospects. But he has all the tools to become a solid player.
Drafted by the Red Sox last year in the second round, Jud Fabian didn’t sign and went back to school — which paid off dividens. A year after strikeout ing 79 times, he only struck out 69 times — while drawing 62 walks, a massive upgrade from the 40 he drew in 2021. Questions still remain about his hit tool — but he has impressive power that mixes well with his solid bat speed.
Not a burner, Fabian has decent speed and is an above-average centerfielder. During his four years at Florida, he slashed .246/.384/.541, with 56 homers, 140 RBIs, and an OPS of .925. As long as he limits the strikeouts, Fabian has the potential to be a steal.
Of everyone on this list, the Nationals drafting Jake Bennett seems the most likely due to Washington already drafting him once before. Selected in the 39th round in the 2019 draft, Bennett decided to keep his commitment to the University of Oklahoma where he became teammates with Washington’s top prospect — Cade Cavalli.
Pivotal in Oklahoma reaching this year’s College World Series Finals, Jake Bennett has a solid three-pitch mix. Per MLB Pipeline:
"“Bennett is more effective against right-handers than same-side hitters because his 82-85 mph changeup is a legitimate plus pitch that tumbles at the plate, and he uses it almost exclusively against righties. Although his four-seam fastball has touched 98 mph, it usually operates at 91-94 with some arm-side run, and he must locate it up in the zone to be effective. He uses a slider with similar velocity to his changeup against left-handers, and it lacks consistency while flashing solid sweep at times.”"
Despite losing his start in the Finals against Ole Miss, he went 6 1/3 innings, allowing only three earned runs while striking out 10. Not fazed by the big stage, Bennett would bring a winning mentality to D.C.