Washington Nationals: Revisiting the 2022 MLB Draft

Position Players, Power and Pitching.

The Washington Nationals retooled their minor league system during the July 2022 MLB Draft by adding 12 position players and 7 pitchers. In past years the Nationals have been criticized for their tendency of drafting injured players. Their luck did not get any better with 2021 top draft pick Brady House dealing with back issues and 2020 second round pick Cole Henry recently going down with thoracic outlet syndrome. Did the front office make a push to change that narrative? Let’s take a look back into each prospect the Nationals drafted.

Round 1, Pick 5: Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy(FL) Class: HS SR

Green is a top-5 talent for a reason, his potential is off the charts. Elijah is 6’3” 225 pounds and has a 70-grade speed, according to mlb.com. Green flashed his potential in the Florida Complex League as he hit .302 with a .535 slugging percentage. The only knock on Green’s game is his strikeout rate, as he whiffed 21 times in 43 at-bats in the complex league. Elijah is only 18 years of age, so he has lots of time to iron out his swing and miss ability. Expect his timeline to the major leagues to be in 3-4 years.

Round 2, Pick 45: Jake Bennett, LHP, Oklahoma, Class: Junior

Bennett is a college pitcher who saw his stock rise in his final year at Oklahoma after flashing ability to get outs in his freshmen and sophomore years. In his junior year in Norman, Bennett was the Sooners’ Friday night starter, typically the most dominate arm on a college team. His stock rose immensely during his third year largely because of his performance in the NCAA postseason. Bennett went 7 innings twice and earned his first career save in Oklahoma’s postseason run, according to soonersports.com. Standing at 6’6” 234 pounds, Bennett projects to be a mid-line starter in the major leagues.

Round 3, Pick 84: Trey Lipscomb, 3B, Tennessee, Class: Senior

Coming out of high school Lipscomb was the number 1 rated shortstop in the class of 2018 according to perfectgame.com. Despite that ranking, Trey did not get a full opportunity to start for the Volunteers until his senior year. Lipscomb took that opportunity and ran with it, leading the team in just about every hitting statistic. Due to him staying in college four years, Lipscomb is 22 years of age, but many insiders believe he could be on the fast track to the big leagues. The reason being his age and the Nationals lack of prospects at third base. Look for Lipscomb to be on the move in the 2023 season.

Round 4, Pick 111: Brenner Cox, OF, Rock Hill HS(TX), Class: HS SR

Another young bat selected in the early rounds. Cox, 18 years of age, has a smooth left handed swing that earned him a commitment to the University of Texas, but the Nationals were able to get him to sign for a million dollar signing bonus. This is almost twice the slot value for a picks in this range of the draft, signifying the Nationals interest in Cox. The 6’3” 190 pound slugger has a 6.60 second 60-yard dash, according to perfectgame.com, that is off the charts speed. Look for Cox to be hitting home runs and swiping bases for your Washington Nationals in the next 3-4 years.

Round 5, Pick 141: Jared McKenzie, OF, Baylor, Class: Jr

A slower, but productive junior year saw Baylor outfielder Jared McKenzie’s draft stock fall. This was clearly a fluke, as McKenzie went on to hit .400 for the Fredericksburg Nationals. The fifth round pick has the early makeup of a draft day steal. In his sophomore year in college, Jared hit .383 with 10 home runs, alerting draft scouts around the nation. He saw his average drop to .283 in the following year but has rebounded quite well. Look for the 6’0” 180 pound 21 year old to build on his early career success in 2023 and beyond.

Round 6, Pick 171: Nathaniel Ochoa Leyva, SS, Notre Dame Catholic HS(ON), Class: HS Jr

A big and powerful shortstop is what the Nationals are getting in Ochoa Leyva. Built at 6’4” 215 pounds and only 18 years old, Ochoa Leyva is oozing with potential. There is a belief that he could transition to another position due to his size, but his bat is why he was drafted in the 6th round. Ochoa Leyva has the ability to hit just about anywhere in the lineup. It will be interesting to see how he develops, keep an eye on this interesting 18 year old down the road.

Round 7, Pick 201: Riley Cornelio, RHP, TCU, Class: Jr

Cornelio led the TCU pitching staff in strikeouts and games started in 2022 as a sophomore. In conference play, he pitched to a 3.12 ERA across 7 starts and 40.0 innings pitched. Coming out of high school, Cornelio was the No.1 draft prospect in the state of Colorado and chose to commit to TCU.  Cornelio has flashed ability to not only get batters out, but strike them out at a large clip.


Round 8, Pick 231: Chance Huff, RHP, Georgia Tech, Class: Jr

Huff started his career at Vanderbilt, then transferred to Georgia Tech. Huff struggled in his Yellow Jackets career, but has flashed abilities to get outs late in games as he recorded 2 saves in 2021. Huff has struggled with command issues, as he walked 19 batters in 24.1 innings of work. He also struck out 22 batters, so he has the ability to get swing and misses.

Round 9, Pick 261: Maxwell Romero Jr., C, Miami, Class: Jr

Like the previous pick, Chance Huff, Maxwell Romero Jr. started his career at Vanderbilt. After 2 years as a Commodore he transferred to Miami(FL). Romero hit 4 home runs in the 2021 season, followed by 12 in the 2022 season. If his power continues to develop, look for Romero Jr. to be a 9th round steal by the Nats.

Round 10, Pick 291: Murphy Stehly, 3B, Texas, Class: Sr

If draft position was solely based on statistics, Stehly is a top round pick. The redshirt senior hit .367 with 19 home runs and 61 runs batted in. Stehly was a mainstay in the Longhorn lineup, and was relied on to produce for his team. Stehly’s age is likely the reason he fell to the 10th round, but due to his experience level he could be put on the fast track through the minors.

Round 11, Pick 321, Luke Young, RHP, Midland College(TX), Class: Junior College

Another pitcher with strikeout abilities. Luke Young is a junior college pitcher who was committed to Oklahoma State University this fall, but has signed with the Nationals. Young struck out 110 batters in his 79.1 innings of work, while doubling his strikeout total as a freshmen. Young is up to 96mph currently while weighing just 170 pounds, so there is room for the JuCo product to fill out.

Round 12, Pick 351, Nick Peoples, OF, Northview HS(CA), Class: HS Sr

Peoples is a switch hitting outfielder that can run. The Northview High School product was a New Mexico State Commit, but the Nationals were able to sign him to a deal. A 2020 scouting report scouted Peoples as, “A player who can play all three outfield positions with great abilities from both sides of the plate.”

Round 13, Pick 381, Marquis Grissom Jr., RHP, Georgia Tech, Class: So

Another Georgia Tech product drafted by the Nats, the Sophomore was limited in his first season as a Yellow Jacket due to an injury. In 2022, he made 14 starts and pitched to a 5.75 ERA. Grissom Jr. is a versatile pitcher, as he started 21 of his 27 appearances at Georgia Tech. Marquis averaged about a strikeout per inning, so anticipate that category to improve as he develops as a pitcher.

Round 14, Pick 411, Cortland Lawson, SS, Tennessee, Class: Jr

Lawson is an absolute winner. He was apart of two SEC Championship teams. As the starter in 2022, he hit 12 home runs while hitting .269. Lawson also legged out two triples, showing a knack for some speed. Corltand was the No. 2 rated high school baseball player in Virginia before attending Tennessee. Standing at 6’2″ 200 lbs, Lawson projects to be a 15 home run type of hitter.

Round 15, Pick 441, Kyle Luckham, RHP, Arizona State, Class: Jr

Luckham is another experienced arm, logging 86.2 innings in the 2022 season. In his first two seasons at Fullerton, he threw over 80 innings. He allowed 2 earned runs or less in 5 of his last 8 starts of 2022. Luckham started all 15 games he appeared in the 2022 season.

Round 16, Pick 471, Everett Cooper III, SS, Pro Baseball Academy(NC), Class: HS Sr

Cooper III, the Pro Baseball Academy product, can fly. The 19 year old shortstop runs a 6.62 60 yard dash, and fields a smooth shortstop. These tools earned him a commitment to Alabama, but the Nationals were able to sign the 16th round pick to a deal.

Round 17, Pick 501, Blake Klassen, 1B, UC Santa Barbara, Class: Jr

Klassen had an outstanding year for UC Santa Barbara. The transfer from Arizona slugged 10 home runs in 2022 while hitting .352.

Round 18, Pick 531: Brad Lord, RHP, South Florida, Class: Jr

Lord was a starter for USF in 2022, striking out 60 batters in 61.2 innings of work. Brad also only walked 22 batters in those 61.2 innings, showing strong control numbers.

Round 19, Pick 561: Johnathon Thomas, OF, Texas Southern U, Class: Sr

The 5’7″ 175 pound slugger can do it all. In 2022, Thomas hit 9 home runs, 4 triples and drove in 38 runs. He also stole 57 bases, fifty seven. The 19th round pick is an absolute stud.

 

Round 20, Pick 591: JeanPierre Ortiz, SS, IMG Academy(FL), Class: HS Sr

The Nationals were unable to sign Ortiz.