Nationals Heavily Linked to Prep Bat in MLB Draft

The MLB Draft is just a couple of weeks away and after picking in the lottery last year, the Nationals will now be picking 10th overall this year. Who is the favorite to land in DC?
Konnor Griffin poses for a photo with his coach, Brent Heavener, after receiving his trophy for Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year at Jackson Prep in Flowood, Miss., on Thursday, June 6, 2024.
Konnor Griffin poses for a photo with his coach, Brent Heavener, after receiving his trophy for Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year at Jackson Prep in Flowood, Miss., on Thursday, June 6, 2024. / Lauren Witte/Clarion Ledger / USA TODAY

The MLB Draft always bring plenty of surprise as it seems to be a lower hit rate on draftees than other sports, at least on the surface, which leads to plenty of intrigue on draft day as teams try to find an edge and draft their next franchise player. Some teams opt for the Best Player Available strategy while others utilize the "underslot" philosophy by cutting a deal with a player projected to be picked later than the current draft position in order to save money for later in the draft.

In recent seasons, the Nationals have been one of the former teams, frequently drafting the best player available. It is hard to blame them considering the state of the franchise, both at the Major League level and the farm system, in recent seasons. This has led to the additions of players like Brady House, Elijah Green, and last season, Dylan Crews. At least two of those players seem to be on a good track, so if the Nationals can continue a two-thirds hit rate, then they will turn this thing around in good time.

Fast forward to this year and the Nationals are picking 10th in the MLB draft despite technically "winning" the draft lottery. Due to the new MLB Draft lottery rules, a team cannot pick in the lottery in consecutive seasons, pushing the Nats down to 10th after picking 2nd overall last season.

So we know where we are picking, but how about who is likely to be available?

Well the cream of the crop in terms of MLB Draft prospects are all but locks to be long gone by the time the Nationals are on the clock. Players like Travis Bazzana (2B, Oregon St.), Charlie Condon (3B, Georgia), Jac Caglianone (1B, Florida) and JJ Wetherholt (INF, West Virginia) would be the easiest pick ever if available at 10, but they will be gone. Also likely unavailable are the top consensus arms like Chase Burns (Wake Forest) and Hagen Smith (Arkansas).

However, due to the frequent usage of the underslot strategy by teams, it is not uncommon for some players to fall a bit in the MLB Draft, leading to some great value selections for teams picking later on in the draft and specifically outside of the lottery. That is how Brady House ended up falling to the Nationals at 11th overall in the 2021 MLB Draft.

This means the Nationals odds likely start with players like Nick Kurtz (1B, Wake Forest), Braden Montgomery (OF, Texas A&M) and Trey Yesavage (RHP, East Carolina). This draft's top talent is filled with college players, all of which are likely to fly off the board before the top prep player is selected.

But it is actually that top prep player that has been linked heavily to the Nationals.

Multiple sites predict Nationals will select Jackson Prep SS Konnor Griffin in July's MLB Draft

While the Nationals do not have the best history of developing prep bats, the upside of Konnor Griffin may be too tantalizing to pass up.

Griffin was recently named Gatorade's National High School Player of the Year and had a whopping 85 steals this season among other video game-like numbers. Griffin is 6'4, 205 pounds and has legit 30-30 potential due to his power and well-above-average speed. While a primary shortstop, Griffin also possesses the ability to be a Gold Glove Centerfielder.

Griffin is currently committed to play at LSU next year, so it will take a strong offer from the Nationals in order to steal him away from his prior commitment. But with the Nationals betting on high upside with their recent top picks, they seem steadfast in their approach and likely realize they cannot afford to let their top draft pick go unsigned.

It is worth mentioning that Danny Haas is the new Scouting Director in DC and this will be his first draft with the Nationals. Haas came from Baltimore, where they frequently utilized an underslot approach to drafting and built up quite the farm system. It remains to be seen if Haas will follow suit in DC, but the track record is there.

Here are the current predictions from the top outlets on who the Nationals will select:

The Athletic: Braden Montgomery, OF, Texas A&M
Bleacher Report: Konnor Griffin, SS/CF, Jackson Prep (Miss.)
CBS: Konnor Griffin, SS/CF, Jackson Prep (Miss.)
ESPN: Konnor Griffin, SS/CF, Jackson Prep (Miss.) Konnor Griffin, SS/CF, Jackson Prep (Miss.)
USA Today: Bryce Rainer, SS, Harvard-Westlake HS (Cal.)

The MLB Draft will begin on Sunday July 14 to kick off the MLB All Star Week festivities.