On the night of the 2018 MLB Draft, Washington Nationals’ Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Operations Kris Kline described the Nats’ top pick, 18-year-old righty Mason Denaburg, as an impressive two-sport athlete and a pitcher who had a, “very, very good makeup,” was a, “... tremendous competitor,” with a, “good delivery, clean action,” and what he described as, “that starter look about him.”
The product of Merritt Island High School brought a, “big fastball,” to the mound, Kline said, “... he’ll show you an above average breaking ball and an above average changeup.”
“I like to attack with my fastball,” Denaburg himself said when asked to describe himself in his first official press conference in Nationals Park after he signed what is said to be an above-slot $3M deal on Tuesday.
“I guess I just put people away with my offspeed stuff,” he added. “I’m not scared of anybody.”
Denaburg dealt with biceps tendinitis in his final season in high school, and eventually fell to the Nationals at No. 27 overall, but Kline said after selecting the right-hander that the Nationals were comfortable with what they saw from him when he returned to the mound.
“I think we’re very fortunate that he slid as far as he did,” Kline said.
The feeling was apparently mutual, with Denaburg saying that he knew the Nats’ history of gambling on talented pitchers with injury concerns.
“It’s awesome just thinking about the guys that they’ve brought through their organization,” he said, “and for them to think highly enough of me just means the world to me.”
“Mason is really a gifted athlete, has the velocity, but the real thing is he has a feel to pitch,” Denaburg’s agent, Scott Boras said, “and he has very repeatable delivery, very durable, and has been kind of hidden in the baseball markets.
“Didn’t do a lot of the showcases and things, but the scouting industry kind of caught on to him late in his junior year.”
“He’s got all of the physical tools and a great work ethic to go with his talent attributes,” Boras added.
Denaburg said he wasn’t aware of the Nationals’ interest until the pick before the Nats took him at No. 27, when they called him at home where he was watching the Draft.
“I was really just home with my family. I didn’t really have anybody over, and I just kind of sat there and waited and then the Nats called at 26, and I guess the rest is history.”
The injury concerns are apparently history now as well, and have been for a while.
“I pitched in the last three games of the year and then I kind of chilled out for a little bit, but I’m feeling good now,” Denaburg said.
“It’s completely healthy now, I went deep into [those] games, and it was pretty good.”
He knew he wanted to turn pro, and he and the Nationals worked out the deal ahead of the July 6th deadline to sign this year’s selections.
“It was what I wanted, but we just had to make sure that it was all the right numbers and stuff to go, so I would be okay.”
“Before [the Nationals] drafted him we kind of had a good bearing on what his financial values were, what the team’s were,” Boras explained.
“We had an alignment on that and so it was a very smooth transition to what both sides felt was a common value point for Mason.”
1st-rder Mason Denaburg signs w/@Nationals for $3 million (pick 27 value = $2,472,700). Florida HS RHP, potential top-10 pick before biceps tendinitis, fastball to 97 mph, power breaking ball, feel for changeup too. Florida recruit. @MLBDraft— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) July 3, 2018
Though he’d been to Washington, D.C. before, Denaburg said he was too young to really remember that first trip with his parents, but he’ll remember this one, including the fact that he got to meet Nationals’ starter Max Scherzer, who, according to a report on MASN, looked at some of the picks Mike Rizzo and Co. in the front office were considering taking with the 27th pick, and liked the right-hander.
“I met Max actually downstairs,” Denaburg said, “...and I’ve always loved watching him pitch, and I always thought that like, not our stuff, but our body and our windup and stuff like that was kind of similar, so it was cool to see him and hear from him.”
“It’s a dream come true, really,” he added, of signing his deal.
“As a kid I’ve always grown up wanting to play professional baseball and today I finally met that goal.”