Holden Powell, the Washington Nationals’ 3rd Round pick in last week’s MLB Draft, at No. 94 overall, piled up 20 strikeouts over 9 1⁄3 innings of work for the UCLA Bruins before the 2020 campaign ended abruptly in mid-March, due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2019, the 20-year-old, 6’0’’ right-hander recorded 65 Ks and 17 saves in 40 games and 49 IP, over which he had a 1.84 ERA and .121 batting average against, with the Nats noting in a press release on this year’s picks that the 17 saves, “... were second-most in the nation in 2019 and ranked second all-time in UCLA single-season history.”
Powell finished his three seasons at UCLA with a combined 2.26 ERA (23 ER in 91 2⁄3 IP) and a total of 107 strikeouts in 77 appearances.
MLB’s Pipeline scouts had Powell ranked 134th overall on their list of the Top 200 prospects for the draft, noting that it was his fastball/slider combination that, “peaked scouts’ interest,” with no one questioning where he would end up if he made it to the majors, since he really, “profile(s) well in the back of a bullpen, a role he relishes, with the makeup to close games at the next level.”
“Holden Powell is the closer at UCLA,” Nationals’ Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops Kris Kline told reporters after Day 2 of the 2020 Draft.
“This is present stuff with command. Very aggressive approach. Fastball is anywhere from 93-97, again, with life.”
“He’s got a present, above-average slider, so he’s got an out pitch,” Kline added. “He’s got a changeup, he doesn’t use it that much. He doesn’t really need it right now. I think he’s in the role he’s always going to be in, and I think he’s going to have a lot of success in that role.”
While he projects as a back end of the bullpen arm, and has the potential to rise quickly as he gets started on his pro career, Kline pumped the brakes on any talk that the reliever could end up in the majors at some point this season (assuming they do play).
“I don’t think you’re going to see Holden in the bullpen this year,” Kline explained.
“It’s a process, getting acclimated to professional baseball. I do agree he has the potential to move quickly through the system.
Holden Powell (@getHolden) is the latest member of the 2020 UCLA MLB Draft Class presented by Top Chops, as he was just selected in the third by the @Nationals!— UCLA Baseball (@UCLABaseball) June 12, 2020
Congrats, HP! #GoBruins | #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/fZN7Pa2kAo
“This is what they look like in the seventh, eighth, ninth inning. For this year, we’re telling all of these guys it’s kind of unpredictable about how things are going right now, but they’re all going to throw sim games and play catch and do all the things necessary to stay ready, because you never know when that day is going to come, and hopefully sooner than later.”
Powell told reporters when he spoke for the first time after the Nationals selected him, that the possibility of moving up quickly, given his role at UCLA and his success in his collegiate career, had occurred to him as he was working his way toward the draft.
“It’s definitely something I’ve thought about,” he acknowledged. “Obviously coming into UCLA, I don’t think I really thought about that at the moment. As I got later into my sophomore year, junior year, I think that started to become more in my mind that this could be my path to the big leagues at a quicker rate.”
Powell’s stuff and his mentality late in games, led to success with the Bruins, and he hopes it will translate to the pro game.
“In terms of the stuff — I think being a good closer just takes a certain mentality. It’s an attack-first mentality. It’s oftentimes a team-first mentality, really.
“You’ve got to do whatever you need to do to get those last three outs and to get the win.
“But obviously the stuff does matter. I just think sometimes with the closer it’s just you’ve got to go out there and get it any way you can. You can’t be worried about certain pitches and all that kind of stuff.
“I think you’ve just got to do anything you can to get those last three outs, because you know like the old saying, the last three outs are the toughest, for sure.”
Offering a scouting report on his own stuff, Powell echoed what scouts, and Kline in particular, said about his fastball/slider combo.
“I mainly attack with the four-seam fastball, as well as the slider against righties,” Powell said.
“And then against lefties, I’m mostly four-seam/curveball. Right now in the lab, I’m kind of working on a changeup. I think that could be a good pitch for me at the next level.
“Pro hitters, obviously, you’ve got to get them off the fastball a little bit more, but I think that’s mainly what I attack with, but my bread and butter is fastball/slider combo, so I’m always going to stick with that and see where that takes me.”