Washington’s tendency to take hard-throwing pitchers with their top draft picks had most of the mock drafts once again matching the Nationals up with high-end arms at No. 11, then, when their pick came up, GM Mike Rizzo & Co. in the D.C. front office selected 18-year-old high school shortstop Brady House. Wait, what?
Were they looking at arms, and just surprised that the 6’4’’, 210 lb, 18-year-old infielder was there after 10 picks were made? He wasn’t supposed to be there. So were they hoping for House all along?
“We had four or five guys that we really liked,” Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops Kris Kline explained in a post Round 1 Zoom call with reporters. “Four or five potential five-tool players. Building the board like we build it, we just didn’t see that, in our opinion, that Cade Cavalli from the last year, we didn’t see [2020 1st Round pick] Cade Cavalli in this draft. So, we were focusing on those other guys, and I remember when I was at a game [scouting House], and I don’t text [Rizzo] very often or call him ... but after I saw Brady, I texted him, and he’s getting excited, and he said, ‘Is he going to be there?’
“And I said, ‘I don’t know I don’t know, I think he’s going to be gone in the first six.’
“So, Brady House at 11. Pretty happy about that.”
“I think it was very fluid this year,” Mark Baca, Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting, said in response to the same question.
“So we — I think at the time, obviously when you line the board up, it’s prepped out by best player available. But this year, very fluid.
“We were expecting, I mean, we were very fortunate with [House] getting to eleven in the country, we thought. We were overly excited when he landed in our lap, but again, as the draft goes, it’s so fluid, you never, ever try to predict anything that happens. Obviously pitching, that would have been great, but we were blessed to get Mr. House there at 11.”
“We were super-excited he was there when we picked,” Kline added.
“He’s a high school kid that has great size, really strong, big power, well-above average arm strength, and for a guy his size he can really really run. Got a chance to see him maybe three times this year, and met the kid, talked mostly about his truck, but he was a nice, personable kid, really good makeup, hard-worker, and high school shortstop now.
“There’s a part of me that thinks that he can maybe stay there, you know, but he might get too big and end up at third base, where he’s got a chance to potentially win a Gold Glove.”
House, the Nationals noted in a press release on the selection, “hit .549 (50-for-91) with 12 doubles, eight home runs, 20 RBIs, 21 stolen bases, 29 walks, nine strikeouts, and 52 runs scored during his senior season at Widner-Barrow High School in Widner, [Georgia],” with, “... a .675 on-base percentage and a .967 slugging percentage en route to being named First Team All-America by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball.”
In a separate Zoom call, the shortstop said he was determined to convince everyone that he can stay at short as a pro.
“100%. That’s what I work towards every day is just beating everyone out at short and just proving that I can stay at short,” House said. “Because that’s where I feel comfortable, that’s where my bread and butter is, and I feel like I can stay at short for sure if I keep up the work there.”
In order to do that, the infielder said, he knows he has to improve some aspects of his game going forward.
“I’d say something that I do have to work on, is keep working on my side-to-side movement at shortstop,” he said. “All these smaller guys, I’m going to have to work harder, and just because I am bigger, I am going to have to work harder and do the best at whatever I’m doing just to stay at short.”
Kline’s take? And you’ll note they seem to have discussed this.
“Brady talks about his lateral movement,” Kline said. “I think it’s fine. For big guys like that that maybe aren’t blessed with as much range as stereotypical middle infielder, he will have to learn the hitters, know where to play guys, be smart about where he positions himself, to create an advantage for himself.”
That’s all stuff that will sort itself out once he signs and starts to play pro ball, assuming he does sign. House has a commitment to the University of Tennessee, but asked last night if he planned to sign with the Nationals, he said simply, “Yes, sir.”
Kline, as he said, was super-excited about House a player, with an added bonus that he is a respectful young man as well.
“He’s a smart kid, he’s very quiet, like I said, very personable, very polite, very respectful. It’s just a nice — that’s just a bonus for me, when you see a kid that has this kind of ability, and then you couple that with the type of person he is, that’s a win-win for us.”
How difficult is it to pick a young, 18-year-old high school infielder, and project what he may one day become?
“Brady made it easy,” Kline explained. “For [an 18 year old] kid, he checks a lot of really good boxes. You’ve got size, you’ve got strength, you’ve got power, you’ve got bat speed, you’ve got speed, you’ve got a well-above average arm, all those boxes are checked, the bat is the one thing with every player, position player, we take, that you’re counting on.
“And if they don’t hit, it’s not going to happen.
“They become utility infielders or role players, or extra players, but I think that Brady checked all the boxes of to where we felt really comfortable that he’s going to put together a really, really nice career.”
“You try to limit the risk,” Baca said.
“I think, when you talk about polish with a high school kid, he was further advanced than most. Plus you look at everything in his history and everything else about him, makes it a little bit more comfortable.”