With their first ten picks in this year’s MLB Draft, the Washington Nationals have selected seven hitters, four infielders and three outfielders, and they’ve added three pitchers, two lefties and one right-hander.
Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops Kris Kline said that it’s partly been a case of what they see out there with this year’s draft class, and partly trying this year to address organizational needs when it come to their overall approach.
“There wasn’t those pitchers that really separated themselves,” Kline explained, “... so this was an ideal draft to kind of chase some position players. We ended up with some left-handed bats with some power. A 17-year-old switch hitter with power. And we got some speed, we added some speed, so we kind of fortified our minor league system a little bit.”
“We’ve got pitchers in the system,” Kline continued, so the first three picks, shortstop Brady House, outfielder Daylen Lile, and first baseman Branden Boissiere, and seven of ten overall have been bats in the first two days.
“Daylen Lile, we all saw him as the best high school hitter in this draft,” Kline said.
“2021 Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Kentucky, and he was the National Player of the Year this year.”
Lile, playing high school ball in Kentucky, “hit .550/.680/1.413 with 12 doubles, 12 triples, 18 home runs, 60 RBI, 41 walks, seven strikeouts and 66 runs scored during his senior season,” as the Nationals noted in a press release on this year’s selections.
“Other tools are average. He’s going to play left field, but it’s all about the bat with this kid,” Kline added, “... it’s advanced, it’s polished, Mark would describe it as, ‘tidy.’ It’s a tidy, nice, quick little stroke, short, fast, he’s got power, and exceptional feel to hit.”
“Mark,” is Mark Baca, the Nationals’ Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting, who was on the Zoom calls with Kline the last two days. He shared the following anecdote about seeing Lile hit in batting practice.
“I think when we first walked in the ballpark — you get BP, right, so just standing there watching his swing, if you just look at the foundation of the swing, I said, ‘Wow,’ if he takes it to the game I can’t wait to see the electricity that comes through this guy’s bat. And it didn’t take long. Probably the first swing he took in the game and you knew you were on to something really special with this one, so — and we got a chance to see him obviously, but for me, when you look at the bat, the mechanics of the bat, and bat speed, the leverage he has, the potential power he has, it didn’t take long. It was a really, really short, no space, compact, really good swing, so one of the better swings that I’ve seen here in a while, and this year for sure. Just a tremendous swing, and a kid that you knew was going to hit.”
Kline shared his own “Wow” moment when he talked about the first basemen the Nationals have drafted so far: Boissiere, in the 3rd Round, 1B/OF TJ White, in the 5th Round, and Will Frizzell, in the 8th.
“We got two first baseman. T.J. White is going to play the outfield. He may end up at first base. But you got Will Frizzell and Boissiere, Boissiere is a hitter over power now,” Kline said.
“Really, really slick defender, which we needed in our system. He’s starting to run into some power where he played — now he plays in an enormous ballpark in Tucson. And then Frizzell, it’s all about the bat with this guy. He’s going to be adequate — on a major league scale — adequate, average. He has played right field a little bit. I was telling [Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo] in there, I’ve been scouting for 31 years and I’ve never seen a kid hit a ball as far as I saw [Frizzell] hit [one] at the Round Rock ballpark in Texas. He hit it over the neon Round Rock sign that was behind the walkway in right-center, into the parking lot. I’ve never seen any kid do that.
“All I could say was, ‘Wow.’”
Asked if he had any data on it, like exit velo or distance, Kline said, “No I heard it.”
“It was loud,” Baca added. “It was loud.”
T.J. White, who’ll turn 18 on July 23rd, “hit .505 (46-for-91) with nine doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 37 RBI, 17 stolen bases, 35 walks and 29 runs scored during his senior season,” at the high school level in South Carolina.
“He’s young,” Baca said.
“Very young, switch hitter, I think that the intriguing part for us with him, is the fact that he’s a switch hitter, his youth, he’s only 17, and he’s got a chance to have power from both sides of the plate.”
“He’s not a runner,” Kline said. “He’s going to be a corner player, but there’s some electricity in his bat, and it may take a little longer to develop, but I don’t think he’s that far away.”
Kline also touched on two of the three pitchers the Nationals have drafted so far, 6’6 lefty Michael Kirian, out of Louisville in the 6th Round, and 9th Round pick Cole Quintanilla, a 6’5’’ right-hander out of the University of Texas.
“We got two lefties,” Kline said, Kirian, and Dustin Saenz, their 4th Round pick out of Texas A&M. “Kirian, he’s a Friday night starter at University of Louisville, big physical man, up to 96, feel to spin his breaking ball, good feel for his changeup, and then Cole Quintanilla in the 9th Round, was another big guy out of the University of Texas who’s been up to 95-96, more of a reliever, but he’s got a beautiful delivery, and we’re going to turn him into a starter. So you’ve got a fresh arm, the kid’s got a nice delivery, feel to pitch, and he’s got stuff.”
Saenz, “went 6-6 with a 4.27 ERA in 14 starts during his senior season. He struck out 104 batters against just 23 walks in 84.1 innings pitched,” the Nationals noted, and Jim Callis, during MLB.com’s broadcast of the draft said, “his money pitch is a slider.”:
“It’s got really good metrics, some of the best slider metrics in the entire draft, works against both lefties and righties, 90-93 [MPH], tops out at 95 on the fastball, has pitched in a variety of roles at A&M, not the biggest guy in the world, so maybe a reliever long-term.”
Assessing the draft class as a whole through ten rounds, both Kline and Baca, not surprising anyone, said they were really happy with the results.
“I think it worked out to where we got some of these guys that we — well, all of them, all of the ones we took, some of the left-handed power we took, I think this is something that we needed in the system,” Baca said. “So, and as I look down at the players that we got, we couldn’t be more pleased, especially with some of the power, the speed, you look at the middle of the field, we’ve got speed, we’ve got power, we’ve got some arms, so we ended up with a lot of versatility, and especially adding power into the system.”
“We accomplished what we kind of set out to do,” Kline said, “and we’ve always kind of been pitching heavy, and I think we filled some voids that we have in our minor league system, and I think these guys, our player development guys, are going to be happy with what we got, and I know they’re looking forward to working with them.”
And, as Baca noted, they’re not done yet. Round 11-20 take place today.
“Feel really good up to this point,” he said. “For us, we look at it, for us, you stare at all the magnets on the board, you got big leaguers up there, so the focus, you’re still driven, you’re still focused till it’s over, but up to this point, I don’t think I can feel any better. I feel great about what’s occurred so far.”
As for any concerns about signability?
“That’s all kind of done,” Kline said. “You kind of go through and you work that out a little bit prior to taking the player, as every team will do, because you have to find a way to manage your money, and so we’re good there.”