Washington’s Nationals selected left-handed pitcher Jake Bennett out of high school, in the 39th Round in 2019, taking the southpaw with the 1,173rd overall pick, but he opted to go to the University of Oklahoma, joining high school teammate Cade Cavalli with the Sooners in the season Cavalli was drafted by the Nats 22nd overall in the 1st Round in 2020.
Had someone told Bennett back in 2019 he would end up getting selected by the Nationals again, with the 45th overall pick in the 2nd round this time, and would end up in the same organization as his high school and college teammate?
“Man, I would have thought they were crazy, I mean, what are the odds?” Bennett said last night, when he spoke with reporters on a Zoom call after he was picked by the Nats again.
“It was pretty cool to be picked by them again, but I mean, just a lot of excitement and ready to get back to work,” Bennett said.
Our 2nd pick was a special one.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 18, 2022
Announcing it was none other than Senior Advisor to the General Manager and 2003 World Series Champion Manager Jack McKeon.#MLBDraft // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/Q6LenIoi2U
“Bennett, 21,” the Nationals wrote in a press release on last night’s pick, “went 10-4 with a 3.69 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) during his redshirt sophomore season at Oklahoma in 2022. He struck out 133 batters and walked just 22 in 117.0 innings pitched. He received second-team All-America honors from Baseball America and D1Baseball.com and third-team honors from Perfect Game. He was named First-Team All-Big 12 Conference and to the Big 12 All-Tournament Team.”
“The first time they drafted me was out of high school, obviously,” Bennett said when asked how he’s grown as a pitcher since 2019. “I think I’ve come a long way since high school. My body has gotten better, I’ve gotten stronger, more athletic, continued to improve upon my mechanics, a little bit of pitch design.
“I think my development has really just kind of been a complete thing. Not just one specific area.”
Doing the quick math on the stats above, Bennett issued just 1.69 BB/9 in his 20 games and 117 IP this season, with 10.23 K/9 for the Sooners, and the southpaw said he is comfortable in the zone, throwing strikes and challenging hitters.
We originally drafted Jake Bennett back in 2019.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 18, 2022
He decided to go to Oklahoma and reunite with his high school teammate Cade Cavalli.
We drafted Cade Cavalli in 2020.
We drafted Jake Bennett tonight.#MLBDraft // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/qrgUKr6u8t
“Yeah, for sure, strike-throwing has always kind of come natural to me,” Bennett explained.
“I’ve never really had an issue with not throwing strikes. I definitely think it helps. I try to attack hitters, really fill up the zone, and just let my stuff play.”
And that stuff? What’s Bennett working with and how does he attack hitters at his best?
“I’d say for the most part I’m pretty fastball dominant,” he said. “Got good command of that, I can throw it to either side of the plate, as far as offspeed goes, changeup has definitely been kind of my feel pitch, feel I can throw that in any count, and then when things are going good, I’m mixing in a slider kind of as an out-pitch to lefties.
“And curveball, more of just flip it, show it, so hitters respect it. But yeah...”
“He’ll show you just about everything,” Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Baca said of the Nats’ second round pick.
“Delivery, everything is clean, velocity, secondary stuff.”
“Another big guy, 6’6’’, 235, innings-eater frame,” Assistant GM and VP of Scouting ops Kris Kline said last night. “Nice delivery. Repeatable delivery. Fastball is up to 96, he’ll live at about 93, good life down in the zone.
“Changeup is his calling card. And he’s got an average to solid-average major league slider, that he needs to continue to develop. There are times when it’s really good, but he needs to learn how to commit to each one.”