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Washington Nationals’ Kris Kline & Mark Baca on 2022 1st/2nd Round picks Elijah Green and Jake Bennett

Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops Kris Kline and Asst. Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Baca on the Nats’ first two draft picks of 2022...

Elijah Green, 18, and the No. 5 overall pick in the 1st Round of the 2022 MLB Draft, said last night he was thrilled to be selected by the Washington Nationals.

“It was definitely truly a blessing,” Green said in a Zoom call with reporters after his name was announced, “because all my life I’ve been working for this goal, this has always been one of my goals in my life, and to be called by the Washington Nationals is truly a blessing.

“I’m going to go up there, work hard, and just try to bring a championship back to Washington.”

Jake Bennett, 21, was actually drafted by the Nationals before, in the 39th Round in 2019, but he opted to attend the University of Oklahoma, where he pitched with a high school teammate, Cade Cavalli, who ended up being the Nats’ 2020 1st Round pick (22nd). In a Zoom call of his own last night, the left-hander said he was excited to be part of the Nats’ organization as well.

“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,” the southpaw told reporters.

It’s safe to say the Nationals were thrilled with their top two picks in this year’s draft class.

“Elijah is just a big strong, physical kid,” Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops Kris Kline said in a Zoom call after the first day of the Draft concluded.

“Big tools. Tremendous frame. Looks the part. Looks great in uniform. Well above-average runner, above-average arm. Some of the best raw power in the draft. Has a chance — he is a big guy — has a chance to stay in center, but I think down the road as he gets older he could end up in a corner, but for now he’s a center fielder. Tremendous makeup kid, good character, very smart, wonderful human being.

“Bennett, another big guy, 6’6’’, 235, innings-eater frame. 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.”

Green, the Nationals noted in a press release on their top pick, “hit .462 (36-for-78) with 11 doubles, two triples, nine home runs, 32 RBI, 15 stolen bases, 21 walks, 21 strikeouts, and 40 runs scored during his senior season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He posted a .592 on-base percentage and a 1.000 slugging percentage en route to being named a First-Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball.”

Bennett, “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.

“I think if you look at Elijah and the tool set that he has, along with I think if you look at his maturity-level, his makeup, background,” Mark Baca, Nats’ Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting said of the Nationals’ top selection, “for that pick right there, we thought that the impact that he could give us, especially if you talk about development of a young man, and you’re in a situation to where you have a little bit of time with this kid, and you know his work ethic, you could really have an impactful player there at No. 5 in the country.”

“He has a chance to be a middle of the order bat,” Kline added, “run-producer, and a guy — the type of character and ability that you build your team around. He would be one of those types of players.”

Bennett, Baca said, is a pitcher the Nationals have obviously been watching for a long time since they scouted and drafted him in ‘19.

“This particular player we’ve known since high school, so we’ve actually followed him along and watched him grow,” he explained, “I mean, really grow from high school, all the way to college. The maturity level that he’s shown.”

“I think the velocity’s up and the command is sharper,” Kline said of the development he’s seen from Bennett since the Nationals first drafted him.

“He’s continued to develop the changeup. He’s pitching on a bigger stage now where he’s had success, and like I said, I think he still needs to develop his breaking ball, but he gives you flashes of it.”

Both Kline and Baca agreed with the assessment of some scouts going into the draft that Green had the highest ceiling among position players in this year’s draft.

“Absolutely,” Baca said.

“I absolutely would,” Kline agreed.

“You know, you’re talking about a skill set that is potentially going to hit in the middle of your order and be impactful. I don’t know — there are very special players in this draft, but their skill sets aren’t the same. Had some really good-looking hitters, but maybe they had some deficiencies in other aspects of their games, but Elijah has a chance to be a five-tool package at the major league level, five tools, and when I say five tools, I mean five above-average tools at the big league level.”

“He’s powerful,” Baca added. “The one thing that’s interesting about this particular player, when you see him up close, I mean, you wouldn’t think he can run like he can, but he’ll display it all for you. Which is — you know — rare, when you have that type of individual: size, strength, speed, he has a chance to do a lot in this game.”

The Nationals, with their top pick the highest they’ve had since 2011, when they picked Anthony Rendon with the 6th overall selection, really wanted to nail this year’s top pick, though Kline said there was actually more pressure when you’re picking low in the draft, where Washington has been picking in recent years.

“I think there is more pressure when you pick at the bottom, and obviously every year you’d like to pick at the bottom because that’s a reflection on how well your major league team is doing,” Kline said, “but we’re going through a process here in rebuilding, and you had four or five, six, I’d say seven kids that we spent a lot of time on, evaluating, watching film, and they were all in consideration, but when you get this type of person [in Green], and this skill set where we did, we’re all thrilled. This guy can be an impactful superstar.”