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Washington Nationals news & notes: Yohandy Morales at No. 40 thrilled Nats’ front office...

Notes and quotes on the Nationals’ 2023 2nd Round pick...

Washington’s front office staff was obviously thrilled to get Dylan Crews with the No. 2 pick in this year’s first-year player draft, and his success in three years at LSU made Crews a big-name, close-to-major-league-ready get for the Nationals in their latest draft class.

Special Assistant to the GM Kris Kline, (then VP and Director of Scouting Ops for the club), was equally excited about the Nats’ second round pick, recently-turned 22-year-old third baseman Yohandy Morales, who was selected out of the University of Miami with the 40th overall pick.

“YoYo, he’s a big strong, physical corner player,” Kline told reporters.

“Surprising speed for a guy his size. He’s a tick above average runner. He’s a really good defender, he throws above average. And power at a corner spot.

“One of the loudest bats I heard this year. We were pretty happy with that one, to get him at 40.”

The Nationals were happy to get him at 40 because some outlets’ pre-draft rankings had the infielder ranked as a potential top 20 pick.

“We actually had him ranked higher than 20, so it worked out pretty good,” Kline added with a laugh.

The competition both Crews and Morales faced in college and the schools with winning traditions they played for, did, Kline acknowledged, make it easier to evaluate both, and, “...in YoYo’s case,” he said, “… you can see him — he performed really well this year, but he’s gotten better.”

“Morales hit .408 with 13 doubles, 20 home runs, 70 RBI[s], 30 walks, 55 strikeouts, seven stolen bases, and 58 runs scored in 61 games,” this year for Miami, as the Nats noted in a press release on their second round pick.

“He posted a .475 on-base percentage and a .713 slugging percentage. Morales ranked in the ACC in batting average (1st, .408), slugging (3rd, .713), OPS (3rd, 1.187), RBI (4th, 70) and home runs (6th, 20).”

“The 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior reached base in 55 of his 61 games in 2023, hitting safely in 50 of those contests.

“Morales also posted four multi-home run games and 19 multi-RBI games, including three five-RBI performances.”

Morales chalked his improvement in his final year with the Hurricanes to, “I guess just the will to win games and get my team as far as I possibly can.”

Though he was eligible for selection in the pandemic-shortened 2020 Draft, he was not drafted (at least in part due to a commitment to Miami), but the decision attend college really paid off for the infielder.

“I’m here right now, so it worked out pretty well,” he said after the Nationals picked him.

“I’m super-happy for the decision I made and I feel like it paid off. Going to Miami, obviously, my three years definitely helped my grow not only as a player, but as a person, so I’m super-thankful for the three years I got to go to Miami.”

And Morales was fine with falling to No. 40 and the Nats.

“Obviously I went further than I thought I was going to go,” he said, “but at the end of the day, it happened for a reason, I’m in a great organization now, and just ready to do what I can to help the team win games.”

Asked what he brought to the field and how he’d describe himself as a player, Morales said he was, “... just a performer, and a player that’s going to go out there and try to win ballgames. Just an all-around player who’s going to try to do what he can to win.”

Humble as he seemed at times as he spoke with reporters, Morales also showed some of his confidence when he was asked about the Nationals getting him and Crews with the top two picks.

“I feel like Washington got two of the best college hitters in the draft, if I’m being honest.

“I’ve played with Dylan since I was younger, so I played with him a lot, so that’s going to be a special group when we go out there and get ready to hit some baseballs.”

Both players finished up their draft years at Double-A in the Nationals’ system, with Morales playing for four affiliates in his first run as a pro, putting up a combined .349/.423/.494 line with 16 doubles, four triples, 19 walks, and 36 Ks in 42 games and 189 plate appearances.

Crews is currently ranked No. 1 overall in in the Nationals’ system. MLB Pipeline’s scouts have Morales at No. 7.