The Washington Nationals have a new No. 1 prospect.
Elijah Green, taken by the Nationals with the fifth pick in the MLB draft, is all but certain to usurp starting pitcher Cade Cavalli as the organization’s top prospect. And, according to the Nationals’ scouting department, the hype for Green is real — even at just 18 years old.
“We’re all thrilled,” said Kris Kline, Nationals’ vice president of scouting operations, via Zoom late Sunday night. “This guy could be an impactful superstar.”
The consensus opinion about Green, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound outfielder out of IMG Academy in Florida, is that he has the highest ceiling of any player in the draft class — an assessment Kline said the Nationals also believe.
While the players selected ahead of him all have excellent tools — namely No. 1 pick Jackson Holliday (Orioles) and No. 2 pick Druw Jones (Diamondbacks) — Green’s combination of size, speed and power make him a true “five-tool” prospect.
“You’re talking about a skill set that is potentially going to hit in the middle of your order and be impactful,” Kline said. “There are very special players in this draft, but their skill sets aren’t the same. You had some really good-looking hitters, but maybe they had some deficiencies in other aspects of their game. But Elijah has a chance to be a five-tool package at the major league level. And when I say five tools, I mean five above-average tools at the big league level.”
However, with the high ceiling may come a lower floor. It’s possible Green wasn’t picked higher because his tools are more raw, meaning he could be a bigger risk or it could take him longer to make it to the big leagues.
Progressing through the minors is a slog, and Kline said Green still has improvements to make, especially in “pitch recognition.” As a senior in high school, Green put up monstrous numbers, but he still struck out 20% of the time.
“I know baseball’s a grind,” Green said via Zoom. “So I’m always going to be patient with it. I’m going to keep my head down, work every day.”
The next eight players drafted after Green were college stars, including Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee and Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada — two players who were frequently mocked to the Nationals. So, to pass up on those highly touted college prospects, the Nationals clearly think Green will be worth the wait.
In fact, Sunday was the first time Washington has ever selected a high schooler inside the top 10, as the organization’s previous top-10 picks (most recently in 2011) were all college players. Green is committed to Miami, but the projected $6.49 million slot bonus will almost certainly lure him to join the Nationals’ farm system.
The rest of the Nationals’ draft through Day 2, though, was filled with college prospects.
After Green, the Nationals selected Oklahoma left-handed starting pitcher Jake Bennett, a former teammate of Cavalli’s in high school and college. Kline said Bennett’s “repeatable delivery” and strike throwing mindset are key reasons why the team took him at No. 45.
The other college prospects selected by the Nationals on Monday were: Tennessee third baseman Trey Lipscomb (third round), Baylor outfielder Jared McKenzie (fifth), TCU right-handed pitcher Riley Cornelio (seventh), Georgia Tech right-handed pitcher Chance Huff (eighth), Miami catcher Maxwell Romero Jr. (ninth) and Texas third baseman Murphy Stehly (10th). High school outfielder Brenner Cox was the team’s fourth-round selection, and prep shortstop Nathaniel Ochoa Leyva was taken in the sixth round.
The final day of the MLB draft is Tuesday with rounds 11 through 20.
• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at email@example.com.
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