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Washington Nationals select Elijah Green in Major League Baseball draft

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With the fifth overall pick in the MLB draft, the Washington Nationals selected outfielder Elijah Green on Sunday night, picking the high school player for the second year in a row. Then Jake Bennett, a left-handed pitcher from the University of Oklahoma, joined them with number 45 in the second round.

“When you get a person like that and this skill set like we do, we’re all thrilled,” Chris Kline, Nationals assistant general manager in charge of amateur scouting, said of Greene. “I mean, this guy could be a powerful superstar.”

Green, an 18-year-old from the IMG Academy in Florida, stands out for his size – 6’4″, 225 pounds – plus his speed. Two National League scouts, speaking on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to do so publicly about opposing teams, suggested that Green could remain in center field due to his range and strong arm. Kline, however, predicted that he would likely move to corner after starting at center in the nationals. A right-handed hitter, Green showed strength in all areas and expressed mild concern about his adjustments against out-of-speed pitching. But most importantly, he is still a teenager, which means that the choice is both a demonstration of confidence in his promises and a big task for the player development team.

It was the Nationals’ top pick since they selected Bryce Harper first in 2010. Under general manager Mike Rizzo, who took over the role in 2009, Green became the club’s fifth top 10 candidate, joining Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen and Anthony Rendon. . And, like those who came before him, Green will be an important part of the Nationals’ recovery. He is the son of Eric Green, a two-time Pro Bowl tight end, and he attended the University of Miami.

“Just that they’ve had future prospects in the past like Bryce Harper, Traya Turner, Juan Soto, all of them – I feel like it just shows that they know what they’re doing with their players,” said Green. who compared himself to Mike. Trout because “we can do everything the same way.”

“I just feel like I can be one of those players who can break into [majors] soon.”

Juan Soto turns down a 15-year, $440 million offer; Nat will consider the exchange

The cost of the slot for the fifth choice is $6.49 million. For the 45th pick, that’s $1.73 million. If the Nationals sign Green or Bennett with a higher bonus than the value of their slots, they will have less money to distribute among the other 18 options. The opposite happens if Green’s or Bennett’s possible bonus is lower. Washington’s entire bonus fund is $11,007,900.

21-year-old Bennett, who is 6-6 tall, was selected in the 39th round of the Nationals in 2019 when he decided to register with Oklahoma. Complemented with a slider and switch, its fastball ranges from low to mid 90s. The Citizens will be hoping for at least some speed boost early in his professional career. They liked the Oklahoma pitchers in the last drafts, they took Cade Cavalli (first round in 2020, now their top prospect) and Jake Irwin (fourth round in 2018, now impressive after Tommy John surgery).

Like Cavalli, Bennett attended Bixby School near Tulsa where they were teammates before playing together in college. As a redshirted sophomore in 2022, Bennett hit 133 batters and passed 22 of 117 innings. His strong command is mentioned in most intelligence reports. Kline called Bennett’s shift his “calling card”.

“For the most part, I prefer fastball. I am good at this. I can throw it on either side of the plate,” Bennett said Sunday night. “In terms of overclocking, the change was definitely kind of my feeling. I feel like I can throw it in any account. And then when things are going well, I mix the slider as a left-handed serve, and flip it even more, show it to the hitters to respect it.”

Hours before Bennett and Green became the organization’s newest members, the Nationals finished the first half with a 31–63 record, the worst record in MLB. So the state of the franchise — and the growing potential of Soto being sold this month or in the near future — added weight to what already seemed like a consistent choice. But because Rizzo often promises a quick reboot, many recent mock drafts have tied Washington with Kevin Parada, a 20-year-old Georgia Tech catcher, with the fifth pick.

The logic was that Parada—or a proven college player like him—was best suited to satisfy the desire to quickly create an opponent around Soto. The organization also has a gaping void in hitters in an improving but still weak system. Greene was considered a bigger project than any high-profile hitter who faced Division I pitchers for two or three years.

However, Parada never served on the team’s draft board. He ultimately finished 11th in the New York Mets. Before picking a fifth, the Nationals watched the Baltimore Orioles pick shortstop Jackson Holliday, the Arizona Diamondbacks pick outfielder Drew Jones, the Texas Rangers pick pitcher Kumar Rocker, and the Pittsburgh Pirates pick infielder Thermarr Johnson. Once the Rangers drafted Rocker, which came as an industry shock, Washington focused on Johnson and Green, according to several people familiar with their thought process.

Then the pirates basically made the choice for them. Green was Washington’s boyfriend.

When it comes to position players, the Nationals love to build through the center with catchers, shortstops, and center fielders. Last year, the club took shortstop Brady House with the 11th pick last summer, added outfielder Dylen Lyle in the second round, and acquired catcher Cabert Ruiz, a top prospect, in a Trea Turner/Max Scherzer trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Luis Garcia, 22, plays in the majors and is trying to stay shortstop, a position the club signed him to play outside the Dominican Republic in 2016. Christian Vaquero on huge bonuses.

Greene is the latest striker they pay a lot of attention to. Needless to say, his development will be key.

“Elijah has a chance to play in the big leagues with five tools,” Kline said. “And when I say five tools, I mean five above average tools.”

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