Nats load up on arms, big bat on Day 2 of Draft

June 5th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Every team touts how happy it is with its Draft picks at the conclusion of each round, but the Nationals have seemed especially pleased with how their first two days have fallen into place. In the first round Monday, they got the pitcher they wanted in right-hander Jackson Rutledge with the No. 17 overall pick -- their only pick on the first day.

And although they started the second day focusing on pitching once again -- using three of their first five picks Tuesday on hurlers -- they are excited about the potential impact bat they selected in the third round. Overall, the Nats took four pitchers, an outfielder, two infielders and a catcher on the second day of the 2019 MLB Draft.

The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 on beginning at noon ET.

Here’s an overview of the Nationals' eight picks on Tuesday:

Round 3: Drew Mendoza, 3B, 21, Florida State University

The Nationals could be getting one of the best pure hitters in the Draft. Mendoza is a left-handed hitter who draws a lot of walks and has raw power, even if he might swing and miss often. Perhaps he could have been a first-round pick coming out of high school, but he was committed to attending college and no team could sign him away. There are doubts he can stick at the hot corner long term, mostly because of his size (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) and arm strength.

“Either way, you’ve got a power bat that moves around really good for a big guy,” scouting director Kris Kline said. “This guy’s huge. Big, big body, but moves really well.”

Round 4: Matt Cronin, LHP, 21, University of Arkansas

Cronin was the closer for the Razorbacks this past season, racking up 12 saves to go along with a 2.00 ERA and 40 strikeouts, while holding opponents to a .163 batting average. He is one of the players who the Nationals tabbed as someone who could rise through their system relatively quickly. It might be too overzealous to think Cronin could help their bullpen this season, but he could soon be on the mound at Nationals Park, flashing a fastball ranging from 90-97 mph with a 12-6 curveball that could be a major weapon.

“Arguably the best curveball in the Draft,” Kline said. “Top to bottom, big, hard, hammer curveball.”

Round 5: Tyler Dyson, RHP, 21, University of Florida

Coming into the year, Dyson had a chance to be selected in the first round, but an injury and some inconsistencies in his junior year caused him to lose his spot in the rotation. Well, the Nationals have long been confident in their ability to iron out these issues with pitchers, and if they can correct some of those issues, they could benefit from his upside. He appeared in just 11 games (nine starts) with a 4.95 ERA this season, but his fastball can touch the upper 90s with a slider in the upper 80s. The Nationals think he has a chance to stick as a starter, but they think he could do well in the back of the bullpen if that’s where he ultimately winds up.

Round 6: Jackson Cluff, SS, 22, Brigham Young University

Cluff actually left the sport of baseball altogether in 2016 for a two-year church mission in Georgia -- “he said it was rough,” Kline quipped. However, with an hour of free time each day, he was able to squeeze in some baseball activity in Atlanta, talking his companions into playing catch or going to the batting cage. So when he returned to the diamond this past season, he was even better than when he left. In '19, Cluff batted .327/.458/.518 with four homers and 56 RBIs, earning all-WCC honors and becoming the first player in BYU history to earn the National Player of the Week Award twice in the same season.

“For a guy who hasn’t played in two years, [he's a] really good player,” Kline said.

Round 7: Todd Peterson, RHP, 21, Louisiana State University

A reliable bullpen arm and occasional closer for the Tigers, Peterson has a fastball that can reach the mid-to-upper 90s, to go along with a hard cutter and a slider. He improved in nearly every statistical category over his three years in college. He was named to the 2018 SEC All-Tournament team and features a solid curveball when controlled properly. In high school, he represented Team USA on the 15-and-under national team, striking out the side in an inning of relief against Mexico at the 2013 COPABE Pan American Championships in Colombia.

“There isn’t but so many of him in the country,” said Nats crosschecker Jeff Zona, who covers the East region. “You’ve got five to six premier closers. You want to go get him, you’ve got to go get him.”

Round 8: Jeremy Ydens, OF, 21, UCLA

Now a three-time selection in the Draft -- 33rd round last year and 40th out of high school -- Ydens comes to the Nationals after an injury-riddled 2019 campaign with the Bruins. Before that, though, he slashed .350/.421/.558 as a sophomore. He also made a name for himself this past summer in Cape Cod, where he started in center field for the eventual champions, batted leadoff for the West Team in the All-Star Game and was named to the All-Cape Cod League Team.

Round 9: Hunter McMahon, RHP, 21, Texas State University

The Nationals wanted pitching -- and they focused on big, tall, college pitchers. That makes McMahon one of the smallest guys in the bunch, at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, but still someone Zona identified as a player he is especially high on.

Round 10: Andrew Pratt, C, 22, Lubbock Christian University (Texas)

Catching is perhaps the position most in need of replenishing in the Nationals' system -- and it will be a focus on the final day of the Draft. With Pratt, the Nats get a backstop who can hit. He was named First-Team All-Heartland Conference after leading the league with a .483 on-base percentage and tying for the conference lead with 13 homers.