Coveted HS righty leads Nats' Day 2 picks

July 11th, 2023

After selecting two of the best college hitters in this year’s class -- LSU standout Dylan Crews second overall and Miami third baseman Yohandy Morales at No. 40 -- on Day 1, the Nationals continued loading up on talent during Day 2 of the 2023 MLB Draft, and they did what they needed to do to ensure they sign those big fish at the top.

Washington drafted college seniors or graduate students with six of its eight selections on Day 2, with one particularly notable exception: third-round pick Travis Sykora. Many predicted the right-handed prep arm would be off the board well before the Nationals opened Day 2 with the 71st overall pick; when he wasn’t, Washington hopped on the hard-throwing Texas commit.

Sykora will likely command an above-slot bonus to forgo that college commitment, which is why the Nats spent the rest of Day 2 choosing mostly college seniors. Senior signs enter the Draft with little leverage, and they are typically lower-cost signs. Washington selected six with their final seven picks of Day 2, the goal being to earmark pool money to sign not only Sykora, but Crews and Morales as well.

“I think we did a super job,” Nats vice president of scouting Kris Kline said. “Everybody in there, making our pool money work to the best of our ability, and that kind of translated into getting three first-round picks. So it was a good day, a good two days.”

Here is a rundown of all the players the Nationals selected on Day 2.

Round 3, 71st overall
Travis Sykora, RHP, Round Rock (Tex.) HS

Notable skill: Sykora is a 6-foot-6, 232-pound right-hander with a fastball that lives 95-98 mph and can touch 101. But what separates him is his mid-80s slider and his splitter, which Kline said the club would probably encourage him to scrap in favor of a more traditional changeup.

Fun fact: MLB Pipeline’s No. 40th-ranked Draft prospect in this year’s class, Sykora was one of the highest-rated players still available when Day 2 began, and Washington snatched him up with the first pick of Round 3. He is committed to the University of Texas if he doesn’t elect to go pro.

Quotable: “When he’s on, it’s some of the best high school stuff in this Draft.” -- MLB Pipeline analyst Jim Callis

“He was on the radar, projected going into the year to go in the middle of the first round. We feel very fortunate to have gotten him where we got him.” -- Nationals assistant scouting director Mark Baca

Round 4, 102nd overall
Andrew Pinckney, OF, Alabama

Notable skill: Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 216 pre-Draft prospect in this year’s class, Pinckney redshirted as a freshman at Alabama in 2020. By ‘23, he was second team All-Southeastern Conference, possessing some of the best all-around tools in college baseball’s top league. Pinckney’s best is his plus speed, which can get him from home to first base in less than four seconds. He stole 43 bases in 49 attempts over the past three years (including summer ball).

Fun fact: Pinckney helped his Draft cause by going 3-for-3 with a home run in an April matchup against Louisiana State’s Paul Skenes, the top overall pick in this year’s Draft. Pinckney’s homer was one of only seven Skenes allowed in 122 2/3 innings this spring.

Quotable: “He’s a guy who got better. … Not many guys in college baseball this year went 3-for-3 with a homer against Paul Skenes.” -- Callis

Round 5, 138th overall
Marcus Brown, SS, Oklahoma State

Notable skill: A career .302 hitter in three college seasons, Brown hit nine homers with an .828 OPS as a junior this year. But his best tool is his defensive acumen at shortstop. With his selection, Brown became the fourth OSU Cowboy drafted in this year’s first 138 picks.

Fun fact: Brown sounds like a fun hang. In college, Brown said he would “like to win a lifetime supply of Juicy Fruit” and revealed that his go-to karaoke song is “Hold My Hand” by Hootie and the Blowfish, according to the Oklahoma State Athletics website.

Quotable: “He’s reliable at shortstop, and it’s plus range. … What you’re focusing on here if you’re the Nationals is that he sticks at shortstop, and you can get a little more out of him at the plate.” -- Callis

Round 6, 165th overall
Gavin Dugas, 2B, LSU

Notable skill: Over five seasons in Baton Rouge, the 23-year-old Dugas hit 44 homers, including 17 for this year’s National Champion squad. The Nationals drafted him as a second baseman, but it’s the bat that drove this pick, and Dugas might profile better long term in the outfield.

Fun fact: Dugas owns the LSU school record for hit-by-pitches, with 68 in 201 games. He also happens to be close friends with Crews, Washington’s top pick (second overall) in this year’s Draft.

“I think I read somewhere he’s Dylan Crews’ best friend, so maybe he’ll be paying him rent money or something,” Kline said. 

Quotable: “He reminds us a lot of Dan Uggla. … Strong, powerful, compact body with a real simple swing -- short, fast and strong. This is a kid with a chance to hit and be an offensive second baseman. Real similar to Uggla.” -- Kline

Round 7, 195th overall
Ryan Snell, C, Lamar University

Notable skill: The Southland Conference Player of the Year, Snell hit for power (17 homers) without sacrificing average this spring at Lamar, walking (33) more times than he struck out (30). He also threw out nearly 60 percent of attempted base stealers (20-of-34) from behind the plate.

Fun fact: In 2023, Snell was Lamar’s first All-American since 2014. Additionally, he was one of three finalists for the prestigious Buster Posey Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top collegiate catcher.

Round 8, 225th overall
Jared Simpson, LHP, Iowa

Notable skill: Simpson bounced from Iowa Western Community College to the University of Missouri and eventually to the University of Iowa over the course of an itinerant college career. He’s a left-handed reliever with a three-pitch mix, including a fastball that’s been clocked as high as 94 mph.

Fun fact: Simpson was the winning pitcher when Iowa handed eventual national champion LSU its first loss of the season back in February, striking out eight across 4 2/3 innings in the Hawkeyes’ 12-4 victory at the Round Rock Classic.

Quotable: “They’re taking a guy who isn’t going to cost them very much to move that bonus pool money around elsewhere. But you’re still taking a guy your area scout likes or someone in your organization sees some talent in.” -- Callis

Round 9, 255th overall
Thomas Schultz, RHP, Vanderbilt

Notable skill: Schultz is a 6-foot-6, 243-pound righty whose best pitch is his slider. 

Fun fact: He struck out more than a batter per inning (127 strikeouts in 125 1/3 innings) throughout his four-year career at Vanderbilt, where he was a key piece of the Commodores’ bullpen. 

Quotable: “Thomas is a very steady kid. He has maintained a level of maturity ever since he stepped on campus. … He is a consistent, reliable and likable young man.” -- Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin

Round 10, 285th overall
Phillip Glasser, SS, Indiana

Notable skill: Glasser hit .357 with 19 doubles, seven home runs, 48 RBIs, 14 stolen bases and more walks (36) than strikeouts (30) as a senior at Indiana, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors this spring. He’s a left-handed hitting, fundamentally sound middle infielder who is athletic enough to stick at shortstop.

Fun fact: Glasser reached base in 45 consecutive games from Feb. 17 to April 30, 2023, which tied the longest such streak by an IU hitter since at least 2005.

Quotable: “He’s different. He’s the most passionate, the most focused, the most motivated. When guys get to their fifth year -- think about it, this guy has played every day for five years -- and he’s still the most motivated, laser-focused, dutiful player I’ve ever coached, that’s not normal. He’s wired different.” -- Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer