Nats draft Miami 3B Morales with No. 40 overall pick

July 10th, 2023

SEATTLE – When it came time for the Nationals to make the 40th overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft and third baseman Yohandy Morales’ name was still on the board, the team was excited.

Morales, whose nickname is "YoYo," was ranked as the No. 20 Draft prospect by MLB Pipeline out of the University of Miami. The Nats had projected him higher.

“One of the loudest bats I heard this year,” assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline said. “We were pretty happy with that one, to get him at 40.”

“I went further than I thought I was going to go," Morales said. "But at the end of the day, it happened for a reason. I'm in a great organization now, and I will do everything I can to help the team win games. ...

“It’s special being called, especially by this organization. I’m super excited to get to work. Let’s go play already.”

Morales, 21, spent the past three seasons at Miami, where he quickly evolved into one of the best overall prospects in this year’s Draft. He slashed .408/.475/.713 with a 1.187 OPS as a junior this year.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound third baseman added 20 home runs, 13 doubles, 70 RBIs and 30 walks to 58 runs scored, seven stolen bases and 55 strikeouts across 61 games in 2023. Among ACC competition, he ranked first in batting average, third in slugging, third in OPS, fourth in RBIs and sixth in home runs.

For these achievements, Morales received Third-Team All-America honors from The American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings and First-Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors.

Morales’ production on the field also translated to team success -- the Hurricanes won 40-plus games in each of the past two seasons, both of which included berths in the NCAA Regional Tournament.

Morales was MLB Pipeline’s No. 131 Draft prospect in 2020 but went unselected in the shortened five-round event, which led to him continuing his career with the Hurricanes. He wasted no time bursting onto the collegiate scene, as he hit .284 to go along with 13 doubles, three triples, 11 home runs and 45 RBIs in his freshman year in 2021.

“I’m here right now, so it worked out pretty well [to continue at college]," Morales said. "I’m happy with the decision I made, and I think it paid off. My three years at Miami definitely helped me grow as a player and as a person, so I’m super thankful for those three years and that I got to go to Miami.”

In total, Morales tallied more than 40 collegiate home runs, and MLB Pipeline graded him with a 60 power tool on the traditional 20-to-80 scouting scale. An aggressive hitter, he can barrel almost any pitch thanks to his lightning-quick hand speed. That raw power hasn’t led to a significant uptick in strikeouts, though Morales also doesn’t draw a ton of walks, and he occasionally struggles with pitch recognition.

Morales put together a stellar four-year career at G. Holmes Braddock High School in Miami, where he was a four-year letter-winner and hit 19 doubles, three triples, eight home runs and compiled 50 RBIs.

After starring as a shortstop in high school, Morales transitioned to third base in college, which is the position he’ll likely stay at once he enters pro ball. His strong arm and athleticism should help him easily fit the mold of a power-hitting third baseman, and it's a position he takes pride in.

“I want to be a third baseman," Morales said. "I’m super confident in my ability to play third base. ... I was a shortstop in high school, so it was a big change my first year. I just went in there and worked hard with my infield coach, working on my angles, early work, defense. I was out there trying to get better. It’s paid off, and I’m super confident at third base.

Morales has baseball in his blood. His father, Andy, who coached him growing up, played professionally in Cuba in the 1990s and briefly in the Yankees and Red Sox organizations in the early 2000s.

Beyond that legacy, Morales also has connections to his new organization. The Miami native has played at the Nationals’ spring complex in Palm Beach, Fla., and he’s played alongside Dylan Crews, whom the Nats drafted at No. 2.

“I feel like Washington got two of the best college hitters in the Draft, if I’m being honest," Morales said. "I’ve played with Dylan a lot since I was younger, played with him a lot. That’s going to be a special group when we go out there and are ready to hit some baseballs.”