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Sky's the limit for Nats 2018 first-rounder

@wboor
July 31, 2020

The beginning of Mason Denaburg’s career hasn’t been ideal. The Nationals’ No. 7 prospect has logged just 20 1/3 innings since being selected 27th overall in the 2018 Draft and has dealt with injuries in each of the past two seasons. The right-hander battled through biceps tendinitis prior to the

The beginning of Mason Denaburg’s career hasn’t been ideal. The Nationals’ No. 7 prospect has logged just 20 1/3 innings since being selected 27th overall in the 2018 Draft and has dealt with injuries in each of the past two seasons.

The right-hander battled through biceps tendinitis prior to the 2018 Draft, then struggled in 2019 and had offseason shoulder surgery.

The cancellation of the Minor League season was another blow as Denaburg won’t get a chance to log any innings in 2020. However, it does provide him the opportunity to get healthy and focus on his rehab without rushing to get back into games.

“My shoulder is feeling really good,” Denaburg said. “I’m in long toss right now. I’m finishing my long toss hopefully in the next couple weeks and then I’m going to start throwing bullpens again hopefully in the middle of August somewhere. Everything is going well. I’m happy with how things have progressed the last couple weeks especially.”

When he’s healthy, it’s easy to see why the 20-year-old was a first-round pick. Denaburg can reach the upper 90s with his fastball and also possesses an above-average breaking ball that he throws in the upper 70s.

In his brief pro debut, Denaburg flashed potential, but also struggled to throw strikes.

“He’s got a chance to be an impact starting pitcher down the road,” Mark Scialabba, the Nationals assistant general manager of player development said. “He’s very young. From a development standpoint he has a long ways to go, but he’s such a good athlete, he’s got a quick arm and he’s strong.”

Denaburg posted a 7.52 ERA, walked 14 and struck out 19 over 20 1/3 innings in 2019. Of course, it’s not worth reading much into the numbers of such a small sample size, but the opportunity to get on the mound did provide Denaburg with valuable insight.

“My first two pitches are there, but if I don’t ever develop a changeup and I don’t have a slider one day then I’m only a fastball pitcher, so obviously that’s not going to work,” Denaburg said, adding that he focused a lot on his changeup and tinkered with multiple grips in bullpens during his stint in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

An improved changeup will undoubtedly help Denaburg’s stock, but a huge factor in his development will be his health. Denaburg feels he’s on the right track there as he’s been following a strict daily throwing and weightlifting routine.

“Now that my shoulder is fixed, my head is there and my body is there,” Denaburg said. “I just need to stay on the same path that I’m on right now and it should be good.”

Scialabba echoed that sentiment as both he and Denaburg are expecting big things in 2021 and beyond.

“We know the person and we trust in his ability and with him showing signs of maturity over the past several months, we’re very excited about what the future holds,” Scialabba said.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.