Nats' Draft Day 1 haul: 5-tool OF, imposing lefty
WASHINGTON – With their highest pick in the MLB Draft since 2010, the Nationals selected 18-year-old outfielder Elijah Green fifth overall on Sunday evening.
Green, ranked as MLB.com’s No. 3 Draft prospect, hit .462 with a 1.592 OPS, nine home runs, 32 RBIs and 40 runs scored in 25 games in his senior season at IMG Academy in Florida.
“When you get this type of person and this skill set where we did, we’re all thrilled,” said Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline. “This guy could be an impactful superstar.”
Green may have the best ceiling of any prospect in this year’s Draft. Despite his age, Green, who is the son of former NFL Pro Bowl tight end Eric Green, is already 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, with the strength and speed to match his large frame. Green’s selection makes him the first son of a former NFL first-rounder to be selected in the first round of the MLB Draft.
“This was always one of the goals of my life,” Green said on a Zoom call. “To be called by the Washington Nationals is truly a blessing. I’m going to go out there, work hard and hopefully bring a championship back to Washington.”
Along with boasting skyscraping power, Green has also proven that he can drive the ball to all fields. MLB Pipeline graded him with a 50 hit and 60 power on the traditional 20-80 scouting scale.
With a profile like that, it’s no surprise which players Green looks up to.
“Whenever I watch a Yankees game with Aaron Judge or a game with Mike Trout, I watch them closely,” Green previously told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. “They play the same position as me, we're all big, strong guys who can do everything in the game of baseball, so I have kind of modeled my game after them.”
That said, Green’s not just all offense. He’s been rated with 70 speed by MLB Pipeline, and has been recorded running a 5.99-second laser-timed 60-yard-dash at IMG. That speed should also help him in the field, as he projects as a center fielder at the next level despite his bigger frame.
“He’s powerful,” said assistant director of amateur scouting Mark Baca. “When you see him up close, you wouldn’t think he can run like he can. … Size, strength, speed -- he has a chance to do a lot in this game.”
Even if Green ends up transitioning to becoming a corner outfielder later in his career (he’s rated with a 60 arm), he’s already been recorded throwing 95 mph from the outfield.
“Elijah has a chance to be a five-tool package at the Major League level,” Kline said. “When I say five tools, I mean five above-average tools at the big league level.”
Now a key part to the Nationals’ future, Green is familiar with their history, too. Their highest pick since Bryce Harper 12 years ago, he noted prospects-turned-stars who developed in Washington’s system.
“Just the [track record] of them having prospects like Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Juan Soto, it just shows that they know what they’re doing with their players,” he said. “I just feel like I can be one of those players that makes it to MLB soon.”
Green will have company on his journey to the big leagues. He already knows Nationals No. 2 prospect -- and their 2021 first overall pick -- Brady House and No. 26 prospect T.J. White.
“They’ve done it for a year now, so I feel like I can always go to them for anything and it’s going to be comfortable,” he said.
And vice-versa. The Nats lauded Green for his maturity, work ethic, professionalism and camaraderie.
“My leadership, guys are going to gravitate towards me,” he said. “I’m always going to bring joy to the field, and I’m always going to play with a smile on my face. Because it’s the game of baseball, and it’s supposed to be fun. Just having fun out there is really going to bring us back to winning a championship.”
The Nationals had two picks on Day One of the Draft, and they selected left-hander Jake Bennett from the University of Oklahoma at No. 45. Bennett, a 6-foot-6, 234-pound 21-year-old, was ranked as the No. 68 prospect by MLB Pipeline. In 2022 (his redshirt sophomore season), he went 10-4 with a 3.69 ERA in 20 games (19 starts). Bennett has an overall scouting grade of 50 (fastball 50, slider 50, changeup 60, control 55), and the Nats noted his “repeatable delivery.”
“His fastball is up to 96 [mph], he’ll live at about 93, good life down the zone,” Kline said. “Changeup is his calling card. He’s got an average-to-solid-average Major League slider that he needs to continue to develop. There are times when it’s really good, but he needs to learn how to commit to each one.”
Bennett is no stranger to the organization, either: Washington previously picked him in the 39th round in 2019. He opted to attend college, where he was teammates with two of the Nationals’ 2020 Draft picks, right-hander Cade Cavalli and catcher Brady Lindsly. He also attended Bixby High School with Cavalli, the Nats’ No. 1 prospect.
“He was someone that I always looked up to, someone who kind of showed me the ropes,” Bennett said of Cavalli. “I’m just super excited to be able to look up to him again as I’m coming up through pro ball.”
The Nationals have a total bonus pool this year of $11,007,900. The assigned bonus slot value for the No. 5 pick is $6,494,300.