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Nats' top pick Johansen already agrees to deal

WASHINGTON -- Less than 24 hours after being selected by the Nationals in the second round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, right-handed pitcher Jake Johansen agreed to a contract with the team.

Johansen, the 68th overall pick and the Nationals' first selection on Thursday, will fly to the Nationals' complex in Viera, Fla., on Sunday to take a physical and sign his contract. Johansen said Friday that he had agreed to the recommended slot value of the pick, which is $820,000.

"I'm extremely excited," Johansen said. "I wanted to go out and play as quickly as possible so I could increase my chances of possibly being up in the Major Leagues as soon as possible."

A 6-foot-6, 235-pound power arm from Dallas Baptist University, Johansen said that he was huddled around a television in Waco, Texas, with his family when he found out that the Nationals had picked him. After taking a trip to Nationals Park and throwing in front of pitching coach Steve McCatty and general manager Mike Rizzo, among others, Johansen hoped that he would land in Washington.

While some scouts had pegged Johansen as a flame-throwing reliever, the Nationals plan on making him a starter. Scouting director Kris Kline said that he profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation player and compared him to Dodgers starter Josh Beckett.

Johansen also views himself as a starter, and that's one of the reasons why he was so excited to sign with the Nationals.

"Just to hear the words from Mr. Rizzo and Mr. Kline about how they project me as a starter in their organization is extremely motivating," Johansen said. "I feel like I have some pretty good intangibles. With my overall body size, I'm able to maintain velocity throughout the majority of the start, and if not get better, increase velocity in the later innings. And I know I am durable to last."

Johansen said that he throws four pitches: a fastball, curveball, changeup and slider. His fastball has been clocked at 99 mph, but Kline and assistant general manager Roy Clark said that Johansen's other pitches could use work.

"We feel like if we turn this kid over to the best player development system in baseball, in our opinion, we think we have a gem," Clark said Thursday.

Added Johansen: "I have a lot to develop, there's no doubt about it. And I'm very, very excited with the positive things that I've heard about the player development through the Nationals."

Johansen struck out 75 batters in 88 1/3 innings last season, but he finished with a 5.40 ERA. In three seasons at Dallas Baptist, he had a 6.03 cumulative ERA.

"I think a lot of people could see my numbers and I don't believe that the box score necessarily depicts the type of pitcher that I am," he said. "I know that I am a late bloomer, and I have so much more room to grow, so much more to learn."

That process should begin on June 17, when Class A Auburn, Washington's rookie affiliate, begins its short season. In the meantime, Johansen will continue to prepare for his professional debut -- and maybe get some sleep, too.

"I don't think I went to bed until about 2 or 2:30 in the morning," Johansen said of his draft night. "I was just giddy."

Tom Schad is an associate reporter for
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