With late Day 1 pick, Nationals draft Johansen
Dallas Baptist University righty the latest pitcher selected by Washington
WASHINGTON -- Before the start of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, scouting director Kris Kline was confident the Nationals would select a quality player, even though they didn't have a first-round pick. Washington lost the 33rd pick of the Draft to the Yankees after it signed free-agent closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $18 million contract.
The Nationals didn't make their first selection until the second round, 68th overall, when they took right-hander Jake Johansen of Dallas Baptist University. Johansen has a fastball that is clocked as high as 100 mph. However, his secondary pitches are a work in progress, according to Kline. Johansen throws a curveball, slider and a changeup.
"At 22 years old, he is just scratching the surface and a late bloomer," Kline said. "If you look at it from his high school days … until this year, it's a very positive encouraging change in progression to where he is today."
Johansen, who is 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, cemented his status as one of college baseball's top power arms after striking out 75 batters in 88 1/3 innings as a junior. Johansen went 7-6 with a 5.40 ERA in 15 starts.
In three seasons at Dallas Baptist, Johansen finished 13-7 with one save and a 6.03 ERA in 46 games (23 starts), spanning 147 2/3 innings. Johansen is a graduate of Allen (Texas) High School and participated in the Texas Scout Association All-Star Game in the Spring 2011.
While some scouts see him as a reliever, the Nationals view Johansen as starter, who could be No. 3 in the rotation. Kline compared Johansen to Dodgers right-hander Josh Beckett.
"If you look at his mechanics, his arm action and delivery is similar to Josh Beckett," Kline said. "To me, he profiles as a No. 3 because his secondary pitches are a work in progress. But he does show you flashes of above-average breaking stuff."
Before making the selection, the Nationals recently had Johansen come to Nationals Park and throw in front of pitching coach Steve McCatty, general manager Mike Rizzo and other members of the Nationals' staff. According to assistant general manager Roy Clark, the team was convinced it could fix any flaws Johansen currently has on the mound.
"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.
The Nationals have until July 12 to sign Johansen, and Kline is confident that Johansen will be in the farm system soon.
"We wouldn't have taken him if we couldn't sign him," Kline said. "I think Jake is excited to start his career. We'll get this done as soon as we possibly can."
It marked the second year in a row and fifth time during the Rizzo era the Nationals drafted a pitcher. Ross Detwiler, Aaron Crow, Stephen Strasburg and Lucas Giolito are pitchers drafted by the Nationals since Rizzo joined the team after the 2006 Draft.
"You can never have enough of it," Kline said recently. "That's a priority for us, although, that being said, you are going to take the best player available -- always. But pitching would be a priority for us in this Draft."
In recent years, the Nationals have traded pitching prospects to acquire Major League talent such as left-hander Gio Gonzalez and outfielder Denard Span.
Day 2 of the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10, streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m. ET. And Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
In the pipeline: The way Kline was talking Thursday night, he believes Johansen and Giolito would be a good tandem in the future. It's hard to tell when both will be in the big leagues, because Giolito, the team's first-round pick in last year's Draft, is currently at extended spring camp recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Johansen needs to improve his secondary pitches.
"If you put [Johansen] next to Giolito, you would have some pretty good looking bookends," Kline said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashinNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.