[Updated 1:08 a.m.]
After waiting nearly five hours to make their first pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, the Washington Nationals selected 22-year-old pitcher Jacob Johansen out of Dallas Baptist University with the 68th overall pick in the second round.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander has a fastball that reaches 100 miles per hour and went 7-6 with a 5.40 ERA in 88 1/3 innings this season with the Patriots. The Nationals project him as a starting pitcher at the major league level.
“Definitely a starter,” Nationals scouting director Kris Kline said. “He has starter actions. He repeats his delivery, it’s a clean arm action.”
“There is no reason why this guy can't, with a few tweaks from our staff, that this guy can't be a front-line guy.”
Kline gave an extensive breakdown of Johansen early Friday morning on a conference call with reporters. He said the team hosted the young pitcher this past week to pitch at Nats Park in front of general manager Mike Rizzo and pitching coach Steve McCatty, among others.
“I saw him pitch twice this year,” Kline said. “He changes his velocity, in the sixth inning he’s still 96, 98. He’s got a curveball, a slider, and a changeup.”
On his slider:
“The slider is an out pitch now, it’s a hard cutter that he’ll throw 88 to 90 and that will blend into a slider.”
On his curveball:
“The curveball is at times an above average pitch. It’s a 75-78 power, downer curveball. It’s inconsistent, as is the slider.”
The Nats acknowledged Johansen’s underwhelming numbers at Dallas Baptist, saying the pitcher has just scratched the surface of his potential. Assistant general manager Roy Clark said there are a couple of “easy fixes” that could take him to the next level.
“We know he didn’t have good numbers. If he had good numbers, he wouldn’t have gotten out of the top ten,” Clark said.
“We feel like that if we get him signed and turn this kid over to the best player development system in baseball in our opinion, we think we’ve got a gem.”
Clark said among the fixes the Nats plan to try are increasing his tempo on the mound, breaking him from being too methodical in counts, and closing the extension of his delivery. Johansen, Clark says, tends to bring his glove too far around during his release.
Kline said a big reason the Nats drafted Johansen is his development from high school to where he is now. When asked for a player comparison, he offered up a former World Series MVP.
“His actions, arm action and delivery is very similar to Josh Beckett,” Kline said.
The Nationals are not concerned about any signability issues regarding Johansen, who does have the option of returning to school. They say it was a big consideration in picking him.
“We wouldn’t have taken him if we couldn’t sign him,” Kline said. “I think that’s a very good chance. I think Jake is excited to start his career and we’ll get this done as soon as we possibly can.”
Johansen is originally from Allen, Texas and was a redshirt sophomore at Dallas Baptist this season. Baseball America had him ranked as the 182nd prospect overall, while ESPN had him at 66.
The Nationals took Johansen at 68th overall, their first pick of this year's draft. They forfeited their first round pick to the New York Yankees because they signed closer Rafael Soriano to a free agent deal this offseason.
“We think this guy’s a great second round pick and we think Rafael Soriano’s a great first round pick,” Clark said.