Ever since the Nationals moved to D.C., they’ve taken a pitcher in the first round of the MLB Draft every year except three: 2005 (Ryan Zimmerman), 2010 (Bryce Harper) and 2015 (no pick). Fourteen of their 22 first-rounders have been pitchers, a testament to the strategy President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo uses to build his teams.
So when Washington makes the 11th overall pick on Sunday evening, the industry-wide expectation is that Rizzo will once again dip into the pool of amateur arms and add another pitcher to the Nationals’ farm system. That’s reflected in just about every mock draft published in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Here are four pitchers the Nationals have been connected to ahead of draft day:
RHP Sam Bachman, Miami (Ohio)
If there was ever a pitcher who fit the mold of a Nationals arm, it’s Sam Bachman. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound right-hander is a power pitcher whose fastball sits at 94-97 mph and touches 101. He racks up the strikeouts, posting a staggering 14.0 K/9 this season for the RedHawks with a 1.81 ERA and 0.771 WHIP in 12 starts.
In addition to his fastball, Bachman also boasts a plus slider and above-average changeup. After showing some control issues as a freshman, he buttoned up his command and projects to be a starter long-term if he can continue honing in on the strike zone.
RHP Will Bednar, Mississippi State
No one boosted their draft stock more during the College World Series than Will Bednar, who allowed just three runs in 18 1/3 innings (1.47 ERA) in Omaha to lead Mississippi State to its first national championship. The redshirt freshman won Most Outstanding Player for his efforts and should land in the middle of the first round because of it.
Bednar has a four-pitch mix highlighted by a fastball that tops out at 97 mph and a slider that still probably haunts the nightmares of a few Vanderbilt hitters. He also throws a curveball and changeup, though the latter is still a bit of a work in progress.
RHP Jackson Jobe, Heritage Hall High School (Oklahoma)
The Nationals don’t dip into the prep ranks often, taking only two high school arms in the last 13 years: Mason Denaburg (2018) and Lucas Giolito (2012). Jobe might warrant an exception, however, standing alone as the top prep arm in his class. Should he fall all the way down to the Nationals at 11, he will be hard for them to pass up.
Jobe boasts an elite slider that baffles scouts and analysts alike with the amount of spin and depth it gets. His fastball reaches 96 mph despite only measuring out at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds. His stats from his senior year are simply mind-boggling: 9-0, 0.13 ERA, 122 strikeouts and five walks in 51 2/3 innings — with a state championship to top it off.
RHP Ty Madden, Texas
The Big 12 Pitcher of the Year this season, Madden racked up 137 strikeouts to finish with the seventh most Ks in the country. His fastball has developed into one of his best pitches since joining the Longhorns, averaging 93-96 mph and topping out at 99. Madden is best known for his elite slider while throwing a curveball and changeup as well.
Madden is no sure bet to be available to the Nationals by the time their pick comes around; high strikeout arms with ace potential aren’t easy to find. At 21 years old, he’s a player who could move through any organization quickly.