As the Washington Nationals hold the fifth pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, there are countless possibilities as to who the team will pick. The front office could choose to select a player from either high school or college; both talent pools are very deep in position players. Additionally, the choice of whether or not to select a pitcher or position player remains in the air with both spots being areas where improvement is necessary.
From an organizational standpoint, there are no past indications of what might happen with this selection. However, it is important to monitor the top prospects’ performances as the games begin to mean more and competition ramps up. Due to the fact that stats are more readily available for college players, and there are more stats for hitters, here some of the top college options from this past weekend.
Brooks Lee, SS , Cal Poly:
Lee is one of the most pure hitters that have graced the college ranks in recent years. Some might question why the Nats would even consider Lee as an option after drafting Brady House (another shortstop) last year. Additionally, Luis Garcia’s impending promotion to the everyday job at the big leagues raises questions over the need for a shortstop. However, House might be best as a third baseman and Garcia has the ability to play second base. Technically speaking, there is room in the long term plans for Lee at shortstop or anywhere else they move him.
Oftentimes, prospects see their primary position changed to best suit them in the long term. Bryce Harper, famously, was a catcher when he was drafted and now patrols the outfield. Lee faced off against UC Davis, a program undergoing a massive transformation. Many of their top players from last season have left and the Aggies are left with a very barren roster. Nonetheless, Lee played very well against them. He went a combined 7/13 with two homers, six RBI and seven runs scored. Overall, Lee offers a balanced skill set that, with development, should see him on the fast track to the MLB.
Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech:
Another selection that would induce some head scratches would be Kevin Parada from Georgia Tech. Once again, it has nothing to do with Parada, but with the Nats’ organizational depth at the position. Keibert Ruiz looks like a bonafide option moving forward. Additionally, the Nationals acquired a lot of catching depth at the Trade Deadline last season. The massive logjam at the position makes a potential selection of Parada somewhat perplexing, but teams use the “best player available” strategy.
Parada is also someone that the Nats might consider moving to first base if they decide they want him to be in their future plans. Nonetheless, he is one of the best college players in the country, justifying a selection in the top five.
Over the weekend, the Yellow Jackets faced the Pittsburgh Panthers, a mismatch on paper. The Jackets are among the best teams in the country with Parada leading the way. Parada went 6/12 with two homers, four RBI, six runs scored as well as two steals. The steals are very unusual for catchers, but much like his MLB counterpart, JT Realmuto, Parada has elite athleticism for the position.
Jacob Berry, OF, LSU:
Jacob Berry is looking to add his name to the lengthy list of great LSU outfielders. In fact, he is on track to be the first outfielder taken in the top ten in school history, as well as the highest pick since Alex Bregman in 2015. Berry is a balanced hitter who is more of a contact hitter. This past weekend, against Vanderbilt, he had a somewhat quiet series, but also proved that he can put up respectable numbers when facing elite pitching. In game one, Berry faced a Pre-season Freshman All American. Berry went 2/4, and demonstrated an ability to produce against pro-level pitchers. Saturday and Sunday saw Berry going against two potential draft picks. He did not rip the cover off the ball, but collected his hits and took his walks.
Overall, Berry made a solid impression on scouts as he faced off against higher competition, further justifying a potential selection by the Nationals.
Jace Jung, INF, Texas Tech:
Jung likely has the most to prove to scouts as he is attempting to emerge from his older brother’s shadow. Josh Jung is one of the top prospects in the Texas Rangers’ organization. Jace has become known as a very high risk player due to the volatility in his results. He has a very high strikeout rate, but that is something he balances with his insane power to all fields. Jung is a little rough around the edges with his fielding. That is one of the reasons why he is likely to be a second baseman in the future.
Facing off against a very respectable pitching staff in the Oklahoma Sooners. The first two pitchers he faced were top 100 draft prospects with the final pitcher as a two way player who was used as an opener. Jung went 3/13 with a home run, three RBI, three walks, but also four strikeouts. All of the extremes in Jung’s game were on full display over the weekend. He is likely to slide past where the Nats will select, but if he falls too far, the Nats should jump at the opportunity to draft him.
As the college baseball season nears a conclusion, it will grant scouts a better understanding of the true cream of the crop. Regardless, all of the players here likely will be selected early in the first round. Whether or not they end up with the Nats is unknown. However, there are many other prospects to keep an eye on as well. One of the biggest needs for the organization has to be pitching and outfield depth. Adding an infusion of talent into the farm system would greatly help the Nats’ future outlook. After nailing the MLB Draft last season, the front office looks to build upon that momentum and add more young talent to the organization.