The Washington Post

Nationals home in on hitters and college players on second day of MLB draft

Tennessee’s Lipscomb leads off Washington’s selections on Day 2

- BY ANDREW GOLDEN

The Washington Nationals used six of their eight picks during the second day of the MLB draft to select hitters, led by Tennessee third baseman Trey Lipscomb in the third round.

“I think you got some really, really good position players, a couple of guys with tools,” Nationals vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline said Monday. “But more importantl­y, guys who can hit and have a track record of hitting.”

On Sunday, the Nationals began their draft by selecting speedy high school outfielder Elijah Green with the No. 5 pick, then added Oklahoma lefthander Jake Bennett in the second round. Counting Monday’s selections, Washington has picked seven college players, generally regarded as closer to big-league-ready, among its 10 choices.

Lipscomb was the first of those draft-eligible college players taken Monday; the Nationals grabbed him with the 84th pick. He hit 22 home runs last season, becoming the first player to slug at least 20 for the Volunteers since 2009.

Lipscomb grew up in Frederick and played at Urbana High.

He didn’t play much during his first three seasons with the Volunteers, appearing in just 37 games and hitting two home runs. But as a senior, he led the team in hits (89), home runs and RBI (84) while making 66 starts for a national power that went 57-9.

“Just the fact that the kid hadn’t played a whole lot and then gets an opportunit­y and runs with it, I think that speaks a lot about how this guy’s wired,” Kline said. “For somebody that hasn’t played as much as he had, he sure looks advanced and confident.”

The Nationals used their next two picks on outfielder­s. First they took Brenner Cox of Rock Hill High in Texas in the fourth round. He is committed to the

University of Texas. Kline called Cox the best high school outfielder in the state. Mark Baca, the Nationals’ assistant director of amateur scouting, said Cox reminds him of Johnny Damon and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Outfielder Jared Mckenzie of Baylor was the Nationals’ pick in the fifth round. His draft trajectory dropped after a down season in 2022 in which he hit .288 after a rough summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League. In his first two seasons at Baylor, he hit over .380. Kline said he felt Mckenzie tried to pull the ball instead of taking it to the opposite field, leading to his struggles.

After choosing Bennett on Sunday, the Nationals added two more college arms Monday: TCU right-hander Riley Cornelio (seventh round) and Georgia Tech righty Chance Huff (eighth round). Both will begin their careers as starters, Kline said, but Huff is the more likely of the two to move to the bullpen.

The other players the Nationals drafted on Day 2: Nathaniel Ochoa Leyva, a high school shortstop from Canada (sixth round); Miami catcher Maxwell Romero Jr. (ninth round); and Texas third baseman Murphy Stehly (10th round).

Baca and Kline expressed confidence that all of their selections would sign.

“I thought this first few days of the draft was really, really good,” Kline said, “a really positive thing for an organizati­on that’s kind of in a rebuilding process.”

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