Mooneyham throws his fastball 97 miles per hour with an above-average changeup, Nationals scouting director Kris Kline said in a conference call with reporters shortly after the June 4 draft.
“Wait until you guys see how athletic this kid is,” Kline said. “It’s unbelievable. He shags fly balls on days he’s not pitching. It looks like he could play center field.”
Mooneyham has “fringy” command of his pitches, Kline said, and sometimes can struggle to keep his velocity consistent. But Kline said Nationals coaches will help improve his control.
“I think worst-case scenario, you have a Matt Thornton-type bullpen guy who can blow it out with an out pitch,” Kline said. “This is an exciting kid to have in our system, no question.”
Mooneyham’s signing leaves the Nationals with only seventh-round reliever Robert Benincasa and No. 16 overall pick Lucas Giolito to reach deals with their first 10 picks. Florida State, Benincasa’s team, was eliminated from the College World Series yesterday, which will allow negotiations to begin soon.
Giolito will likely be more complicated. The Nationals signed several of their top 10 draft picks under the recommended slot, conserving money in their allotted bonus pool to dedicate to Giolito, a prep right-handed pitcher from California who has thrown 100 miles per hour and was at one time considered the possible No. 1 overall pick. Giolito fell to the Nationals because of a right elbow strain and the cost to sign him scared some teams away.
Under the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement, teams are punished with fines and the loss draft picks for exceeding their bonus pool. This year, based on where they chose in the draft, the Nationals were given a $4.4 million pool.
The Nationals are willing to pay a fine in order to sign Giolito, an elite talent who many experts would consider the best prospect in the Nationals’ system if and when he signs, even with the elbow problems he experienced this year. But they are not willing to forfeit a draft pick next year
If Benincasa signs for slot (which in his case would be $145,300), the Nationals will be able to pay Giolito a $3,029,744 bonus while not forfeiting a draft pick, according to calcuations by Baseball America.
The Nationals hosted Giolito last week at Nationals Park for what served as a recruiting visit. They gave Giolito and his agent from CAA Sports – the same high-powered agency as Ryan Zimmerman and Drew Storen – a tour and gave their pitch for why Giolito should sign with the Nationals. The Nationals and Giolito have had initial dialogue, but no significant talks regarding a signing bonus.
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