The Washington Nationals rounded out the 2019 Major League Baseball draft with 30 more selections Wednesday, making Fresno State shortstop J.T. Arruda their top choice on Day 3 in the 11th round. In 213 at-bats during the 2019 season, Arruda ranked third on the Bulldogs in on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.979) and led the team with 43 walks.
The Nationals covet arms but compensated for taking pitchers with four of their first six picks with a balanced approach on the last day, choosing 16 position players and 14 pitchers. Of those position players, more than half were shortstops (six) or catchers (three).
The Nationals did not draft any D.C.-area natives. Their 18th round pick, catcher Mason Doolittle from Palm Beach Community College, does not appear to be related to the Nationals current closer Sean Doolittle.
The most notable choices seemed to be Georgia Tech pitcher Amos Willingham (17th round) and Tennessee Tech outfielder Kevin Strohschein (21st).
Willingham, a 6-foot-4, 217-pound starter, profiles as a typical pick by Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo and Kris Kline, the Nationals’ assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations, who like big-bodied pitchers. The right-hander’s fastball sits between 88 and 91 mph and he can command his change-up and slider, according to the MLB.com scouting report. However, the stuff hasn’t translated for the Yellow Jackets, where he posted a 5.19 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings in 2019.
In 2018, Strohschein led the nation with 184 total bases, helping to lead Tennessee Tech to a school-record 53 wins as well as the Ohio Valley Conference’s first berth in an NCAA super regional. He did all of this despite an elbow injury that limited him to a designated-hitter-only role and required Tommy John surgery after the season. This year, the Golden Eagles slugger hit .382 with 15 home runs while leading the OVC in hits, doubles and total bases.
Throughout the day, Rizzo and Kline again showed how much the organization favors college players. Among the team’s first 23 selections Wednesday, they selected 19 four-year university players and two community college players.
Washington also took the teammates of ninth-round Texas State pitcher Hunter McMahon (third baseman Jaylen Hubbard in the 27th round) and Arruda (pitcher Davis Moore in the 15th round). They also selected a pair of Western Oklahoma teammates, shortstop Junior Martina (16th) and catcher Allen Berrios (22nd).
The Nationals, led by a Chicago native in Rizzo, added another with ties to that area in Northwestern shortstop Jack Dunn (20th).
Two more noteworthy picks came in the 35th and 39th rounds, when the Nationals took Bryce Osmond from Jenks High and Jake Bennett from Bixby High, both in proximity in Oklahoma.
In early May, the teenagers dueled in a Class 6A baseball regional. Though the left-handed Bennett allowed only two hits, Osmond outdueled him in a 1-0 win to move his team into the state semifinals. Neither Bennett, an Oklahoma signee, nor Osmond, who’s committed to Oklahoma State, are likely to sign.
In the 37th round, the Nationals drafted Trei Cruz, who would like to the follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Jose Cruz, and father, Jose Cruz Jr., who both played in the majors.