When the Washington Nationals take batting practice, there are typically four hitters in the final group. But there was an extra player taking swings in the last round Friday: Elijah Green, the Nationals’ 2022 first-round pick. Green, 18, spent the afternoon with the Nationals after being selected fifth overall July 17.
“Just meeting all the guys, future teammates, it’s just a great experience,” Green said. “It’s really surreal, hitting [batting practice] with all of them, just talking to them, picking their brains.”
The Nationals are experiencing the expected growing pains in the first year of their rebuild, but progress from their young players, coupled with nailing their draft picks, could accelerate the process. Green, an outfielder from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., was the Nationals’ highest selection since they took Bryce Harper first overall in 2010. A year ago, the Nationals drafted Brady House, a high school shortstop from Georgia, with the No. 11 pick. Green said he knew House before he was drafted and the two have talked recently.
With Washington heading into what’s expected to be a second straight sell-off by Tuesday’s trade deadline, it’s possible many of the teammates Green hit with Friday will be gone by the time he makes it to the majors. But Green and House hold the promise of Washington’s next wave of talent.
In the majors, Keibert Ruiz, Josiah Gray and Luis García have already shown signs of progress. Behind them, prospects such as Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry and Jackson Rutledge are knocking.
Green, a University of Miami commit, reportedly signed for $6.5 million, slightly above the slot value for the No. 5 pick ($6,497,700). As of Friday afternoon, the Nationals had agreed to terms with 19 of their 20 selections. JeanPierre Ortiz, a shortstop from IMG Academy who has committed to Florida International University, is the only member of the draft class who hasn’t signed; the deadline to sign draft choices is Monday.
Green said New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor has reached out to him since the draft, inviting him to his house and offering congratulations. The two share the same agent.
Green will head to West Palm Beach, Fla., to begin his professional career Monday; he said he hopes to be in the major leagues in two to three years. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Green looked the part as he walked around the clubhouse and field Friday; Manager Dave Martinez joked he weighed 145 pounds when he was drafted.
After the first day of the draft, Kris Kline, the Nationals’ assistant general manager for amateur scouting, said Green had a chance to be a middle-of-the-order run producer, the type of hitter around which lineups are built.
“I feel like I can change the game with one swing,” Green said Friday. “I can do everything. A leader on the field, can change the game in every aspect of the game.”
It’s uncertain just where in the outfield is the best fit for him. Kline said he has a chance to stay in center field, where he has played for most of his career, because of his speed and quick first step. But Kline said he could also end up in a corner outfield position down the road.
On Friday, Green had a locker next to pitcher Joe Ross’s in the clubhouse. Juan Soto was one of the first players to introduce himself to Green, who called it a “crazy experience” after watching Soto on television for years. Then Green changed into his warmups and met Martinez in his office. The two talked for a bit before he walked out to the field with Josh Bell. Later, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Earlier in the day, Green stepped up to the plate for his first round of batting practice with many from the organization watching, including Bell and Ross near the first base line. On his third swing, he laced a ball into the red seats in left-center field. A few pitches later, he hit an opposite field shot into the seats above the out-of-town scoreboard in right.
Green’s parents and sister stood nearby. His dad, former NFL tight end Eric Green, filmed home plate to get every swing. His sister filmed the scoreboard that flashed his exit velocity, launch angle and distance.
On his final swing, he got his bat head out in front and turned on a pitch. As soon as the ball connected with the bat, his dad yelled ‘Bye-bye!” as he watched the ball sail 10 rows up into the left field seats. It traveled 413 feet with an exit velocity of 111 mph.
Green nonchalantly walked out of the cage as batting practice ended, his dad in his ear from a distance yelling: “Yeah, my boy! Yeah, my boy!”
“It’s a lot of fun to get him here and let him hit some balls in the stadium,” Martinez said. “Get him motivated to go down there and knock the door down and get back here as soon as possible.”