October 22, 2018

Washington Nationals 2014 Top 25 Prospects: No. 9 Jake Johansen

In this series, District Sports Page has provide detailed scouting reports on our list of Top 25 Washington Nationals prospects. You can find our overview with the entire list here. We will now move into even further detailed reports for our Top 10.

Here’s our scouting reports on prospects Nos. 21-15, prospects Nos. 16-20 and Nos. 11-16.

And so far in the Top 10:

No. 10 Eury Perez

Now without further ado, here is prospect No. 9. pitcher Jake Johansen.

9. Jake Johansen
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 6″, Weight: 235 lb.
Born: January 23, 1991 in Allen, Texas, US (Age 23)
Draft: Second Round, 2013

Fastball Velocity Fb Movement Fb Command Cutter Curve Change Off Spd Cmd Delivery Overall Future Potential
65/70 55/60 40/50 45/55 35/45 35/50 35/45 Inconsistent MLB Starter

Even though they didn’t have a first round draft pick last June, the Nationals continued to draft for huge upside. They nabbed raw Dallas Baptist right-hander Jake Johansen 68th overall with the club’s first pick. Though Johansen was much less accomplished than other college pitchers drafted around him, his powerful 6’6″ frame and mid 90’s fastball made him well worth the risk for the Nationals. One of the oldest players in the draft, it didn’t even take Johansen 24 hours to sign his pro contract.

Johansen didn’t make Dallas Baptist’s rotation until his (redshirt) senior season, and he posted a career 6.04 ERA , walking 99 batters in 147.2 innings. Part of Johansen’s subpar numbers should be attributed to a tough pitching environment and a poor defense behind him, as well as his throwing the kind of power stuff that college bats can launch when they make contact. Johansen in fact improved drastically during his last two college seasons, totaling a 52/48 BB/K ratio in his first two seasons before posting a 75/26 mark as a senior.

Many teams passed Johansen off as a fastball-only pitcher prior the draft, but Nationals the scouting department insisted otherwiseThe club believed with focus on mechanical improvements and pro coaching, Johansen would be a complete starting pitcher in the big leagues one day. So far, their assessment appears to an accurate one. During his pro debut, Johansen displayed a premium fastball, improved pitchability and a couple of promising secondary pitches by the end of his stint in the New York Penn League.

He’s raw for his age, but Johansen has the tools, the frame and the makeup to grow into an A.J. Burnett-type, a fellow late bloomer. His fastball is outstanding, and it’s the pitch that got him drafted. He throws his four-seamer in the 92-94 mph range consistently, and he can scrape triple-digits when he maxes out. His fastball command is better than initially billed, and he was able to work it at different eye levels and move it to both sides of the plate with some consistency last summer.

Johansen is mainly a power guy, and he likes to add movement to his fastball to avoid the barrel. His fastball is heavy, coming out of his high three-quarters arm slot, and his two-seamer has some sink to it. He also throws a cutter in the 87-91 mph range with nice disappearing break. It’s his best secondary pitch at the moment and should grade plus in the future.

Johansen’s off-speed stuff needs time to develop, but he shows feel for both his power curveball in the low 80’s, and his change up. He threw a lot of his curveball in his debut, and it looks like it could be average in the future judging by his arm speed. His changeup may ultimately be the better offering though, and he’s made it one of his primary focuses this offseason.

Johansen is a good athlete for his size and he’s well put together, with a powerful trunk, good balance, and long levers. His mechanics were looking much better during his pro debut and he was repeating his delivery and landing spot nicely. His overall command and breaking stuff have the opportunity to be Major League average, which would make him a dominant starting pitcher in the AJ Burnett mold. Even if they don’t improve to that level though, his fastball velocity, and the movement he generates on his pitches would make him a potential closer and a weapon in the bullpen.

 

Washington Nationals Top 25 Prospects Overview

For the Washington Nationals, the flip-side of  a decade-long losing streak is their extraordinarily talented, affordable roster. Their poor records came at the perfect time, just as baseball scouting was expanding and implementing new analytics methods to assess performance, and the big league draft was still unfettered by a hard-slotting system. As a result, their savvy front office accumulated a bevy of high draft picks and used them to rake in a gluttonous share of the baseball’s best athletes.

The Nationals were able to heist the franchise talents of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Lucas Giolito, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman, along with a bounty of other blue-chip prospects. The injection of young, affordable star-power led them to put together the franchise’s best stretch over the past three years, and they managed to snap a 31-year playoff drought in 2012.

Despite a step back in Major League production in 2013, the Nationals are still looking stronger than ever heading into the 2014 season. Healthy and more polished versions of Strasburg and Harper lead a stacked 25-man roster that is looking almost unbeatable following the addition of Doug Fister and the maturation of Anthony Rendon.

The franchise’s farm system isn’t what it was a couple of years ago. Naturally, promoting so many stud prospects to the Major Leagues and competing with homegrown talent comes with a price. Over the past few seasons, the club’s farm system has graduated starting pitchers Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark, gifted relievers like Storen,  Stammen and Ian Krol (now with the Tigers), as well as a long list of position players that includes Harper, Zimmerman, Rendon, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos and Derek Norris (with the Athletics). Two thirds of their projected opening day roster is comprised of homegrown players, or former prospects that spent their final seasons in the Nationals farm system.

Additionally, the cost of winning has dropped the club’s annual draft slot to the back of the line, and has forced the front office to play for the short term. They’ve traded away blue-chip prospects like Alex Meyer, Derek Norris and Robert Ray for short-run contributions, and have also parted ways with sure-fire contributors like Nate Karns, Tommy Milone, David Freitas and Steve Lombardozzi.

So, the Nationals don’t have the prospect starpower they normally do. A couple of years ago, they had the best system in the minors. Now, though they’re still strong, they’ve faded to the middle of the pack.

The Nationals savvy amateur scouting, particularly out West, has helped Mike Rizzo maintain a competitive farm system in spite of the organizations determination to put a winning roster on the field annually.

The farm system lacks balance. It doesn’t have a stand-out prospect at the upper levels at the moment, and the losses of Nate Karns, Alex Meyer and Robbie Ray have depleted a lot of their pitching depth.  Their lack of left-handedness was also exacerbated by the Doug Fister trade, which sent the extremely underrated Robbie Ray to Detroit along with Ian Krol–who’s poised to be an elite-level left-handed setup man. To get a southpaw in the bullpen finally — a void that killed their bullpen effectiveness last year as opposing managers were able to stack their lineups with lefty sluggers — the front office had to deal Billy Burns to Oakland for Jerry Blevins. While Burns isn’t a star, the little speedster looks like a superb fourth outfielder and pinch runner.

On the bright side, the lower levels of the system do sport many of the game’s most gifted athletes. 2013 first-round pick Lucas Giolito, now recovered from Tommy John surgery, is an elite-level arm when healthy, and has the stuff, intangibles and command to be an ace in a few years. Brian Goodwin, Harrisburg’s center fielder in 2013, has gotten stuck in double-A over the past two years after rising quickly through single-A ball. Though Goodwin’s five-tool profile pretty much makes him a sure bet to be a valuable player in the MLB.

The Nats didn’t have a first-round pick last June, but still made the most of their resources by grabbing a pair of high-ceiling stars from cowboy country. Former Dallas Baptist right-hander Jake Johansen largely flew under the radar in college, but his mid 90’s fastball and NFL tight end frame bless him with intriguing upside. And farmboy Drew Ward, taken in the third round last year, profiles as a left-handed version of Nolan Arenado.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll post detailed scouting reports on the players that made District Sports Page’s list of Top 25 Prospects in the Nationals organization. Below, though, are the names of the Nats’ top prospects to watch this season.

Top 25 Prospects

1. Lucas Giolito, RHP

13. Blake Treinen, RHP

2. Brian Goodwin, OF

14. Austin Voth, RHP

Robert Ray, LHP

15. Jefry Rodriguez, RHP

3. AJ Cole, RHP

16. Tony Renda, 2B

Nate Karns, RHP

17. Felipe Rivero, LHP

4. Drew Ward, 3B

18. Christian Garcia, RHP

5. Steven Souza, OF

19. Sandy Leon, C

6. Zach Walters, SS

20. Drew Vettleson, OF

7. Michael Taylor, OF

Adrian Nieto, C, 

8. Sammy Solis, LHP

21. Cody Gunter, 3B

9. Jake Johansen, RHP

22. Nick Pivetta, RHP

10. Eury Perez, OF

23. Rafael Bautista, OF

11. Matt Skole, 3B

24. Brett Mooneyham, LHP

12. Matt Purke, LHP

25. Pedro Severino, C

Billy Burns, OF 

Honorable Mention: Dixon Anderson, Aaron Barrett, Cutter Dykstra, Randy Encarnacion, David Napoli, Travis Ott, Raudy Read, Danny Rosenbaum, Hector Silvestre, Maximo Valerio

________________________

Ryan Kelley is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He’s a web application developer by day and an aspiring sports journalist living in the D.C. area. He has lived in Washington since graduating from The George Washington University and has past experience working within Minor League Baseball and for Team USA. He is founder of BaseballNewsHound.com, and specializes in scouting prospects playing in leagues on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region. A life-long ballplayer himself, he enjoys hitting home runs with his writing and scouting reports. You can follow him on Twitter @BBNewsHound and @Ryan_S_Kelley.

Jake Johansen Looking like a Draft Steal for Washington Nationals

Back in June, when the Nationals used their top draft pick on Jake Johansen, I thought to myself “the Nationals amateur scouting department is at it again.”

Even now that they’re winning, and signing free agents tied to compensation picks, the Nationals are still managing to take home the best young talent in each years draft class. After raking in all-world prospects like Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman during their early, sub-500 seasons in DC, they’ve taken home Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin, Alex Meyer, Lucas Giolito with much weaker draft slots picks in recent years.

They’ve also used their scouting department to extract great value from areas most organizations traditionally struggle in. They found ace-level pitcher Jordan Zimmermann at UW-Milwaukee, a DII program, former P-Nats catcher and on-base machine David Freitas at U Hawaii (sent to Oakland in the Kurt Suzuki deal), and took top outfield prospect Michael Taylor in the 6th round of the ’09 draft, when few pro clubs were even giving him work outs. In the mid to late rounds of recent drafts, they’ve snagged top arms like Tommy Milone (10th round in 2008), Taylor Jordan (9th round in ’09), Nate Karns (12th round in ’09), Aaron Barrett (9th round in ’10), and Robbie Ray (12th round in ’10), as well as slugging first baseman Tyler Moore (16th round in ’08).

Essentially, while under new hard-slotting rules and with lesser picks and lesser resources in general at their disposal, the Nats are still able to get it done.

This June, saddled without a first-round pick because of an (ill-advised) Rafael Soriano contract, they still took home the draft’s most gifted young athletes. They got a 6’6″ flamethrower out of Dallas Baptist in the second round, and then took the utterly underrated and supremely-toolsy Drew Ward in the third round. They followed those two gems with a bunch of other great picks, taking Cody Gunter, a smart third-baseman with thunder in his bat, crafty little southpaw David Napoli, and PAC-10 workhorse Austin Voth.

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