- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2018

Mason Denaburg looked the part as he walked onto the field during Washington Nationals batting practice Tuesday at Nationals Park. The 18-year-old right-handed pitcher, the Nationals’ first-round selection in this year’s MLB draft from Merritt Island (Fla.) High School, wore a blue suit with a red tie standing out against his white shirt as he gazed out at the pitcher’s mound he could one day command.

Denaburg can touch 97 mph with his fastball and has the off-speed repertoire to back it up. He played baseball, soccer and football in high school. His favorite athlete wasn’t from any of those three.

Denaburg looked up to motorsports competitor Travis Pastrana, and it’s safe to say he won’t be mimicking any of Pastrana’s stunts after signing a $3 million deal, according to Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline.

Despite right bicep tendinitis during his senior year of high school, which may have cooled interest from other teams toward the 6-foot-4 hurler, the time off didn’t deter Washington.

The Nationals have a history of nurturing pitchers with past injuries into big leaguers, most recently with Erick Fedde.

“He’s more akin to a Fedde-type athlete,” Scott Boras, Denaburg’s agent, said. “Erick was a tremendous soccer player and Mason is a gifted athlete. Has the velocity but the real thing is he has a feel to pitch. He has a very repeatable delivery, very durable.”

Denaburg returned late in the season from his bicep tendinitis and recovered his form before graduating. He opted to join Washington rather than the University of Florida, where he had originally committed.

“It’s completely healthy now. I mean, I went deep into both games and it was pretty good,” Denaburg said. “It’s awesome just to think about the guys they’ve brought through the organization. For them to think highly enough of me to pick me means the world to me.”

Before speaking to the media Tuesday, Denaburg met Max Scherzer. Scherzer had watched tape of Denaburg and other pitchers that might have been available at the 27th selection, and the three-time Cy Young award winner liked what he saw from Denaburg.

“I’ve loved watching him pitch,” Denaburg said of Scherzer. “I’ve always thought that, not our stuff but like, our body and our windup and stuff like that was kind of similar.”

Manager Dave Martinez was “pretty excited about” the signing of Denaburg.

“He seems like a good kid,” Martinez said.

The Nationals are familiar with Merritt Island High School pitchers, which is not far from their former spring training home in Viera, Florida. Washington drafted Merritt Island-alumni Taylor Jordan, a right-handed pitcher, out of a junior college. Jordan pitched for the Nationals from 2013 to 2015.

Denaburg will report to Washington’s new spring training facility in West Palm Beach in the coming days as he prepares to begin his professional career.

“He’s got all the physical tools and a great work ethic to go with his talent attributes,” Boras said. “Knock on wood, we expect him to follow the chain of events we’ve had with our draft picks to the Nationals.”

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