The Washington Nationals drafted a high school pitcher from Florida and a college pitcher from Connecticut on the first day of the Major League Baseball draft late Monday.
With the No. 27 pick the Nationals selected Mason Denaburg of Merritt Island High School in Florida. The No. 65 pick was Tim Cate, a junior left-hander this year at the University of Connecticut.
“Two guys that we really wanted on the first day,” Nationals assistant general manager & vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline said Tuesday morning.
If both players sign with the Nationals, Cate would seem to be closer to the majors since he has three years of college experience compared to Denaburg.
Cate, listed at 6-foot-1, 186 pounds, was 5-4 with a 2.91 ERA in 11 games with seven starts this past season for the Huskies, missing some time with forearm problems.
Cate, from Manchester, Connecticut, was a member of Team USA during the previous two summers. He was the first UConn baseball player to be with USA baseball more than one summer.
“It’s a great tool for us,” Kline said of that Team USA experience. “He has had success at every level.”
Kline said he felt Cate has the best curve of any lefty pitcher in the draft, though Cate is short for a starting pitcher.
“Sometimes dynamite comes in small packages,” Kline said.
Another short lefty from New England, 5-7 Tim Collins of Worcester, Massachusetts, is currently in the Nationals bullpen.
Denaburg, 6-3 and 190 pounds, was 5-1 with a 1.27 ERA in eight starts this year for his high school team. He missed time with bicep tendinitis, but Kline feels the Nationals have a healthy pitcher.
“He was a two-sport athlete in high school,” Kline said. “Very good makeup, tremendous competitor. He has that starting (pitcher) look about him.”
Merritt Island is also the alma mater of Taylor Jordan, who was drafted in 2009 out of the same school by Washington. Jordan pitched in 18 games, with 15 starts, with the Nationals from 2013-15.
The draft continues Tuesday and ends Wednesday.
“We are going to take the best players we have on the board,” Kline said.