MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Hard-throwing prospect Hearn sets sights high

Hard-throwing prospect Hearn sets sights high

VIERA, Fla. -- If he can control his pitches, left-hander Taylor Hearn has a bright future with the Nationals. When he is on, Hearn -- the Nationals' 25th best prospect according to MLB.com -- has an unhittable fastball that is clocked close to 100 mph. His out pitch could be the slider and, man, it's known to miss bats.

Who knows? The Nationals could have another Randy Johnson on their hands. Like Johnson, Hearn is tall and lanky. He even looked up to Johnson while growing up in Dallas.

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"If it happens, it happens. But I'm going to continue the work and try to make it happen," Hearn said. "People say I throw as hard as [Johnson], and I don't blame them."

Hearn is willing to come out of the bullpen for Washington. The sight of the 21-year-old fireballer entering in the eighth or ninth inning could be devastating for opposing hitters. The Nationals have talked to Hearn about being a starter and a reliever; he served in the latter role during the Instructional League this past offseason.

"I have no problem with it, honestly. It doesn't really bother me. It's whatever they need me to do," Hearn said. "One day, I could be out there closing or setting up a game or even starting a game. It would be pretty amazing to see it. I'll offer anything to get up there and help the Major League club."

First, though, Hearn must be more consistent on the mound. He'll tell you the same thing. Hearn is a hard worker. He throws every day, trying to figure out ways to improve his mechanics. In his first year in pro ball last season, Hearn was a combined 1-5 with a 3.56 ERA, logged 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings and walked 15 in 48 innings for the Gulf Coast Nationals and Class A Auburn.

The experience was great for Hearn, and he learned to get into a routine and compete on a daily bases.

"I'm always watching old film of me trying to figure out what can I do to make myself better," Hearn said. "I know it's raw. But I'm trying my best to mold it and put it to use. Just talking with the coaches and working during the offseason, I'm trying to figure out what I can do to keep myself in the zone."

A native of Dallas, Hearn was drafted by three Major League teams before he accepted a deal with the Nationals, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 Draft. In '12, the Pirates selected him in the 22nd round. The following year, the Reds took a chance on him in the 36th round. Then the Twins had interest in his talents by taking him in the 25th round in '14.

Hearn acknowledged that he wasn't mature enough to play professional baseball at that time. That's why he ended up going to Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla. It also didn't help he was dealing with elbow injuries. When he was attending Royse City High School in Royse City, Texas, Hearn strained his ulnar collateral ligament. During his freshman year in college, he had two stress fractures in his humerus bone, and a screw was put in to stabilize the elbow.

"Having the injuries helped me out a lot because I learned a lot about my body," Hearn said. "I learned how to take care of myself a lot better."

Now healthy, all Hearn has to do is stay consistent on the mound.

"I'm trying to figure out every little thing to fix my mechanics and make them better," Hearn said. "Sometimes everything is in sync; the next day, it may not be."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.