MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Nats have high hopes for Texas righty Cooper

Nats have high hopes for Texas righty Cooper

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals think highly of University of Texas right-hander Morgan Cooper, who was selected in the 34th round of the 2016 Draft on Saturday afternoon. They thought he would go higher in the Draft, but for some the asking price was a bit too steep for the 21-year-old, according to assistant general manager Kris Kline.

It's unclear if the Nationals will be able to sign Cooper. He had Tommy John surgery in '14 and missed all of the '15 season. He made a nice comeback in '16, earning Academic All-Big 12 first-team honors. He pitched in 13 games (12 starts) for Texas and had a 4.03 ERA, but with 70 strikeouts in 67 innings.

"I believe he is going to be really good someday," Kline said. "He is more than just a 34th-rounder."

Nats pleased as Draft concludes

In the later rounds of the Draft, the Nationals kept things within the family. They selected third baseman Garrett Gonzales, who is the son of Nationals crosschecker Jimmy Gonzales and has a sweet swing from the left side. 

They also drafted shortstop Ryan Wetzel, who is the son of Terry Wetzel, a special assistant to general manager Mike Rizzo. Wetzel, a left-handed hitter, is coming off a great season with Heritage Christian Academy, hitting .638 in 19 games with two homers and 17 RBIs. Wetzel may go to college. According to PerfectGame.org, colleges such as Missouri State, Oral Roberts, Kansas, Nebraska, Wichita State and Concordia University have interest in Wetzel.

"We like to do this every year [in terms of drafting family members]," Kline said. "They all have ability. But it's nice to keep it within our family."

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 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.