WASHINGTON -- A lights-out pitching staff has powered the Nationals to the top of the National League East standings this year, and with that formula in mind, the 2012 First-Year Player Draft saw the team stock up on talented young arms.
Of the Nats' 40 picks, 20 were pitchers, and 14 were right-handers, including first-round pick (No. 16 overall) Lucas Giolito from Harvard-Westlake HS (Calif.). Giolito, 17, could have been the No. 1 overall pick, but a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow sidelined him for his senior season.
At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, Giolito has drawn comparisons to Roy Halladay because of his size. In 70 1/3 innings as a junior, Giolito went 9-1 with a 1.00 ERA, 78 strikeouts and only 26 walks.
"I like to throw my fastball inside and bust people in, and maybe come back with my curveball," Giolito said. "I throw my changeup a lot. That is obviously a tool I'll be able to use. It's a combination of everything, to be able to attack hitters and do everything I can to help the team win."
The next pitcher the Nats selected was left-hander Brett Mooneyham, a junior from Stanford University, in the third round. Mooneyham is the son of former Major Leaguer Bill Mooneyham, a first-round Draft pick of the California Angels in 1980 who pitched in 45 games for the Oakland Athletics in 1986.
The younger Mooneyham also dealt with injury issues that might have hampered his Draft stock, as surgery on the flexor tendon in his left middle finger cost him the 2011 season. While Giolito rose into the first round due to his expert command, Mooneyham has dealt with control issues before. However, his fastball, curve and changeup are all good enough to make him a powerful pitcher.
The rest of Day 2 (Rounds 2-15) saw the Nats draft four more pitchers, three of which were righties. In the seventh round, they selected right-hander Robert Benincasa, a first-team All-ACC reliever as a junior at Florida State. According to director of scouting Kris Kline, Benincasa has a sinker that he throws between 90 and 92 mph, as well as a solid slider for an out pitch.
"He's a strike-thrower with good command and good feel," Kline said, via the @NationalsPR Twitter account. "He should progress quickly through the system."
The Nats' ninth-round pick, Derek Self, out of Louisville, is a 6-foot-3 sinkerballer the Nationals have been watching for two years. As a college senior, Self was also an appealing pick for his signability. Elliott Waterman, taken in the 13th round, is a junior closer from the University of South Florida with a unique delivery and an impressive 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame.
Other notable Nats Draft picks:
2B Tony Renda, California, Jr. (Round 2, No. 80 overall): Renda is a short infielder at 5-foot-8, but between that and his prowess at the plate -- Kline said he has the quickest bat in the Draft -- he has drawn comparisons to Dustin Pedroia.
C Spencer Kieboom, Clemson, Jr.(Round 5, No. 174 overall): Kieboom hit only .250 as a junior, though the Nats drafted him primarily for his defensive prowess. Roy Clark, Washington's assistant general manager, called Kieboom "the best defensive catcher in the country."
2B Jake Jefferies, Foothill HS (Calif.) (Round 34, No. 1,044 overall): Jefferies hit .347 with a .493 slugging percentage as a junior, though he might still be best known for his pedigree -- his father, Gregg, was a two-time All-Star in a 14-year career that included time with the Mets, Royals, Cardinals, Phillies, Angels and Tigers.
CF Ricky Gutierrez, American Senior HS (Fla.) (Round 40, 1,224): The Nats' final pick of the Draft also is the son of a former big leaguer. Ricky Gutierrez played from 1993-2004, and as a member of the Houston Astros in 1998, he was the only player to get a hit off of Kerry Wood on May 6 -- the day Wood struck out 20 batters.