Champion Nats ready to build for future in Draft

June 10th, 2020

Who will be part of the next chapter in Nationals baseball? After winning the 2019 World Series, the Nats will build toward their future in the 2020 MLB Draft next week.

While the goals are the same, this year’s Draft will have a different look -- it has been condensed from 40 rounds to five amid the coronavirus pandemic. With that, the preparation for it has taken on a new approach, too.

Because the prospects’ seasons were shortened, teams have smaller sample sizes on which to make their decisions. They will turn to years of research that already had been conducted, and they are holding in-person meetings virtually instead. Additionally, the deadline to sign drafted players has been moved from July 10 to Aug. 1.

Day 1 of the 2020 Draft airs tonight, June 10, on MLB Network and ESPN at 7 p.m. ET, and includes the first 37 picks. Day 2 begins at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 11, on MLB Network and ESPN2, and spans the remainder of the 160 picks.

Comprehensive coverage will be available on and MLB Pipeline, which will simulcast MLB Network’s broadcast. Go to to see when teams pick, the Top 200 Prospects list, mock drafts from analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, scouting video and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying and to get each pick as it’s made.

Here’s how the Draft is shaping up for the Nationals, whose first selection is the 22nd overall pick.

State of the system
The Nationals’ top two prospects made MLB Pipeline's 2020 Top 100 list -- (No. 21), who has been given the opportunity to earn the starting third-base job, and infielder Luis Garcia (No. 97), who is projected to make his Major League debut in ‘21. Rounding out Washington’s top 10 prospects are eight pitchers, including 17-year-old righty Andry Lara, considered the top pitching prospect from the 2019-20 international class.

What they’re saying
“We dive into this Draft thing very, very seriously. We got a lot done early on, especially the higher-round type of premier prospects. We have a really good feel of what’s out there in the country. That’s taken up a big part of our calendar, and our daily assignments are based on a lot of Draft work. … We’re going over our usual protocol of meetings and interviews, albeit by video call instead of in person, putting the Draft board together, seeing video and film on the players we have interest in, going over the medicals with our doctors, trainers and that type of thing. We’ll be prepared whenever the bell rings and proceed with this Draft, and we’ll be ready to roll.” -- General manager Mike Rizzo

Who might they take?
According to's Jim Callis, righty Cole Wilcox from Georgia could be a match for the Nationals -- if he is still on the board at No. 22. Washington knows Wilcox well after selecting him in the 37th round of the 2018 Draft. As a college sophomore this season, Wilcox was 3-0 in four starts with a 1.57 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP and just two walks in 23 innings, earning Collegiate Baseball Second Team All-American honors.

The Nationals also have been linked to right-handers Clayton Beeter (Texas Tech) and Slade Cecconi (Miami) in recent mock drafts.

Beeter, who underwent Tommy John surgery, was a closer in 2019 as a redshirt freshman. He made 21 appearances over 20 2/3 innings with a 3.48 ERA. This season, Beeter started in all four of his games and went 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP in 21 frames.

Cecconi was named to Baseball America's preseason All-America Third Team for 2020 ahead of his sophomore year. In four starts, he went 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP over 21 1/3 innings. Cecconi was selected out of high school by the Orioles in the 38th round of the ‘18 Draft before playing two years of college baseball.

Money matters
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team gets an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. This year, with a five-round Draft, all signing bonuses will apply toward the bonus pool total.

Normally, any bonus greater than $125,000 for a player taken after the 10th round is also applied toward the total. This year, there is a $20,000 limit on bonuses for non-drafted free agents. There is no limit to the number of undrafted players teams may sign, but they cannot go over $20,000 per player. These bonuses do not count toward the pool total.

This year, the Nationals have a pool of $6,647,700 to spend, including $3,027,000 to spend on their first selection.

Shopping list
The Nationals' Top 30 Prospects list is loaded with 17 pitchers. Among the remaining players, there is only one first baseman. Drew Mendoza competed last year at Class A Hagerstown, and he is projected to make his debut in 2022. The Nats’ plan for first base this season is a veteran rotation of Howie Kendrick, Eric Thames and Ryan Zimmerman, so they could look to add depth for the future.

With Kieboom in position to become the starting third baseman and Garcia poised for shortstop, the Nationals also could eye second base in the Draft. Washington signed Starlin Castro to a two-year contract this past offseason, and Cole Freeman -- who also plays outfield -- is projected to reach the big leagues in 2021.

Trend watch
Here is a look at recent trends from the past three Draft classes:

No. 1 picks: The Nationals have selected pitchers with their first pick in the last three Drafts -- left-hander Seth Romero in 2017 and right-handers Mason Denaburg and Jackson Rutledge in '18 and '19, respectively. (In ‘16, they went with a position player in Kieboom.)

Rounds 2-5: Since this year’s Draft is shortened to five rounds, let’s see how the Nats utilized their picks in the last three years combined: one second baseman, two third basemen, one center fielder, five right-handers and three left-handers.

Schools: Washington has leaned toward prospects from four-year colleges in recent Drafts. Since 2017, 83 picks have come from four-year schools, 15 from junior colleges and 21 from high school/prep schools.

The recent top picks
2019: Jackson Rutledge, RHP
2018: Mason Denaburg, RHP
2017: Seth Romero, LHP
2016: Carter Kieboom, INF
2015: No first-round pick (selected OF Andrew Stevenson in the second round)
2014: , RHP