Nats ready to focus on position players in Draft
Organization likes its picking position despite not having first-round selection
The 2015 Draft will take place from Monday, June 8, through Wednesday, June 10, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 75 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of Day 2 begins with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, with exclusive coverage of Day 3 beginning at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of over 1,700 Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Here's how the Draft is shaping up for the Nationals, whose first selection is the 58th overall pick.
In about 50 words
The Nationals, who won't make their first pick until the second round, don't have sluggers who are on the rise in their farm system. Over the years, they have used the motto, "you can never have enough pitching," and have drafted a lot of arms during the Mike Rizzo era. But don't be surprised if they take a left-handed-hitting slugger with their first pick.
Assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline doesn't think having the 58th overall pick is a bad thing this year because, as he put it, "I don't think there is a guy in this Draft that really separates themselves from the pack. The player that we get at 58, 69 could be as good, if not better than the guy taken at the top."
It helps that the Nationals hired more area scouts this offseason, which means they will get multiple looks at players that they are interested in.
The Nationals won't be picking in the first round, so it's hard to say whom they could select with their first pick in the second round. The past four years, Washington has focused on pitching with its first selection.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has 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. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75 percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75 percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100 percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100 percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Nationals have been assigned a pool of $4,102,700, which ranks near the bottom of the league. The Nationals surrendered their first-rounder to sign free agent Max Scherzer.
"By picking 58, 69, I feel like we got our first-rounder in Scherzer," Kline said. "I'll take that every day."
If you talk to Kline, he will tell you the Nationals are trying to get the best player available. The team is loaded with pitchers. It wouldn't hurt the Nationals to select some hitters.
"If we have a need in the system, it would be some position players, particularly left-handed power that is missing in the system," Kline said.
The Nationals are known to take risks on players who are injured. Third baseman Anthony Rendon and right-handers Lucas Giolito and Erick Fedde are three examples of players who were hurt before they were drafted. Rendon had shoulder and ankle problems before he was taken in 2011, and Giolito and Fedde needed Tommy John surgery before they were selected by the Nationals.
Rendon is currently on the disabled list, but he was the team's MVP last year. Giolito is off to a slow start, but he could be in the big leagues by next year. Fedde is still recovering from elbow reconstruction, but he could be throwing in Minor League games after the All-Star break.
RECENT DRAFT HISTORY
One player who comes to mind is shortstop Trea Turner.
Turner is currently in the Padres' organization, but he will be joining the Nationals this month. In December, Turner was part of a three-team trade that sent outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to the Rays. Turner was drafted by the Padres last year, so he wasn't eligible to join the Nationals until this month.
Turner is currently playing for Double-A San Antonio and is having a stellar season, hitting .324 with five home runs and 27 RBIs entering Wednesday's action.
As early as next year, Turner could be Ian Desmond's replacement at shortstop. In his first year in pro ball in 2014, Turner hit a combined .323 with five home runs and 24 RBIs. Turner was also on the taxi squad for the Surprise Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League and hit .400 (14-for-35) with five RBIs in nine games.
After he was taken in the 18th round of the 2011 Draft, left-hander Nick Lee had serious problems throwing strikes. That was until this year. He has been productive out of the bullpen for Class A Advanced Potomac. If he keeps it up, Lee could move fast through the system. His fastball has been clocked between 90-96 mph. Lee also has good breaking stuff.
In The Show
Of the players on the 25-man roster, the Nationals have 13 who came from their farm system. Bryce Harper leads the group. He is putting up MVP numbers, leading the National League in almost every major category, including home runs, walks, runs, on-base percentage and OPS. Jordan Zimmermann is considered one of the top pitchers in baseball, while Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman are considered two of the team leaders. Michael Taylor is expected to be the starting center fielder by next year.
The Nationals' recent top picks
2014: Fedde, RHP, Has yet to play an inning (Tommy John surgery)
2013: Jake Johansen, RHP, Class A Advanced Potomac
2012: Giolito, RHP, Class A Advanced Potomac
2011: Rendon, 3B, Nationals
2010: Harper, OF, Nationals