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Nats look to replenish pitching depth in Draft

MLB.com @JamalCollier

Although the Nationals have made a few shrewd trades and free-agent signings to help them build one of the most successful teams in the Majors during the past six seasons, that foundation was built through the Draft. It's one of the areas that general manager Mike Rizzo, a former scout and still a scout at heart, takes the most pride in.

From Stephen Strasburg to Bryce Harper to Anthony Rendon, Rizzo has formed a special connection with those players they have "scouted, drafted and developed." So even though the Nationals will not make a selection until the 27th overall pick in this year's Draft, they are still hoping to add another impact player to their core.

Although the Nationals have made a few shrewd trades and free-agent signings to help them build one of the most successful teams in the Majors during the past six seasons, that foundation was built through the Draft. It's one of the areas that general manager Mike Rizzo, a former scout and still a scout at heart, takes the most pride in.

From Stephen Strasburg to Bryce Harper to Anthony Rendon, Rizzo has formed a special connection with those players they have "scouted, drafted and developed." So even though the Nationals will not make a selection until the 27th overall pick in this year's Draft, they are still hoping to add another impact player to their core.

The 2018 Draft will take place today through Wednesday, beginning with today's Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 6 p.m. ET. MLB Network will broadcast the first 43 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 78 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, with a preview show beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on Day 3, beginning at noon ET.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

Go to MLB.com/draft to see the Top 200 Prospects list, projected top picks from MLB Pipeline analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying.

Here's how the Draft is shaping up for the Nationals.

In about 50 words
Even with their success at the Major League level, the Nationals still boast a strong farm system as evidenced by top prospects such as Juan Soto and Victor Robles. However, they are a bit light on pitching at the top of their system and this Draft could be a chance to replenish that.

The scoop
The Nats selected a pitcher at the top of the Draft a year ago in left-hander Seth Romero, but he was sent home to Houston during Spring Training for a violation of team rules and remains there at this point in the season. So while Washington will focus on finding the best player on the board, perhaps it would prefer to draft a college pitcher once again to provide a boost to the top of its system.

First-round buzz
Mayo linked the Nationals to right-hander Mason Denaburg from Merritt Island High School in Florida. Denaburg dealt with a biceps issue in the spring that has clouded his status some, but he has fell from a top half of the first round talent to potentially being available late for the Nats.

Video: Draft Report: Mason Denaburg, High School pitcher

Money matters
In an effort to promote competitive balance, MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement gives each team a bonus pool to spend based upon the number and position of its Draft picks. The more selections a team has and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. Any club that overspends its budget is subject to taxes and, in extreme cases, a loss of picks in future Drafts.

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.

This year, the Nationals have a pool of $5,603,800 to spend in the first 10 rounds. That includes $2,472,700 to spend on their first selection.

Shopping list
Pitching is the biggest hole in the organization, with right-hander Erick Fedde as perhaps the Nationals' only legitimate pitching prospect near the Majors. For all the talent the Nats have around the diamond, pitching has always been their foundation. They are set for the foreseeable future with Max Scherzer and Strasburg anchoring the top of their rotation, as well as Joe Ross under contract, but they could use another arm to get excited about for the future.

Trend watch
The Nats have taken a pitcher with four of their past five first-round Draft picks dating back to 2012 (no first round pick in '13 and '15), and all of them have come from college with the exception of Lucas Giolito in '12.

Recent Draft history

Rising fast
Drafted in the fifth round in 2016, Daniel Johnson turned in a 20-20 season last year en route to getting named the organization's Minor League Player of the Year. The 22-year-old outfielder continues to show he can hit with a step up in competition at Double-A Harrisburg, where he is batting .287 with a home run and 15 stolen bases.

Cinderella story
After getting drafted in the fifth round by the Nats in 2012, catcher Spencer Kieboom has finally enjoyed an extended stay in the Majors at the age of 27, getting a chance to be the team's backup catcher after a rash of injuries. Kieboom even played a key role in a victory on Saturday against the Braves, with a run-scoring single in extra innings playing in front of his family and friends in Atlanta.

Video: WSH@ATL: Kieboom extends the lead with an RBI single

In the show
Some of the Nats' most prominent stars and contributors were all first-round Draft selections in Strasburg (2009), Harper (2010), and Rendon and Brian Goodwin (2011). None of their first-round picks since then are with the team, fortunes they will be looking to change this year.

The Nationals' recent top picks
2017: Seth Romero (suspended)
2016: LHP Dane Dunning (CWS) and SS Carter Kieboom (Class A Advanced Potomac)
2015: OF Andrew Stevenson (second round, Triple-A Syracuse)
2014: RHP Erick Fedde (Triple-A Syracuse)
2013: RHP Jake Johansen (second round, CWS)

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals