WASHINGTON -- Nationals scouting director Kris Kline said he liked the diversity of this year's First-Year Player Draft. During the three days of the Draft, the Nationals selected a total of 41 players: 12 right-handed pitchers, eight left-handed pitchers, six outfielders, 10 infielders and five catchers."We covered all the bases.
WASHINGTON -- Nationals scouting director Kris Kline said he liked the diversity of this year's First-Year Player Draft. During the three days of the Draft, the Nationals selected a total of 41 players: 12 right-handed pitchers, eight left-handed pitchers, six outfielders, 10 infielders and five catchers.
"We covered all the bases. I feel like the top 10 rounds are going to have quite a few big leaguers in there," Kline said after the Draft concluded Saturday.
During the first two days of the Draft, the Nationals went mostly with position players, including first-round pick Carter Kieboom.
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Kieboom, who is from Marietta, Ga., was a compensation pick for right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who signed with the Tigers in the offseason. Kieboom is a right-handed hitter who is known to be an above average defender at shortstop. Most importantly, he could become a power hitter in the future. According to general manager Mike Rizzo, the Nats don't see him switching to another position.
"He is a slick fielding shortstop that has good range and really good hands," Rizzo said. "He has a good timing mechanism in his head. He really knows the game. He has great feet and a great arm to play the position. We see him playing in the middle of the field that has some offensive prowess to him. He has strength quickness and speed."
As is their custom, the Nationals took a chance on injured players. On Day 2, the Nationals drafted left-hander Jesus Luzardo and outfielder Nick Banks in the third and fourth rounds, respectively. Luzardo is coming off Tommy John surgery, but the Nationals have a history of drafting pitchers who needed elbow reconstruction. Before the Draft, Luzardo was considered the 77th-best prospect, according to MLB.com. When healthy, his fastball is clocked in the mid-90s and he is known to have a good curveball and changeup.
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Banks was projected to be a 2015 first-round pick, but his batting average dropped 75 points this season. It didn't help that he had a cyst removed from his lower back. Some scouts believe his tools regressed this spring because of the injury.
As Rizzo put it, the Nationals trust their player development staff to get those players on the right track.
Rizzo raved about fifth-round pick Daniel Johnson, an outfielder from New Mexico State. This past season, Johnson proved he had the tools to be selected in the early rounds of the Draft. He was the 2016 Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year after leading the team in batting average (.416), slugging percentage (.720), hits (52), homers (eight) and stolen bases (15).
"The guy comes with a speed, defense and an athletic skill set," Rizzo said. "He plays in the middle of the field. He had a great offensive season, hitting some home runs. He is a guy that is really exciting to watch."
After the Draft ended on Saturday, Kline believed the Nationals had a great three days selecting amateur players.
"I have a real comfort level with this one as far as the top 10 rounds go. There is going to be someone in the Draft that is going to surprise us. Who that is will show up when he is ready," Kline said.
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.