Nats dip heavily into college pool in Draft
WASHINGTON -- When one looks at the 40 players the Nationals selected in the 2015 MLB Draft, it is clear that most of the players came from the college ranks.
Their first pick was Andrew Stevenson from LSU. The Nationals wanted to add athleticism to the organization. Their third pick, Rhett Wiseman, came from Vanderbilt. He is a left-handed hitter with some power.
The team also believes it can never have enough pitching. In fact, of the 40 players selected, 21 were pitchers from the collegiate ranks.
"There is so much projection and there is so much guesswork taking a high-school pitcher -- I believe in taking those guys at the top," assistant general manager Kris Kline said. "But with the college pitchers, they have established themselves. We know what they are. There is no guesswork. We understand we are seeing what we are getting. If they have size and they are durable, there is a place in the big leagues."
Of the pitchers the Nationals drafted, the most recognizable was Mariano Rivera Jr., the son of the great Yankees closer.
Rivera went 5-7 with a team-best 2.65 ERA for Iona in 2015. He was named the MAAC Pitcher of the Year this past season, and he was also named to the All-MAAC First Team, leading the conference in strikeouts with 113.
Rivera posted a dominating 11.96 strikeouts per nine innings and a 12.87 K/9 rate in conference play. He held opposing batters to a .211 average against, and he kept conference hitters to a .155 average. Rivera threw six complete games -- one shy of the Iona record -- and he led the MAAC with three shutouts in 85 innings pitched. He was a three-time recipient of the MAAC's Pitcher of the Week Award.
Kline believes pitching is the reason Major League teams win World Series titles. He gave the example of Tony La Russa and the Cardinals winning championships because of their pitching staff.
"Some of those guys were starters that he used at the back end of the bullpen, and they had success doing that," Kline said. "So the more pitching you have, the more depth you have. There is a certain comfort level there. It's depth that you need at that spot because you never know what's going to happen."
Left-hander Grant Borne, Washington's seventh-round pick from Nicholls State (La.) can't wait to throw for the Nationals. He already asked about his contract, according to Kline.
"He is a big kid, has a beautiful delivery, has a starter look about him," Kline said. "He has a fastball that goes up to 92 mph, a plus changeup and an average breaking ball. It's going to get better. He has a chance to be real good. We see him as a back-end-of-the-rotation starter."
After the Draft ended, Kline believed the Nationals had a great three days selecting amateur players.
"The first three guys [which also include high-school center fielder Blake Perkins], we got are super athletic," Kline said. "They are really good athletes. These guys are highlight reels. They are above-average defenders right now in the big leagues."