May 052014
 

Ed. Note: Julie Goldberg, a veteran minor-league team employee for several teams over the past nine seasons — including the Hagerstown Suns in 2005 and the Potomac Nationals currently — gives us this dispatch from the Legends-Suns game last night in Hagerstown.

Photo Credit: Joshua Mitchell via Twitter

Hagerstown, MD – The Hagerstown Suns put on a balanced offensive show in a 10-8 win over the Lexington Legends Sunday evening at Municipal Stadium. The win improves the Suns’ record to 21-7 in 2014 and keeps them 5½ games ahead of the Greensboro Grasshoppers in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division standings.

Seven of Hagerstown’s batters got at least one hit during the game, led by Wilson Ramos, who was making his first rehab start since going on the disabled list for the parent club on April 1st. Ramos went 2-for-3, with a home run and three runs batted in.

The Suns got their offense going early against Legends LHP Cody Reed. After shortstop Wilmer Difo reached on an error, he scored on Ramos’s base hit to score the game’s first run in the bottom of the 1st.

The Legends tied the game in the 2nd and the Suns retook the lead in the 3rd. Following walks to Rafael Bautista and Difo, Ramos put the Suns up by a score of 4-1 with a three-run home run over the right field wall.

It was a back-and-forth battle in the middle innings as the Legends answered with two runs of their own in the 4th inning off of Suns’ RHP Lucas Giolito. In the bottom half of the inning, Hagerstown first baseman John Wooten led off with a solo home run. The Suns tallied two more runs in the 4th after Willie Medina reached on an error and then later scored. Bautista was then hit by a pitch and scored the Suns’ third run of the inning on Difo’s sacrifice fly to extend the Hagerstown lead to 7-3.

The Suns added to their lead in the 5th inning after right fielder Estarlin Martinez walked to lead off the inning.He later scored on Medina’s sacrifice fly. With the bases loaded in the 6th inning, Isaac Ballou scored on Drew Ward’s force out at second base. Martinez then drove in Difo on a sacrifice fly to make the score 10-5.

Lexington would then tack on two unearned runs in the seventh and another unearned run in the 8th before RHP Ryan Ullman closed out the game in the 9th inning. Ullman pitched the final 3 2/3 innings to record his third save of the season.

Giolito pitched five innings, allowing three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five and improved his record to 2-0 on the season.

Hagerstown closes out their homestand tonight against Lexington with first pitch at 6:35 p.m.

Apr 282014
 

Ed. Note: Frequent commenter SoulDrummer (@souldrummer25 on the Twitters) got quite the treat when he drove up to Harrisburg…
It’s Michael Taylor’s world today and we’re only living it.

Michael Taylor with a long HR on the 1st pitch B1. It landed beyond the people on the boardwalk in CF [pic to the right]
Terry Byrom @hbgsensradio

Michael Taylor just hit his 3rd home run of the game. He’s the first #HbgSens player to hit 3 in a game since Danny Espinosa in 2010.
Geoff Morrow ‏@RageAgainstGMo

Sadly, I missed first pitch due to a long ticket line and my own meandering ways in heading up Rt. 15 to head to Harrisburg. I didn’t mind that. What I did mind is that the Senators didn’t have Terry Byrom’s radio call audibly available while we were in line. They had a weak speaker too far away from the line that wasn’t loud enough to be properly heard.

In a shocking development, the Senators managed to play several innings of good baseball. They built up a 10-1 lead. They were so far ahead that I stopped paying attention to the game after maybe the third inning or so. I struck up a conversation with this fine fellow in a Lawrence Taylor throwback jersey who just so happens to be a Hagerstown Suns ticket holder. He claimed that Drew Ward is a comparable ballplayer to Bryce Harper and far nicer as a human being. Perhaps we should all attend Giolito’s next start in Hagerstown on Friday.

Given that these are the Harrisburg Senators, they decided to revert to their tragic ways. A 10-1 lead became a 10-6 score in the top of the 7th when the persistent Bowie Baysox score five, that is five, runs off of Gabriel Alfaro. The 31-year-old Mr. Alfaro has given up 15 runs in the 11.1 innings that he has pitched.

The Senators then sent Paulo Espino into pitch the 8th inning. Mr. Espino was the International League Pitcher of the week in August of 2011. He will not be the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week for the week concluding on April 27th. Espino first drew two ground outs to the infield. But then his inner 2014 Harrisburg Senator came out. He gave up a pair of singles and a double before getting the hook with two outs and two on from Harrisburg manager Brian Daubach.

He called upon Richie Mirowski to restore order and protect a now 10-7 lead. The 25-year-old rolled a grounder to end the inning.
Thankfully, Mirowski is good at throwing baseballs, and came back out for the top of the 9th. Strikeout. Strikeout. Walk. (Because it wouldn’t be entertaining to retire the side in order, would it?)

Chien Hsien-Chang then became my favorite member of the Bowie Baysox. Why, you ask? He was the 27th out, grounding out to first to end the game and give Richie Mirowski his first save, Felipe Rivero his first win, and end a six-game losing streak.

Apr 062014
 

Editor’s note: Frequent commenter SoulDrummer gives us his take on the 4-3 loss last night

This Last Night in Bowie is going to focus more on my experience with the ballpark than with the game. Luke’s got the boxscore up. You can deduce all of the carnage from an excruciating loss.

Sen’s fall behind early on a poor peformance from starter Rob Gilliam. Lefty sidewinder Zack Jackson same in and restored order, retiring six in a row to start his night.

Slowly, the Senators eked their way back into the game and tied it up in the top of the 9th with a rally started by their current MVP, Michael Taylor, who got on, stole a base but caught in a rundown on a comebacker. He shrewdly occupied the Baysox long enough for the batter (Cutter Dykstra) to get all the way to second. Dykstra would eventually score on a Jason Martinson RBI single.

A couple of innings later, the Senators lost on a walkoff “single” that appeared to be a routine grounder to second that was poorly played from my poor view of the play. Wonder what Terry Byrom’s call on the radio sounded like.

Maybe they just wanted to go home. It was chilly for some by that time and the management was just praying that somebody would stick around long enough for what turned out to be an excellent fireworks show, better than many of the ones that I’ve seen at Nats Park.

photo(8)The most important part of this game is that I’ve been given a powerful tool for bringing positive change to the Natmosphere: Michael Taylor’s game-used, slightly cracked bat. He observed me the whole game, acting like a fool praising him to high heaven. If the Bowie Baysox team and fans know one player who is likely to defeat them, that player is most likely Michael Taylor.

Start to finish, here’s Last Night In Bowie. Bowie is not in downtown DC so it takes a bit of doing to get out there. I took a bus out to New Carollton and then a cab to get to the stadium. Landon, who sold me my ticket online, and a friendly saleswoman gave me my ticket at will call and directed me to the Angus Burger stand for pregame refreshment — beans, slaw, and a burger, which ran me about $12, plus a souvenir cup with a Baysox schedule for another $5. The burger was merely okay. Slaw and beans were fine.

One cool thing: The Baysox will give you an Orioles passport at their Customer Relations stand, which you can get stamped as you hit all of their affiliates.

photo(7)They had the absolutely most adorable choir of elementary school students sing the National Anthem. They were so amped before heading out to do their patriotic duty. There was even a kid dancing in the aisle to the National Anthem.

Bowie needs to get a better scoreboard. It was useless in informing me of players and stats during the game. Thankfully, there was a Philly fan sitting next to me scoring along with the game in my seats above the Senators dugout. He helped me fill out my scorebook with the lineups so that I only need to do minor edits from the online boxscore if I choose to make it fully accurate.

There were a couple of kids right behind me who had a ball harassing me, a vile opposing fan, by yelling “CHARGE!” as loud as they could every time that the Baysox were up at bat. All in good fun! I took it in stride. I clowned and encouraged players throghout the game. Sadly, I was unable to share my karaoke skills. I did, however, did some line dancing and was a hit on “I Like To Move It, Move It” during the extra innings.

The Senators were poorly represented in the fairly sparse crowd, but there was one City Island regular behind me who I schooled on this website and the Washington Nationals farm system. I also shook Terry Byrom’s hand when I went up to the concourse to charge my phone. Terry is the voice of the Senators, and he’s a totally class act.

I was extremely pleased by the customer service that I received throughout the stadium. While I would prefer to be loyal to Nats affiliates like the P-Nats and Suns, the Baysox are clearly the best value and most professional operation of all the minor-league teams near DC.

As the weather got colder and the game drifted into extra innings, families slowly filtered out of the stadium before the game was over. The hardy few enjoyed a thriller, though, and everybody went home happy.

May 182013
 

[Ed. Note:] These are the thoughts of my friend Shawn, a.k.a. one of my “spies in Hagerstown,” on the Suns position players. And again, don’t forget to visit his blog Musings about Sports and other important items

This team winning stuns me. The old phrase “More than the sum of its parts” is pretty dead on.

CATCHERS
Behind the plate, Pedro Severino has been impressive with his arm… as in a big-time, MLB-level arm. Offensively, he’s made contact, but lacks pop. Considering he doesn’t turn 20 until July, I’m intrigued. I’ve only seen Craig Manuel play once,so I’ll reserve judgement

INFIELDERS
Shawn Pleffner got off to a hot start, but slumped thereafter. The 6’5″ Pleffner makes me think of former organizational soldier Tim Pahuta, especially when you consider Pleffner turns 24 before the season ends.

Mike McQuillan plays both first and third and runs well, but doesn’t make a ton of contact and the Rory McElroy lookalike has not fielded smoothly in his starts at third, where he has played more often.

Tony Renda came to town with the most publicity. Renda makes me think of a ceiling/floor scenario. His ceiling? Think Steve Lombardozzi as they have similar skills. The floor? Sean Nicol. A great guy to have around, but struggling with the bat. Renda runs well, but has made eight errors and will kick the routine play.

Stephen Perez has made the plays at shortstop, but I think the bat has to pick up. I am not sure that will happen. Perez looks to be an org. soldier to me.

Khayyan Norfork puts the ball in play and can play around the infield, but he is 24 already and still here in Low-A. He’s the type of player that plays hard and is nice to have around, but is not a real prospect. I would not be surprised if Norfolk winds up to be much like Nicol and stick around on character and versatility for a nice minor-league career.

Wes Schill knows how to take a walk (20) and has command of the strike zone, but lacks power and doesn’t make a ton of contact.

Hunter Bailey never seems to play when I get to the games, but one extra-base hit in 42 at-bats with an average under .200 makes one wonder. Both Bailey and Schill are old for the level and I would scratch them from the list.

OUTFIELDERS
Brandon Miller leads the team in homers, but has struck out almost fifty times by mid-May = red flag alert right there. Miller has been an all-or-nothing player thus far and already (recurring theme) is 23.

Wander Ramos shows impressive tools and hit one of the longer homers that I’ve seen in a while, but swings and misses a lot and is… wait for it… 23. Something about those tools gives me a reason to give Ramos more time.

Estarlin Martinez hit just .191 before being injured, but was just starting to rev up with the bat before the injury. I’m interested in watching him when he returns.

J.R.Higley is still around and doesn’t do anything better than he did before. For a player that turns 25 in a month, I am befuddled on why he is still around these parts.

Haven’t seen Will Pinwica-Worms or Carlos Lopez play enough to form an opinion.

PITCHERS

Brett Mooneyham was impressive until being injured after his third start. Mooneyham has the “college guy/should dominate” tag on him, but I liked what I saw.

Pedro Encarnacion has been the breakout prospect over the first few weeks. Keeps the ball down, lets his fielders do the work.

Dixon Anderson has great numbers and is striking out almost a batter an inning and looks like a different pitcher than the fellow that arrived at the end of last season. Downside… he turns 24 before the season ends. Like Blake Schwartz, if the Nationals want to look at him seriously, he will need to see Potomac soon.

Ivan Pineyro has improved of late, but overall has been erratic in my view. Still needs more looks.

Ronald Pena has above-average stuff and below-average command.

David Fischer was promoted to Potomac and only two bad games make Fischer’s numbers look worse than he has pitched. The UConn Huskie had an almost 4 to 1 K to BB ratio.

Kylin Turnbull had an awful stat line in his last home start, due to a gusting wind blowing out to right, but his other starts have not been much more impressive. Almost 24, almost ready to give up on as a prospect if things do not turn around.

Will Hudgins has looked strong when I have seen him and his 12 K’s in 12 innings makes me consider him a player to watch.

I didn’t think Brian Dupra looked much different than last season, but someone must have as he was promoted to High A. The organization must think more of him than I do.

Brian Rauh has been hammered, but he still strikes people out (21 in 23 IP). Rauh has been really bad when he has been bad, so keep that in mind.

Bryan Harper, Travis Henke and Robert Benincasa are pitchers that I have seen very little of — Harper and Benincasa, just once and Henke not at all.

Henke turns 25 in July, so I’d rule him out. Benincasa is being used as the closer and the Nats’ track record is that they move guys quicker who close. Harper has the advantage of being a lefty and another obvious advantage as well.

I know this sounds pessimistic for a first-place team leading their division by four games as of this writing, but this is not a team loaded with prospects. In the Sally League, a team filled with older players wins games over teams with more true prospects due to age and experience. It also appears the North Division is the weaker of the two as only Hagerstown and Hickory are over .500 with all but one team in the South is at .500 or better.

The Washington Nationals appear to be slow-tracking their high schoolers and sending their college players to Hagerstown. Is that because of the state of Municipal Stadium? Perhaps, but one thing is certain: If the Nationals continue to send these types of players to Hagerstown, the Suns will contend for Sally League titles, but they will not produce very many future Nationals.

Oct 112012
 

Ed. note: Another on-the-ground report from frequent commenter TBRFan.
Yesterday’s game was not very good for the Nats’ farmhands, losing 7-0 to the Astros’ minor-leaguers.

The Nats were never seemingly in this game, and you could tell that they were ready to go home, as this was the last game of the instructional league program. Even the umpires were “late” to the show, pulling in on a utility vehicle through the centerfield wall at exactly 10 a.m., the players waiting on the field for them to show up. Since the bats did little or nothing, I’ll focus on the pitchers.

Taylor Jordan pitched the first two innings. He allowed two singles and a sacrifice fly that scored a run in the first. In the second, he gave up a double, with that runner scored on a crazy broken-bat single with flying shards of wood that almost cleaned out the entire Nats’ coaching staff, who were sitting in folding chairs outside of the dugout. The Nats were able to nail him trying to stretch it into a double. Jordan struck out the next two to finish his outing strong.

Robbie Ray pitched the 3rd and 4th innings, giving up a HUGE home run. The Houston batter put it about 30 feet past the 404 mark on the left-center field wall, nearly hitting the team bus while traveling through a bunch of palm trees. Ray also notched two K’s, with one coming when he was down in the count 3-0, and walked one.

Pedro Encarnacion pitched the 5th and 6th innings, giving up no runs and only allowing one single. He got a big caught-looking whiff in the 6th. The batter was not pleased and stood in the box for a good 10 seconds before slowly moving out.

Kylin Turnbull pitched in the 7th, and the wheels started to fall off the bus for the Nats — single, error, infield single, sacrifice hit… it just kept on coming as the ‘Stros tacked on their fifth run.

It got no better in the 8th with Michael Boyden pitching. He got two flyouts to start, then a double, a walk, and a two-run triple. It wasn’t pretty.

By the 9th inning, the sidearm pitcher Hollins came in and closed out the game, giving up a double to the first batter, but getting a fly ball that send the runner to third and then stranded him there with tapper back to the mound and a grounder to third.

As for hitting, as previously mentioned, the bats were mostly silent: two-out singles for starters Michael Taylor and Adrian Sanchez; a walk and a leadoff double for Randolph Oduber; a one-out single for Tony Renda in the 7th and a leadoff walk for Shawn Pleffner in the 9th.

For anyone that is a minor-league baseball fan, I still believe the instructional league is where you want to be. I was one of TWO fans, the other a retiree from Orlando – nice guy! Cheering is, well, not really needed –- if you let out a hoot or holler, EVERYONE hears you. Plus, there are no foul balls to be had. Players collect them up and throw them back on the field. Players not in the game? They shag foul balls, sing songs, mock the other players, run the radar guns, chat with other players, or play batboy (really)! Heck, they were mowing the grass today during the game. Imagine pitching to the sound of the leaf blower coming out of the tunnel.

For the purists/junkies, it’s almost like a “field of dreams” type of game. You see all the players you love, minus all the screaming kids, drunk fans, and people that are just disinterested in what’s going on. Today’s game had NO scoreboard, NO music, no concessions. If you don’t keep score, you’d have no idea the inning, score, anything. It’s just a game… and that’s the way (at least in my little world) it should be.

At the end of the game, the coaches gave a pep talk, told the players to clean out lockers and turn in their gear. And that was it… the players went out the same gate I did, and they walked the 200 yards to the training complex and went home. I was delighted to get a thank-you and a wave from a bunch of players that recognized me from the games I attend at Memorial Stadium. That’s why I keep coming, and cross my fingers for each of them to get a taste of the big leagues some day.

Oct 102012
 

Editor’s note: Frequent commenter TBRFan is Florida and here are some observations from yesterday’s Nationals-Braves game, which the Nats won, 6-2

I showed up at noon for what I had been told was a 1 p.m. and it was already in the 4th inning. There were about five fans and eight-to-ten scouts; the rest were players and grounds crew. The most entertaining part of the day was the scoreboard crew (yes, this time there was a scoreboard!) playing Earth, Wind and Fire between innings, which drew rave reviews from the Nats coaches, who were saluting their caps to the booth and dancing on the field (Tony Tarasco, in particular, had the hips a-swingin’). A close second was the home plate umpire calling a balk on a Braves pitcher, and the Atlanta coaches from yelling from the dugout “it’s instructional league, let it go man!” which drew some chuckles.

So let’s get down to what I saw…
The Braves had NO names on their jerseys, and there were no rosters to be had. The inning I got there, a #50 for ATL was pitching, and he was throwing pitches so hard you’d think he was going to break the catchers hand. Control was good and within reason for this level.

Nick Lee was the pitcher in the top of the 5th, he got a groundout, a flyout, and a strikeout with a wicked hard* slider that froze the batter and got “ooohhh’s” from the minimal crowd. I was impressed with what I saw, considering Luke’s report of not Lee being a hard thrower. The catcher’s glove was popping from his pitches.*Original wording, and an excellent New England-style double adjective. Very smahht.

Batting in the bottom of the 5th, Tony Renda laid down a nice bunt to get to first. Mike McQuillan walked. Destin Hood doubled to score Renda while McQuillan took third. Kevin Keyes struck out swinging for the first out. Michael Taylor had a sac fly to center, then Caleb Ramsey walked. Raudy Read then grounded out to third to end the inning, the Nats now up 3-1.

In the 6th, Stephen Perez walked, then Wilmer Difo had a sacrifice bunt. Renda got a RBI ground-rule double over the right fielder’s head that was hit a TON, but Perez was stopped at third. Mcquillan got a sac fly to plate Perez, then Estarlin Martinez blooped double to left that drove in Renda. Keyes got a walk, which I like to see for the big guy, then Randolph Oduber came up and struck out to end the inning. The Nats scored twice in the inning to take a 5-1 lead.

It was Miller time in the 7th, as Brandon went into LF and Justin went behind the plate. Offensively, they walked and doubled to push the sixth and final Nats run across. After a strikeout, a walk put runners on 1st and 2nd, but a the Nats flew out and grounded out to strand two and go up 6-1. The eighth was also a 1-2-3 affair for the Nats.

After Lee, Casey Selsor pitched the 6th and part of the 7th. He gave a walk and a HR to account for the second Atlanta run and was pulled with one. Robert Benicasa followed, getting two quick outs to finish the inning. He struck out the first batter in the 8th, but then loaded the bases with a walk and two singles. Derek Self ended the threat with a double play to end the 8th but then proceeded to create a one-out jam of his own in the 9th with a hit batsman and a single before rolling two groundouts to end the game.

Justin Miller caught the last three innings of the game and had some the growing pains you’d expect from a convert to the position, but was otherwise serviceable. Keyes caught everything that was thrown his way. Surprisingly, there were no errors during the six innings that I saw.

Next up: the Nats vs. the Astros.

Jun 112012
 

For the second straight year, the Washington Nationals pulled off a big shock at the MLB draft, grabbing players once thought to be sure-fire (or close to it) #1 overall picks who fell due to injury concerns. In 2011, the Nationals were picking 6th overall, where they got a great college hitter with injury concerns in Anthony Rendon. They were able to pay him big money and give him a major-league contract.Last week, the Nats grabbed flamethrowing righthander Lucas Giolito out of Harvard-Westlake HS in California with the #16 overall pick.

Giolito had injury concerns going in (elbow) and supposedly high demands, but unlike last year with Rendon, Washington can’t give the SoCal kid a big-league contract or sign him to a $5 million dollar deal to secure his services — thanks to the new CBA that eliminated the former practice and has severely curtailed big spending that the Nationals and other organizations (e.g. Pittsburgh) have done the past three years.

The strategy of the draft changed immensely over the past year with the new slotting system. The Nationals were only allotted $4.436M in their bonus pool (and can spend up to $4.658, 5% above the slot amount, without losing a draft pick). I won’t go too far into the dollar details (read Brian Oliver’s “Gioloto Savings Plan” for a fantastic rundown), but the Nationals will likely have somewhere in the $2.8-$3 million range to spend in Gioloto due to their conservative drafting in rounds 2-10.

By my count, the Nationals drafted 32 signable players: 15 college seniors, 11 college juniors, three junior college players and three high schoolers in the top 20 rounds. I don’t expect any HS picks from Freddy Avis (25th round) or later to end up with the Nationals (and 15th rounder Brandon Smith is a stretch as well). [Ed. Note: This may spare you numerous puns with 26th rounder Skye Bolt, who is indeed a speedster]

Last year, the Nationals signed all of their seniors (though the contracts of Sean Cotten and Tony Nix were voided according to Baseball America, likely due to failed physicals) and only missed out on two junior college (JuCo) players and three college juniors in the top 30 rounds.

Two JuCos (14th round RHP Jordan Poole and 16th round RHP Roland Pena),fall into the “maybe they won’t sign category” while 30th, 32nd, 35th and 38th round college juniors RC Orlan, Mike Mudron, Cory Bafidis and Jared Messer could spur the Nats to head back for their senior seasons as well, but any given guy listed above is likely seen by the Nats as a 50/50 or better to sign (remember, they called players before drafting them to make sure they were interested in signing).

My academic background as a history major prompted me to look at the 2011 draft and see where players were assigned after being drafted. While the signing deadline moved up to mid-July rather than mid-August, the signed majority of players who signed with the team did so very quickly; it was only the higher-round guys who held out until the last minute.

Twenty players were drafted, signed and appeared with the Nationals in at least one level of affiliated ball in 2011 (those who signed but did not play affiliated ball in 2011: Rendon, Meyer, Goodwin, Purke, Turnbull, Anderson and Pleffner). Eleven of the 20 (all college juniors or seniors) started in Auburn, and 36th rounder Ben Hawkins moved up to Auburn after spending two weeks in the GCL. We’ll just call it 12.

The eight that started and stayed in the GCL ranged from Deion Williams (the lone high schooler signed last year), Nick Lee (JuCo sophomore) and six college players: Todd Simko (junior), Erick Fernandez (senior), Bobby Lucas, Jr. (senior), Ken Ferrer (senior), Bryan Harper (junior) and Trey Karlen (senior). The elder Harper signed around the same time the top guys did, so his GCL start is no surprise. The other five were a slew of senior signs and projects; teaching Simko how to use his good stuff, Lucas how to improve his control and getting Erick Fernandez likely factored into the decisions to send them to the GCL.

In 2012, the Nationals will likely see the HS and JuCo players who sign head to the GCL as well as some late-round projects/injury-plagued guys (Austin Dicharry, LJ Hollins and Cory Bafidis come to mind if they sign) and will send most other draftees to Auburn. I wouldn’t be surprised to see three or four of the arms drafted in the 22-32 range end up in the GCL due to a numbers game, but if we use last year as a rule of thumb, it looks like most college bats that sign will end up in Auburn.

Jun 042012
 

Hi everyone,

Sean Hogan here (@seanhoganvt). I will be liveblogging the entire first round (plus supplemental!) of the draft tonight, so keep this page and your F5 button handy.

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The Astros surprise everyone and choose Puerto Rican high school SS Carlos Correa, who I considered for the #1 spot on my big board before eventually settling for Byron Buxton. Has similar upside to Buxton but is a SS and should be able to stick around there. Kudos to the Astros for being brave. I really like Correa.

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The Astros’ pick of Correa creates a chain reaction that likely made the Twins pretty happy, getting to choose between Buxton and Appel. They chose Buxton, which is a bit of a risk as a HS bat, but #1 on my board. Buxton isn’t exactly the prototypical “toolsy” HS hitter, as he doesn’t have plus plus power, but does have a special arm and blazing speed.

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Florida C Mike Zunino to Seattle at #3. Honestly, I don’t see the excitement surrounding him. He doesn’t have true star potential and his swing isn’t a sure thing to keep working against better pitching. I can see Zunino being a solid, league average catcher with an all star season in an exceptional year, but Seattle could have chosen a better player here in my opinion.

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Orioles had a ton of options here. Interesting to see they had Gausman above Appel on their board. I like Gausman more and more every day (more because he started off pretty low in my mind), but he still lacks good enough secondary stuff at the moment. With the right pitching coach, though, he could turn into a Verlander. Pretty solid pick here.

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Royals grab Kyle Zimmer. My #3 guy due to the ace potential, but another big risk/reward guy. As they just mentioned on MLB Network, he’s got a great stuff/control combination for someone so new to pitching. Appel keeps falling.

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Almora to the Cubs is the most predictable pick so far. Rates as above-average across the board but with no true plus tool. I like him in CF and think he’ll develop more speed and a higher OBP but less power than MLB Network’s Adam Jones comparison.

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San Diego was known to be on HS LHP Max Fried for a while, but I think Appel would have been a better choice here. Fried is considered to be pretty low risk for a HS pitcher (which inherently are huge risks) and should move through the organization. But Appel is a tier above Fried as this draft class’ pitchers go and must be asking for the moon in cash.

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Appel finally drops to Pittsburgh at 8. Great pick for them. Let the Deven Marrero to DC rumors begin…

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The Marlins take LHP Andrew Heaney. Doesn’t have ace potential, but should be a pretty solid mid-rotation starter with low end #2 potential. Reminds me of Ross Detwiler when he was drafted. As a guy who doesn’t like the Fish, I’m happy to see them take a guy without a ton of upside, but not a bad pick by any means. Heaney was one guy I thought the Nats would be very interested in at 16 if he dropped to them.

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Rockies take OF David Dahl. Known to be a bit of a loafer, but can hit, run and play great defense. Can turn into a beast of a leadoff hitting CF if all breaks well, but a lot depends on his effort level. Also doesn’t have much power potential. Decent pick, as he was #12 on my board.

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Not a huge fan of A’s pick Addison Russell. I don’t think he sticks at SS and don’t think he’ll be able to hit high-level pitching. Best case scenario he turns into an Ian Desmond-type SS or a slightly above average 3B, but he was #30 on my big board for a reason.

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Mets go with prep SS Gavin Cecchini. #21 on my big board, can make it to the big leagues as a fielder/speedster, but lacks power (even of the line drive variety). He’s a good contact hitter, but is going to have to be really good at beating out infield hits if he wants to be a ML starter.

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White Sox take Courtney Hawkins. Has a long swing, but could have dynamite power if he gets it straightened out. Definitely a project, but could pay huge rewards. Needs to find a better tie (for those of you watching MLB Network). His backfip probably just made Kenny Williams poop his pants, but as a David Wilson fan, I thought it was cool.

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Reds go way off my board with prep RHP Nick Travieoso. Huge arm, huge upside, huge risk. He’s got ace potential, but bust floor. I think he ends up as a reliever, but if he can improve his secondary stuff and continue his control improvements, he can be good. Glad my team didn’t take him, though.

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The Indians take Tyler Naquin. I love the bat (he will hit .300 at some point I’m convinced), but he can’t play any better than average CF and doesn’t have enough power to play a corner. Won’t kill you if he ends up in CF, though.

I expect Nats to choose between Wacha, Marrero and Stroman, leaning towards Wacha (although I like Marrero more than Wacha).

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Nats select RHP Lucas Gioloto. You’ll be reading about him at Nationals Prospects for a long time because he’s not ML ready. Has the highest ceiling out of all pitchers in the draft, but as a HS pitcher with injury concerns (UCL sprain held him out all season), you just never know. But WOW, hell of a value pick. 4th straight year the Nats have gotten a guy who would have been 1st overall without injury concerns (well, Stras and Harper didn’t have those concerns, but you know what I mean). Fell to 14 on my big board due to injury concerns, but I’m no doctor.

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Blue Jays pick DJ Davis has incredible speed, 20 HR pop, great range but a terrible arm. Juan Pierre comparisons work for me, but with more power obviously. Elite leadoff potential. I really like this pick for Toronto. #18 on my big board.

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Dodgers selection 3B Corey Seager has a projectable bat with sneaky power (25+ HR potential). Lower risk than most other HS bats, but doesn’t have elite upside. Good pick and good value – #16 on my board.

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And to think, I had RHP Michael Wacha all written up for the Nats at 16. He’s #10 on my list – doesn’t stand out at anything, but is above average across the board and has 3 good pitches to go with excellent control. I see Jon Garland comps everywhere, and I’m sure the Cardinals would be happy with that.

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Giants take another solid college RHP in Chris Stratton. I’m not as high on him as I am on Wacha, but could develop into a nice starter if he can develop a solid third pitch. Although so could a lot of other players. At worst, he’ll be a solid reliever.

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Braves take HS RHP Lucas Sims. Nats were rumored to be after him for a while (maybe just to annoy the Braves?), but I never really considered their interest in him to be that serious. Slight overdraft (#29 on my board) but I think he’ll end up as a starter more than a lot of people do, apparently.

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It’s probably no surprise to you, but I think Marcus Stroman is an amazing pick for the Blue Jays. He was #5 on my big board and can contribute immediately (aka signing today, pitching tomorrow) in an ML bullpen. I think the Jays would be silly to not at least try him as a starter, but his worst case scenario is as an excellent reliever.

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Cardinals choose a college senior in FSU 2B/OF James Ramsey. Will sign for way under-slot and allow Cardinals to spend some cash in the compensation rounds. Naquin-lite…profiles better at 2B if he can stick there, but likely a .280-.290 hitter peak with not a whole lot else.

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Devin Marrero finally goes to the Red Sox. I was significantly higher on him than most (#9 on my list) and still think he’ll turn into a good SS. You can never have enough middle infielders, and he’s a great fielder, so I think this is a great pick.

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Richie Shaffer is a great value pick for the Rays at 25. #15 on my board due to his combination of defense, plate discipline and developing power. Might have to move to a corner OF position rather than 3B, but with Longoria at 3B anyways, it won’t be an issue for Tampa Bay. Shaffer will make it into their lineup somewhere.

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Stryker Trahan to the Diamondbacks is about where I figured he’d end up. If you think he can stick behind the plate, this is a good value. If not, will he hit enough to play OF? He’s got solid power and a great arm, but question marks about his ability to make contact. There weren’t really any surer bets on the board, but were some guys with more upside like Joey Gallo.

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The Brew Crew have back to back picks at 27 & 28. With pick 27, they went with prep C Clint Coulter. He barely missed my top 30, but I like his power and defense behind the plate. Not amazing upside, but looks like a good shot at being an average or a little better catcher that can put up 20 homers a few times.

Brewers take OF Victor Roache with pick 28. Massive, massive power. Not a whole lot of tools beside the power, but damn, he has some impressive power. Power power power power.

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Texas goes with Lewis Brinson, another prep OF. This is a better place to take a risk on a toolsy high school kid with bat issues than top 15 like some other teams did, so a solid pick by Texas. Good situation for Brinson because of Texas’ minor league depth, so they can keep him in the minors for extra development.

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The Yankees grab HS RHP Ty Hensley. Super high potential, love his stuff (especially curveball), but far from the majors. Could use some help with his command. Great pick. #24 on my big board.

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Boston takes LHP Brian Johnson from Florida. I’m skeptical about his potential long-term. His secondary pitches are solid but his fastball will be knocked around by big league hitters (especially AL East batters). Looks like a #5 starter or LOOGY to me. A stretch here, but Boston could be saving $ for their next pick. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Boston or St. Louis grab Joey Gallo in the compensation round here.

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Puerto Rican HS RHP Orlando Berrios to the Twins at 32. Small, throws hard, could be a shutdown reliever.

Florida HS RHP Zach Eflin goes to Padres. #2 potential, great pick.

HS SS Daniel Robertson to Oakland at 34. Don’t know a lot about him, but from what I’ve just read, he’s a good contact hitter that plays above his talent level (a la Lombardozzi?)

Mets take C Kevin Plawecki from Purdue. Not a lot of pop, can hit for average, but profiles as a backup/platoon guy.

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Steve Piscotty, a 3B from Stanford, goes to the Cardinals. Looks more like a bench/platoon guy due to the lack of high-end power or defense, but wouldn’t be surprised if he turned into a league average 3B.

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Red Sox take RHP Pat Light from Monmouth. An overdraft, but has pitched in the northeast and can dial it up to the mid 90s.

Brewers take OF Mitch Haniger from Cal Poly. I like his contact tool and think he can be a 50+ guy across the board.

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Joey Gallo finally goes to the Rangers. Huge power, huge arm on the mound, can he turn either into greatness? Plus plus power/arm, but meh contact with the bat and control on the mound.

Phillies grab California HS RHP Shane Watson. Don’t like his control, but has 2 very good pitches. Needs to add a 3rd (or since I don’t like the Phillies, he can stick with 2).

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Houston goes with prep RHP Lance McCullers. Great arm, and a great pick at #41. I was afraid the Nats would grab him too high, but #41 is fantastic value for him. Correa + McCullers would be a great combination for a team that is dying for talent.

Twins grab RHP Luke Bard from Georgia Tech with pick #42. An overdraft, especially given his current injury concerns. Looks like a bullpen arm to me like his brother.

Fergie Jenkins and the Cubs take RHP Pierce Johnson from Missouri State with pick 43. I like this pick a lot for the Cubbies. #32 on Baseball America’s big board. Lots of K’s come from his arsenal of pitches led by his fastball.

The Padres select OF Travis Jankowski from the Cinderella story of the NCAA baseball tournament, Stony Brook. Good speed, defense and contact, not a lot of power or arm, though. Baseball America compares his swing to Dustin Ackley.

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The Pirates take OF Barrett Barnes from Texas Tech 45th overall. Reminds me a ton of Drew Stubbs due to his power, speed and defense combo with that goes along with mediocre contact and a bunch of K’s.

The first local player off the board, RHP Eddie Butler from Radford goes 46th to the Rockies. His pitches don’t do a lot for me (not a lot of movement, decent control), but he throws hard and could be a solid reliever.

The A’s go with Georgia HS 1B Matt Olson. More HS talent that can hit for Oakland. I think he’ll hit for more average than power in the pros, but could do both.

White Sox take Keon Barnum, a HS 1B from Florida. Plus power, questionable contact, probably a bit of an overdraft here.

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Cincinnati takes Florida HS OF Jesse Winker, a guy who should hit for average but again I am skeptical about the power.

The Blue Jays are killing it, now grabbing HS LHP Matt Smoral. If he’s not injured, he’s a top 15 pick. He’s tall as hell, but doesn’t have as bad mechanical issues as a lot of tall guys do (aka Alex Meyer).

The Dodgers go with Jesmuel Valentin, a Puerto Rican HS SS. I like his defense a lot, but don’t know about the bat contact-wise.

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St. Mary’s 3B Patrick Wisdom goes to St. Louis at #52. I think the bat is better than his 2012 stats. Decent defense at 3B too.

Rangers go with a HS RHP Collin Wiles at #53. Considered to be unsignable or close to it according to Baseball America, he’s not that impressive to me but projectable at 6’4″ 180 lbs.

Phillies get RHP Mitch Gueller, a talented pitcher who could turn into something if he can get more consistent.

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The Padres go with high school righty Walker Weickel. Right now he only throws an 89 MPH fastball, but at 6’6″ 180 or so he can add some velocity. Good secondary pitches for a prep guy.

The Cubbies take HS RHP Paul Blackburn from California. He’s got 3 really good pitches. Signability is questioned by some and not by others, but I think the Cubs have a chance to sign him.

The Reds take UCLA OF Jeff Gelalich, another college outfielder with a pretty good contact tool but little power and a questionable ability to play CF in the pros.

The Blue Jays take a prep 3B in Mitch Nay. Haven’t heard much on him, but it looks like he’s got some power, a nice arm and could hit for average contact.

The Cards select Texas HS C Steve Bean, a guy with an excellent arm who can hit for solid contact and could develop into a decent power hitter. I like this pick a lot.

The Blue Jays grab Texas HS RHP Tyler Gonzales. Baseball America says he’s the nephew of Nats crosschecker  Jimmy Gonzales, and I’m sure Uncle Jimmy would have loved to select his nephew when the Nats pick first tomorrow. It sounds like his delivery is violent enough to be an injury concern. Will probably end up as a back-end bullpen guy.

Looks like that’s it for tonight. Thanks to Luke for having me and to anyone who read this far! Check back on me this week with more Nats draft coverage at DC is for Baseball and 2012 Nationals Draft Info.

May 292012
 

Ed. Note: This is Part 3 of Sean Hogan’s three-part series on the 2012 Nationals Draft. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here.

If they fall to #16, grab them up immediately
OF Byron Buxton (Appling County HS, GA) – Currently the #1 guy on my board. Very athletic, with great tools across the board (Keith Law rates both his speed and arm as an 80… an 80 arm is Ankiel/Harperesque). Buxton is one example of when you should NOT be scared off by the label of “toolsy.” Only an injury or an outrageous salary demand will drop him to the Nats.

RHP Mark Appel (Stanford University) – The draft is all about taking guys with the right tools and molding them into major league ballplayers, and Appel is the perfect example. He’s the safest option at #1 overall due to his projectability, but doesn’t necessarily have ace potential as it stands. Law says that he is more hittable than he should be, so he could be a minor project for an organization’s pitching coaches.

C Mike Zunino (University of Florida) – The best college bat on the market led the SEC in TB, H, R, 2B and HR last season. Did I mention he is a solid defensive catcher? His swing is currently a little too long, and he’s struggling in SEC play this season, but he should still be long gone before the Nats pick.

SS Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy HS) – You can dream on the glove (if he ends up at 3B) and the power. Correa is probably the biggest risk/reward type in the top half of the first round. I could really see him turning into a superstar, even more than Buxton, but at a greater risk.

OF Albert Almora (Mater Academy HS, FL) – Rapidly moving up lists with great intangibles, fielding and speed. Has decent pop and can likely hit consistently enough to become a five-tool player. Not your average “toolsy” player with a short and smooth swing.

RHP Kyle Zimmer (University of San Francisco) – In my opinion, has the greatest ceiling and floor out of the top tier pitchers. He’s got four solid pitches, but needs to improve his slider and changeup to make it to the MLB level. Inconsistent at times.

RHP Kevin Gausman (Louisiana State University) – Throws hardest out of the top college pitching prospects, but without great direction and lacks a breaking ball. Is it worth taking a guy like Gausman in the top 5 when there is a high chance he turns into a power reliever? Easily my least favorite of the top tier, although he is still a major pitching prospect.

RHP Lucas Giolito (Harvard-Westlake HS, CA) – Sitting out his senior season due to an elbow injury. Fastball is excellent; at 95 MPH, it gets good movement and pairs well with his all-around good command and secondary offerings. Injury concerns crushed his draft stock for now. If he can prove to be healthy and make an encore appearance in the next month, he could end up being taken in the 5-10 range.

Probably going to be off the board well before #16, but could drop
SS Deven Marrero (Arizona State University) – Cousin of Nats 1B Chris Marrero. Great defensive SS, but question marks surround his bat. Upside is a five-tool all-star SS. I think he’ll turn into an Alex Gonzalez type (albeit with a little better plate discipline). Rumors of a lack of effort are not what you want to see when you are looking at drafting a guy high in the first round. Looks like he won’t last past Pittsburgh at #8.

LHP Max Fried (Harvard-Westlake HS, CA) – Fastball isn’t crazy impressive (90-94 MPH) but curveball is excellent. Similar scouting report to Jack McGeary, and a sizeable amount of risk goes into drafting a soft-tossing HS lefty.

3B Stephen Piscotty (Stanford University) – Has good plate discipline and power potential, but lousy defense. Youkilis build isn’t for everybody, but can pay dividends at MLB level.

RHP Michael Wacha (Texas A&M University) – Fastball and changeup are good enough to survive without a solid breaking ball in the low minors, but he’ll have to scrap something to be a solid big-leaguer. Jonathan Mayo sees him as a Jon Garland-type of pitcher, which isn’t sexy, but is definitely worth grabbing in the top 10. Safest of the 1st-round RHSPs, but lowest upside.

Likely in the Nats’ range at #16
LHP Andrew Heaney (Oklahoma State University) – Low 90s heater pairs with slider/change up that can be decent MLB pitches, but limited upside — #3 starter at best.

RHP Marcus Stroman (Duke University) – The Nats took Stroman in the 18th round of the ’09 draft. At 5’8” he’s not much of a physical specimen, but he throws a hard fastball and power curveball. His command isn’t great, and he’s likely destined to become a reliever, but could rise to the big leagues faster than any other 2012 draftee. Talk of keeping him as a starter is intriguing, but people said the same thing about Drew Storen back in 2009.

3B Richie Shaffer (Clemson University) – Good raw power and defense, with bat speed praised by Keith Law. Upside is an above-average 3B, but likely reality is MLB average.

RHP Zach Eflin (Hagerty HS, FL) – Projectable righty with a good fastball and changeup. Lacks a solid breaking ball at the moment, but could be a #2/3 if he gets one.

SS/3B Addison Russell (Pace HS, FL) – Won’t hit for excellent average, but excellent defense and power. High risk.

1B Joey Gallo (Bishop Gorman HS, NV)
– Excellent power makes his other tools look lousy by comparison, but it’s really just his excellent power looking excellent. Could be a below average fielding but mashing 3B, but more likely to play 1B. Intriguing to say the least, and the Nats’ last Nevadan teenager draft pick worked out okay.

LHP Matt Smoral (Solon HS, Ohio) – Very tall and projectable, but small injury concerns (stress fracture in foot) can turn into big ones when you’re talking about giants (6’8” and 225 lbs). If healthy, he has ace potential, with a great fastball and slider. Raw, LHP version of Alex Meyer.

SS Gavin Cecchini (Barbe HS, LA) – Has 2 very solid tools in defense and ability to hit for average, but lack of power/plate discipline keep him from being an elite prospect.

RHP Lucas Sims (Brookwood HS, GA) – Does not have a violent delivery, which is music to my ears. Decent pitches across the board, middle of the rotation starter potential.

RHP Lance McCullers (Jesuit HS, FL) – The son of the former major league reliever Lance McCullers can dial it up to 97 MPH with a great slider and a lousy changeup. He’s bound for the bullpen, with only two pitches and mediocre control, but could quickly develop into an 8th- or 9th-inning guy. Higher upside than Stroman, but much worse floor.

OF David Dahl (Oak Mountain HS, AL) – A tick below Almora and Buxton across the board with a similarly high ceiling and low floor. Mike Trout comparisons are a bit premature (I’ve also seen Adam Jones) but I think his bat is the real deal.

3B Corey Seager (Northwest Cabarrus HS, NC) – a more well-rounded 3B prospect than Russell, but a downgrade in power and defense.

OF Courtney Hawkins (Carroll HS, TX) – Your average toolsy HS player. Hawkins has a great arm and power, but has a long, strikeout-prone swing and is doubtful to remain in CF as a pro. He’s the type of player the Nats have (in my opinion, correctly) stayed away from over the last few years.

May 222012
 

[Ed. Note:] This is Part Two of a Three-Part series leading up to the Nationals 2012 Draft next month. Part One can be found here.
There are four major figures that have great influence over the Nationals draft: General Manager Mike Rizzo, Scouting Director Kris Kline, Director of Player Procurement Kasey McKeon, and Assistant GM and VP of Player Personnel Roy Clark, .

Mike Rizzo – Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager
Our fearless leader since Jim Bowden’s resignation in March of 2009, Mike Rizzo is still an interesting specimen from a drafting perspective. He previously served as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Scouting Director from 2000 to 2006. Overall (between both Arizona and DC), Rizzo has leaned heavily towards college players (75% of top 10 round picks) and pitchers (60%).

Kris Kline – Scouting Director
Kline was promoted by the Nationals to Scouting Director in 2009 after serving as Assistant Scouting Director and National Crosschecker in 2009 and originally joined the Nats in 2006 from Arizona. There’s unfortunately not a whole lot of information out there concerning Kline (or McKeon for that matter) that I could create any useful conclusions from.

Kasey McKeon – Director, Player Procurement
The son of legendary manager Jack McKeon and a former minor-league catcher, Kasey served as the scouting director for Cincinnati from 2001-02 and was an assistant to Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd for seven seasons up until being named Nationals Director of Player Procurement in 2011. While in Cincinnati, the top 10 rounds of his drafts leaned towards college players (67%) and pitchers (57%).

Roy Clark – Assistant General Manager and Vice President, Player Personnel
Clark served as the Atlanta Braves’ scouting director from 2000 up until being named Nationals Assistant GM and VP, Player Personnel in 2009. He is credited for procuring many top Braves talents (past and present) such as Brian McCann, Tommy Hanson, Adam Wainwright and Jason Heyward. While in Atlanta, the top 10 rounds of his drafts were pitching heavy (61%) but pretty even between college (55%) and high schoolers (45%). The number dropped drastically over the years, too, with only 22% of his top 10 draftees coming out of high school in his last three years in Atlanta.

I recently read Scout’s Honor by Bill Shanks, essentially an account of how the Braves scouted their way to the top of the NL East. While it was written in 2005, there is still plenty of good intel inside, including an entire chapter dedicated to Roy Clark. One of the major philosophies that Clark stressed in Atlanta is thorough scouting. He is not afraid to go off the board for a player he likes (similar with Rizzo with Jordan Zimmermann). That’s how Clark got Kevin Millwood in the eleventh round in 1993. Other teams lost interest in Millwood when his velocity was down at the beginning of his senior year in high school, but Clark knew it was because that Millwood had been playing on his school’s basketball team and couldn’t make it to baseball workouts. It worked out pretty well, as in the eleventh round of the 1993 draft, the other three guys to reach the big leagues (Glen Barker, Steve Rain and Tom Fordham) combined for -0.7 WAR in their careers. 2011 Nats tenth-rounder RHP Manny Rodriguez is a recent example of a pick based more on scouting, as he is a converted third baseman coming from a small school (Division II Barry University) who is still learning how to pitch.

Clark also emphasizes the importance of makeup, which he defined in Scout’s Honor as “the guy you want at home plate with the game on the line and he wants to be there.” He ties it in with the thorough scouting point as well, noting that “to get a good read on a kid’s makeup you can’t see him just one game or one time… I like to see a guy at his best and I like to see a guy at his worst. I like to see how he handles adversity.”

The book in general is a bit of a crusade against Moneyball, but Clark seems to lie somewhat in the middle of the stats vs. scouting argument. Excellent stats will get a player noticed by Clark quicker and mediocre stats will cause red flags, but neither will make or break a player’s draft status in Clark’s eyes. He uses himself as an example, as he was the MVP on his high school team over Lou Whitaker, who went on to enjoy an 18-year MLB career full of all-star appearances and gold gloves. I personally side with this philosophy (to some degree at least) because quality of competition and small sample sizes can skew the stats of both high school and college players alike.

The last major point Clark makes about the draft revolves around signability. The process of signing draftees has significantly changed in the seven years since the book was published, but the idea of it remains the same: Do these players want to be Washington Nationals? If yes, draft them. If no, do not. Clark’s philosophy does not suggest chasing guys with signability question marks, Matt Purke not withstanding.

Next week: A look at some potential targets for the Nationals in the 2012 Draft