2012 Nats Draft Recap

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.

2012 MLB Draft Live Thread

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

2012 Nats Draft Options: Who To Take?

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.

Getting To Know The Nats Draft Folks

[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

First Impressions: Hagerstown Edition

[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

Brian Goodwin
was very impressive offensively in his five games. I was at the game that he injured himself, grabbed the leg immediately and you knew it was trouble. Goodwin showed speed and in power in those five games. Keep in mind that we haven’t seen him struggle, just as the last memory is the best memory.

Matt Skole has done everything you can do with the bat thus far and I really like his patience. Skole is striking out a little more than I would like, but his walk total is high and I think his bat will play higher up the ladder. The real issue is the leather; I do not think Skole plays third in the long run and it might be better to move him sooner than later.

Caleb Ramsey has been better than expected, but thus far something tells me that he will not hit for power as he moves higher — just a gut feeling.

Jason Martinson has played well and has reduced his errors, but for a repeat performer has not torn the Sally League up as you would hope a true prospect would. Martinson is still striking out a lot and that is a red flag to me.

Outside of those, none of the rest show me signs of being true prospects.

I love the way Billy Burns plays, but he reminds me more of a Chris Curran type — a high-energy, slap hitter that plays the game the right way, but lacks true high-end talent.

Steven Souza is killing the ball, but he should: This after all is his fourth Hagerstown stint and he is too skilled for this level. Does this play higher? I doubt it, but he is still young enough to make a move especially considering his tools.

Cutter Dykstra is hitting for a high average as he should, but still lacks the type of pop that you would hope to see, especially when you consider the drop in level. Dykstra turns 23 next month, but he needs to make his move soon.

J.P.Ramirez seems to me to be somewhat dispirited with the demotion and it has shown in his play. I thought Ramirez would rip this league up for eight weeks and move back up, but thus far he has only hit two homers. From a player that will rise and fall with the power potential, that is a huge disappointment.

Adrian Nieto continues to show just enough potential to keep your hopes up. Nieto has some power, but still does not make the type of contact that you would like.

Bryce Ortega broke his thumb and is out of action, but in his 51 at-bats, showed no power at all — not even gap power. Ortega looks to be a organizational type to me.

Brett Newsome is exactly that: an organizational soldier.

Hendry Jimenez has murdered lefties in a small sample size, but has been pathetic against righties.

Cole Leonida looks to be viewed as a backup catcher for the second year in a row. He has not gotten a ton of at-bats, and has not taken advantage of what he has been given.

Justin Miller has hit four homers in a little over a hundred at bats, but also has 35 strikeouts, which is rather high. Considering he turns 24 in the fall, Miller’s chances of making the Potomac roster in ’13 are quite slim.

An Intro to the 2012 Washington Nationals Draft

[Ed. Note:] This is the first of three parts leading up to the 2012 Rule 4 Draft. Part Two is next Tuesday. Part Three, the Tuesday after that. As many of you know, the Draft is not my thing, so I’ve solicited someone that has that passion. Besides, Spike has no thumbs and can barely copyedit, much less write 😉 Sean and I worked together this past offseason and I’m sure we will again, as it’s my chance to get to know the new guys beyond the boxscores that I pore through every morning from April to September.

From 2007 to 2011, the Nationals, at $51 million, were second to only the Pittsburgh Pirates ($52 million) in amateur draft spending. Top-level talent like Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke were all signed to major-league contracts. In 2012, the draft will be a significantly different process for every team, but the Nats will be one of the most affected due to their free-spending ways over the past five drafts.

In 2012, there will be no more major-league contracts for draftees (unless they hold a scholarship in another sport). There will be a stupid bonus pool of somewhere between $1.6 and $12.4 million that teams cannot exceed by more than 5% without losing draft picks (in addition to the 75% luxury tax on any amount over the pool).

Draft picks after the 10th round can sign for up to $100,000 without counting against the pool. The Nationals’ bonus pool for their top 10 picks is $4,436,200, which is the 8th lowest in all of baseball. While I think the idea is ridiculous in general, I will withhold full judgment until things shake out in the 2013 draft, including changes to free-agent compensation going through a full cycle.

The deadline for signing picks will be a month earlier from now on (now mid-July rather than mid-August). “Advisors” such as Scott Boras will hold out until the last minute, so this is a ploy to make sure all players get signed fast enough to make it into some sort of affiliated ball this season. The last major change in the 2012 draft is the reduction of rounds from 50 to 40.

I’m delighted by the change; no offense to Bryce Ortega, Richie Mirowski or Tony Nix, but the 40-50th round guys are the ones hardest to dig up information about as well as the hardest to motivate myself to take time and write about. Very few players drafted after the 40th round have become major leaguers at all, but especially contributors (semi-recent exceptions include Keith Hernandez, Mike Piazza, Marcus Giles, Casey Blake, Orlando Hudson and Jason Isringhausen). With the elimination of the draft-and-follow in 2007, the excitement over the later rounds has faded some as well.

One major question surrounds the 2012 draft: Will high schoolers sign? In my book, the first five rounds or so will remain largely unchanged and the same high schoolers that would have signed before will still sign. The difference lies later in the Top 10 rounds, where teams will have to make decisions regarding their draft pools and may go for signability-type picks rather than risk losing an 8th rounder (or his attached draft pool amount).

I’m also interested to see if moving up the signing deadline will have any effect on 10+ round high schoolers signing. When the deadline was in mid-August, enrolling in college classes and going to training camps were negotiating ploys. Now with the deadline in July, those ploys won’t exist, and I think we’ll see a bigger divide between the high schoolers deemed to be signable and unsignable. Since the Nats recently have not drafted a whole lot of high schoolers, I’ll probably have to observe this in another team’s situation.

Next week, a look at the folks that make the Washington National draft decisions.

Entering The Home Stretch

[Ed. Note: Another guest column for frequent commenter BinM]

As we cross the 3/4 mark for the full-season franchises, I offer another opinionated view of the progress of each team to date…

Syracuse Chiefs (AAA) — 50-64 W-L
This team has confounded me all season. They’ve held what looked to be solid talent all year, but have never put together a run. This has surely been a disapointment for the Syracuse faithful, and for those of us who root for them from afar as well. Everything I’ve said before is still in effect, as the offense struggles and the pitching staff suffers from the constant shifts due to callups / returns from the big club.

From the hitters’ side, Chris Marrero (.308/.380/.467) and Matt Antonelli (.297/.384/.451) have been consistent, while Jhonatan Solano (.273/.322/.393) has turned it up a notch and Steve Lombardozzi (.318/.359/.436) has been a solid addition to the team. Some of the others aren’t slouches at the plate either, but either lack the ‘prospect’ cachet, or are just plain “old.”

For the pitching staff, the roster shuttle between D.C. and New York has disrupted any consistency in who manager Randy Knorr can count on. Syracuse has seen 29 different pitchers on the mound this year. Only Tom Milone (19GP, 117IP, 10.9:1 K-W, 1.03WHIP) has been dominant for the year among the starters. Craig Stammen has been steady, but unimpressive (20GP, 117⅔ IP, 3.75:1 K-BB, 1.41WHIP), as has Yunesky Maya
(17GP, 99⅓ IP, 2.83:1 K-BB, 1.30 WHIP). The latter two have both seen callups to DC this season, primarily due to their 40-man roster status. The bullpen has been a grab bag of late, but individually look to be AAA level or worse, as no one is stepping up as a real candidate for promotion.

Harrisburg Senators (AA) — 61-49 W-L
The team has stumbled since my last summary, dropping from a 3½ game lead, into second place, and are now back to a ½ game lead over Bowie in their division. Overall, the hitting has either slumped or fallen to injury, and the starters have been spotty, as the promotion of Brad Peacock left the staff without their stopper. In the bullpen, the backend is still solid, but the bridge has collapsed.

From the hitters’ side of things, the promotion of Lombardozzi (.309/.366/.454, 40RS), the trade of Bill Rhinehart (.283/.376/.587, 59RBI) and the injury to Gilbert (.298/.377/.472, 46RS), has stymied the offense of late, with no one stepping up to fill those gaps. Both Chris Rahl (.293/.343/.420, 44RS) and Tyler Moore (.273/.311/.532, 75RBI) continue to do their parts, and Norris is chipping in as well (.212/.373/.435, 56RS), but it hasn’t been enough.

The pitching is showing signs of wear as well, with Davis being demoted to Potomac after a series of bad outings; Only Arnesen (92⅔ IP, 2.53ERA, 1.09WHIP, 4.37:1 K-BB), and Shairon Martis (102⅓ IP, 3.17ERA, 1.27WHIP, 3.55:1 K-BB) have shown any stability for the starting five. Perhaps the recently promoted Danny Rosenbaum (132IP, 2.59ERA, 1.17WHIP, 2.25:1 K-BB in Potomac) will give them a boost.

From the bullpen, the combination of Cory VanAllen / Rafael Martin / Pat Lehman / Hassan Pena have been both stable and effective all year, but the bridge combo of Carlos Martinez / Jimmy Barthmaier / Pat McCoy has been high-risk, low-reward for most of the year.

Potomac Nationals (A+) — 23-20 [2nd half], 52-60 W-L overall
While the P-Nats are challenging for a playoff spot, I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that this years’ team is just a bad mix of real prospects and probable OG’s. The backend of the bullpen has been the only thing that is close to consistent all year, staffed by a couple of old-for-level arms; The starting arms (with a couple of exceptions) have been yo-yos, and the lineup (again, with exceptions) is cluttered with 2-3 tool players who will likely struggle at higher levels.

Starting with the hitters, Destin Hood (.285/.371/.467, 67RBI) and Jeff Kobernus (.281/.313/.386, 49RS, 39SB) have been getting it done all season. Sandy Leon could be a decent defensive catcher in the making. The rest of the roster, as much as I like them, is flawed. Justin Bloxom can hit, but has no glove skill; Souza plays a reasonably sound 1B, has shown both some power and patience at the plate, but has a very long swing; Perez is proving to be a one-tool player (speed), and J.P. Ramirez may have topped out at this level. The rest of the lineup and bench looks to be a collection of utility players and OG’s to me.

The starting staff will suffer from the loss of staff ace Rosenbaum (20GA, 132.0IP, 2.59ERA, 1.17WHIP, 2.25:1K-W), but still holds the lefty Sammy Solis and Cameron Selik, who both still hold promise. The bullpen has been a BB-prone minefield all season, save for the steadying influences of middle relievers Marcos Frias (22yo RH) and Joe Testa (25yo LH), setup man Josh Smoker (22yo LH), and closer Hector Nelo (24 yo RH).

Hagerstown Suns (A) — 22-21 [2nd half], 62-51 W-L overall
Slightly off the pace for a postseason appearance, the Suns are still in the hunt. They’ve maintained their offense, despite the loss of Harper (via transfer to Harrisburg) and Randolph Oduber (to injury). The starting staff remains solid as well, but the bullpen has taken a hit with some recent moves.

Offensively, they are mid-pack in most team categories, but are getting great seasons from David Freitas (.288/.416/.464, 53RS, 63RBI) and Blake Kelso (.292/.361/.357, 62RS, 43RBI), and good production out of Adrian Sanchez, Jason Martinson, Micahel Taylor, as well as Kevin Keyes, and OGs Sean Nicol and Brett Newsome.

The starting staff has been this teams’ cornerstone all season, with solid performances from 2010 draft picks Matt Grace (LH, 10-game winner to date), Robbie Ray (LH, 16GS, 2.29ERA, 1.18WHIP, 2.46:1 K-BB), and A.J. Cole (RH, 13GS, 3.82ERA, 1.24WHIP, 4.29:1 K-BB), as well as the injured Bobby Hansen, Taylor Jordan, and the since transferred Sammy Solis. On the other hand, the bullpen that looked so good through the 1st half of the season has fallen on hard times. The long relief corps of Paul Applebee and Matt Swynenberg have held steady, but the backend has fallen apart — Neil Holland (16GA, 1.13ERA, 0.92WHIP, 3.6:1K-W) was promoted to Potomac, Ben Graham (29GA, 2.95ERA, 1.21WHIP, 6Sv) just came off the DL, and Chris Manno (33GA, 0.85ERA, 0.80WHIP, 3.2:1K-W, 12Sv) was traded. No one has truly stepped in to fill that gap, but some help might be available in Auburn, depending on their late-season playoff chances.