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Draft Preview – Washington Nationals

Here is the tenth part in my series, this time focusing on the Washington Nationals and their scouting director Dana Brown.

Owner: Ted Lerner, bought club in 2006
General Manager: Mike Rizzo, became acting GM in 2009
Scouting Director: Dana Brown, first draft was 2002

Looking Back

2002 Draft: Unknown Budget

1. Clint Everts, RHP, Cypress Falls HS (TX), #5 overall: Considered a mid-first round talent, this was a bit of an overdraft by the Expos (yes, way back then).  However, Everts was considered a genuinely elite prep pitcher, and he was the teammate of fellow first-rounder Scott Kazmir.  Following players selected: Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Scott Moore.  Signing bonus: $2.5 million.
2. Darrell Rasner, RHP, Nevada, #46 overall: Rasner was considered a possible first round pick, making this pick a highly valuable one in terms of talent.  At 6’4”, 215 lbs. with a power curve, most praised this pick. Following players selected: Adam Donachie, Joshua Murray, Brent Clevlen.  Signing bonus: $800,000.
3. Larry Broadway, 1B, Duke, #77 overall: Broadway was expected to go somewhere in this range after a fairly disappointing junior season at Duke.  He had mashed on the Cape the previous Summer, but really failed to impress with his big frame in the Spring. Following players selected: Dave Jensen, Eric Thomas, Curtis Granderson.  Signing bonus: $450,000.
4. Jon Felfoldi, LHP, Glendale CC (CA), #107 overall: Felfoldi was one of the best draft-and-follow kids from the 2001 draft to not sign and re-enter the 2002 draft.  The Expos probably got a bargain in terms of draft stock, as the diminutive lefty was supposed to go a round or two earlier. Following players selected: Danny Christensen, Nic Carter, Robbie Sovie.  Signing bonus: Unknown.
5. Anthony Pearson, RHP, Jackson State, #137 overall: Once again, this was about where most expected Pearson to go.  Pearson was considered a high-risk high-reward pitcher with a nice frame and solid arm, but little results or command. Following players selected: Donnie Murphy, Jarrad Page, Bo Flowers.  Signing bonus: $200,000.
Other Notable Picks: LHP Mike O’Connor (7th), George Washington; Jason Bergmann (11th), Rutgers

2003 Draft: $3.1 Million Budget

1. Chad Cordero, RHP, Cal State Fullerton, #20 overall: This was about as stupid as it gets for a top twenty pick.  Cordero was expected to go somewhere in the third or fourth round range, and the Expos called his name for signability. Following players selected: Matt Moses, David Aardsma, Brandon Wood.  Signing bonus: $1.35 million.
2. Jerry Owens, OF, The Master’s College (CA), #57 overall: Owens was expected to go somewhere around this range, if not a bit higher.  He was rated almost universally higher than Cordero going into the draft as the result of his hit tool and speed. Following players selected: Scott Baker, Jason Hirsh, Anthony Wittington.  Signing bonus: $600,000.
3. Kory Casto, OF, Portland, #87 overall: This was another sizable overdraft, as Casto was projected to go in the 6-10 round range.  He was a solid college hitter, but didn’t really have the tools to back up any hype. Following players selected: Johnny Woodard, Drew Stubbs, Sean Rodriguez.  Signing bonus: $410,000.
4. Edgardo Baez, OF, Jose S. Alegria HS (PR), #117 overall: A fairly large-framed outfielder from Puerto Rico, Baez was supposed to go a few rounds higher before he tanked the annual Excellence Games on the island.  Still, this was solid value. Following players selected: David Shinskie, Josh Anderson, Bob Zimmerman.  Signing bonus: $250,000.
5. Trey Webb, SS, Baylor, #147 overall: Webb was an overdraft here, as he was projected to go somewhere in the 8-10 round range after a disappointing Spring.  His bat was quite bad, as was his glove, and only a weak market kept him this high. Following players selected: Brandon McArthur, Josh Muecke, Blake Balkcom.  Signing bonus: $180,000.
Other Notable Selections: 1B Josh Whitesell (6th), Loyola Marymount, $120K bonus; RHP Daryl Thompson (8th), La Plata HS (MD), $80K bonus; C Luke Montz (17th), Hill College

2004 Draft: $3.7 Million Budget

1. Bill Bray, LHP, William & Mary, #13 overall: A second consecutive first round overdraft, Bray was a college reliever with a polished repertoire.  He was expected to go somewhere in the supplemental first to second round range, making this quite bad. Following players selected: Billy Butler, Stephen Drew, David Purcey.  Signing bonus: $1.75 million.
2. Erick San Pedro, C, Miami, #54 overall: A projected third or fourth round pick, San Pedro was popped by the Expos here in the second.  He was an excellent defender behind the plate for the Hurricanes, but his bat was not good. Following players selected: Billy Buckner, Jon Zeringue, Curtis Thigpen.  Signing bonus: $650,000.
3. Ian Desmond, SS, Sarasota HS (FL), #84 overall: This was seen as a huge overdraft, as Desmond was just a solid prep player with average tools.  He was expected to go around round ten, though most thought he’d go to school at South Florida. Following players selected: Josh Johnson, Garrett Mock, Danny Hill.  Signing bonus: $430,000.
4. Collin Balester, RHP, Huntington Beach HS (CA), #114 overall: Once again, the Expos reached for someone in the fourth round, as Balester was expected to go in the fifth round at best.  At 6’5”, scouts loved his frame, but he was rather raw, even for a prep. Following players selected: Nate Moore, Ross Ohlendorf, Casey Janssen.  Signing bonus: $290,000.
5. Greg Bunn, RHP, East Carolina, #144 overall: Bunn was considered someone to watch in the 6-10 round range, but the Expos popped him a round earlier.  He had a pretty big curve in college, but some saw him as a middle reliever at best. Following players selected: Henry Barrera, Cesar Nicolas, Ryan Klosterman.  Signing bonus: $190,000.
Other Notable Picks: 3B Leonard Davis (8th), Fresno CC, $75K bonus

2005 Draft: $4.0 Million Budget

1. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Virginia, #4 overall: Zimmerman was projected to go early in the first round of the 2005 draft, and this was a solid choice by the Expos’ front office.  Lauded as a plus defender with a good hit tool, this pick made tons of sense. Following players selected: Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero, Troy Tulowitzki.  Signing bonus: $2.975 million.
2. Justin Maxwell, OF, Maryland, #114 overall: The Expos didn’t have a second or third round pick, making this one of extreme importance.  Maxwell was an injury-prone college outfielder with plus intelligence and tools, and he was projected to go a round higher.  Solid. Following players selected: Matt Gamel, Ryan Patterson, Brandon Durden.  Signing bonus: $386,000.
3. Ryan DeLaughter, OF, Ryan HS (TX), #144 overall: DeLaughter was expected to go somewhere in this range as a two-way prep player.  The Expos liked his bat, and his 6’4”, 215 lbs. frame was quite enticing to a number of teams. Following players selected: Kevin Roberts, Eric Fowler, Josh Sullivan.  Signing bonus: $187,500.
4. Marco Estrada, RHP, Long Beach State, #174 overall: Estrada was overdrafted here by a few rounds, as his smallish frame didn’t fit the good results he got at LBSU.  He was expected to go somewhere in the seventh round range. Following players selected: Steve Hammond, Josh Bell, Corey Wimberly.  Signing bonus: $152,000.
5. Mike Daniel, OF, North Carolina, #204 overall: Another big overdraft here, but the Expos were just looking to ensure the player they picked was signable.  Daniel was your typical college outfielder at a big program, lacking major tools. Following players selected: Michael Brantley, Robert Ray, Geoff Strickland.  Signing bonus: $115,000.
Other Notable Selections: LHP John Lannan (11th), Siena; RHP Craig Stammen (12th), Dayton

2006 Draft: $5.4 Million Budget

1. Chris Marrero, 3B, Monsignor Pace HS (FL), #15 overall: Marrero was a lock for the first round, having been the best prep player in the draft class entering the Spring.  He wasn’t impressive that Spring, though, so he slipped to the Nationals. Following players selected: Jeremy Jeffress, Matt Antonelli, Kyle Drabek.  Signing bonus: $1.625 million.
2. Colton Willems, RHP, John Carroll Catholic HS (FL), #22 overall: Blessed with a second first round pick, the Nationals slightly overdrafted a prep arm.  Willems had plus arm strength, but lacked a good secondary pitch. Following players selected: Max Sapp, Cody Johnson, Hank Conger.  Signing bonus: $1.425 million.
3. Sean Black, RHP, Lenape HS (NJ), #59 overall: Black rose quickly up boards when he flashed plus velocity for the first time in his career during his Senior season.  However, the Nationals misgaued his signability, and he walked away from money for Seton Hall.  Look for him in this draft. Following players selected: Brent Brewer, Wade LeBlanc, Kevin Mulvey.  DID NOT SIGN.
4. Stephen Englund, OF, Bellevue HS (WA), #70 overall: With their second pick in the second round, the Nationals went risky with Englund.  A prep player with some makeup issues, but plus tools, Englund was expected to go a round later. Following players selected: Justin Masterson, Chase Fontaine, Matt Long.  Signing bonus: $515,000.
5. Stephen King, SS, Winter Park HS (FL), #91 overall: King was a possible supplemental first rounder until he fell due to performance and injury issues.  He had plus tools and nice size at 6’3”, 195 lbs., and this was a solid third round pick. Following players selected: Cole Gillespie, Cedric Hunter, Joe Smith.  Signing bonus: $750,000.
Other Notable Picks: LHP Cory VanAllen (5th), Baylor, $170K bonus

2007 Draft: $7.9 Million Budget

1. Ross Detwiler, LHP, Missouri State, #6 overall: Detwiler was projected to go easily within the top ten picks of the 2007 draft, making this an excellent opening selection.  He had prototypical starter size at 6’4” with plus arm strength. Following players selected: Matt LaPorta, Casey Weathers, Jarrod Parker.  Signing bonus: $2.15 million.
2. Josh Smoker, LHP, Calhoun HS (GA), #31 overall: Most thought Smoker would be a first rounder, but he fell to the Nationals here for unknown reasons.  He had a very advanced repertoire for a prep pitcher, along with good command. Following players selected: Nick Noonan, Jon Gilmore, Todd Frazier.  Signing bonus: $1 million.
3. Michael Burgess, OF, Hillsborough HS (FL), #49 overall: With a second supplemental first rounder, the Nationals went for another high-end prospect.  Burgess was thought to be a possible first round candidate with plus-plus power, but slipped due to inconsistency. Following players selected: Wes Roemer, Charlie Culberson, Matt Mangini.  Signing bonus: $630,000.
4. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Wisconsin-Stevens Point, #67 overall: Zimmermann was expected to go somewhere in this range after a strange draft season.  Having broken his jaw, had his wisdom teeth pulled, and battled the usual Wisconsin weather, Zimmermann was lucky that he had previous exposure. Following players selected: Duke Welker, Josh Fields, Jake Smolinski.  Signing bonus: $495,000.
5. Jake Smolinski, 3B, Boylan Catholic HS (IL), #70 overall: Once again, the Nationals had multiple second rounders, and Smolinski was a reach.  Expected to go as much as three to four rounds later, Smolinski had a decent toolset, but wasn’t very refined and had a smallish body. Following players selected: David Kopp, Brian Rike, Barry Enright.  Signing bonus: $452,500.
Other Notable Selections: C Derek Norris (4th), Goddard HS (KS), $210K bonus; LHP Jack McGeary (6th), Roxbury Latin HS (MA), $1.8MM bonus (overslot); RHP PJ Dean (7th), New Caney HS (TX), $120K bonus; OF Bill Rhinehart (11th), Arizona

2008 Draft: $4.8 Million Budget

1. Aaron Crow, RHP, Missouri, #9 overall: From a drafting standpoint, this was a great pick, as Crow was virtually a lock for the top ten.  However, when you don’t sign your first rounder over a difference of half a million dollars, you’re just being careless. Following players selected: Jason Castro, Justin Smoak, Jemile Weeks.  DID NOT SIGN.
2. Destin Hood, OF, St. Paul’s Episcopal HS (AL), #55 overall: Hood was expected to go somewhere in this range as a very raw prep bat.  His raw power was his huge asset, and his speed also rated as plus.  Solid pick. Following players selected: Jay Austin, Robbie Ross, Tyson Ross.  Signing bonus: $1.1 million.
3. Danny Espinosa, SS, Long Beach State, #87 overall: The legend of the Long Beach State shortstop lives on.  Overdrafted by a couple of rounds here, Espinosa was a solid college infielder with average tools, but good makeup. Following players selected: Chase Davidson, Tim Murphy, Petey Paramore.  Signing bonus: $525,000.
4. Graham Hicks, LHP, Jenkins HS (FL), #121 overall: Hicks was overdrafted by a couple, maybe more, rounds as a result of his good late-season performance in an all-star event.  At 6’5” with good pitchability, it was a pick with projection in mind. Following players selected: TJ Steele, Joe Wieland, Anthony Capra.  Signing bonus: $475,000.
5. Adrian Nieto, C, American Heritage HS (FL), #151 overall: Nieto was supposed to go somewhere in the second to third round range as a good offensive catcher with solid catching skills.  However, he slid here for unknown reasons, and the Nationals capitalized. Following players selected: David Duncan, Clark Murphy, Jason Christian.  Signing bonus: $376,000.
Other Notable Selections: LHP Will Atwood (12th), South Carolina; OF J.P. Ramirez (15th), Canyon HS (TX), $1MM bonus (overslot)

Those are the seven drafts undertaken by Dana Brown, who is now working under his third different general manager in Mike Rizzo.  Of course, Rizzo is just the acting general manager until they hire someone permanently, which presumably will happen this offseason.  There’s a chance Rizzo retains the chair, but I’m not thinking that’s likely.  Anyway, Brown has handled drafts under Omar Minaya and Jim Bowden in the past, and I’m assuming he has even more freedom than usual this year, as the Baseball Ops department is kind of handling their own specialties until a permanent head man arrives.  In general, Brown has started to improve his drafting record when it comes to getting value at each pick.  At the beginning, most notably in the dreaded contraction years, Brown was guilty of numerous overdrafts.  That’s less the case now.  The 2006, 2007, and 2008 drafts were solid, with the huge 2007 budget allowing for extra picks and, as a result, a greater influx of talent.  Who would have that there would be a correlation?  Brown generally likes to use Florida, though California has also played a fairly large part.  He goes into the Midwest from time-to-time, but both Aaron Crow and Ross Detwiler were well-known picks that any scouting director would have made, regardless of locale.  Add in some Atlantic Coast flavor, and you’ve got a Dana Brown drafting recipe.  The Florida-Georgia-Alabama triangle always breeds good talent in the form of athleticism and refinement relative to other states, so there’s a reason to this kind of drafting.  I fully expect Brown to stick with this philosophy in the picks following the first round.

As far as money is concerned, this is going to be one of the more unique drafts in the history of baseball for the Nationals.  Stephen Strasburg is obviously going to command a record bonus, and my guess has always been in the $12-15 million range.  I think the ceiling is probably $20 million.  Anything more is pretty unlikely.  In addition, since the Nationals didn’t sign Aaron Crow a year ago, they hold the tenth overall pick, which had a $2.07 million slot recommendation a year ago.  I’d expect another recommendation in the $2.1 million range from MLB.  As a result, it looks like the Nationals could be spending as much as $22 million before the first round is even up.  Look for their total budget to be in the $20 million range as a whole, as I still think Strasburg maxes out at $15 million.  Add in the $2 million for their second pick, and then I think the rest of their budget should be in the $3 million range, maybe a tad less.  They realize they need a talent infusion, so I don’t see them going with a combined $1 million bonus budget for the other picks.  However, don’t expect to see another JP Ramirez or Jack McGeary, as overslot bonuses will be done after Strasburg.  He’s the prize, and the rest of the players will simply be complementary in this class.

Connecting the Nationals to players other than Stephen Strasburg can be a little difficult.  The names of Brett Jackson and Chad Jenkins have been floated publicly for the #10 overall pick, and I have Kyle Gibson falling to them in my mock this week.  Gibson’s maxed out his draft stock, so there’s no way he’d ask for more than slot.  Mike Leake could be another solid possibility, as could a number of hitters besides Jackson.  Jared Mitchell and Rich Poythress have been there in my mocks before.  In general, I think it’s going to be a solid college player with a little upside, but one who has no incentive to go back to school to make more money.  I wouldn’t be shocked if the player signed for less than the $2 million slot.  Beyond the first round, I wonder if the lack of budget money means they have to go heavily college in the rest of the early and mid rounds.  I’ve had them connected to Josh Phegley, DJ LeMahieu, Matt den Dekker, as well as preps Wil Myers and Matt Hobgood, both of whom have played their way above the #50 slot.  In general, I think we should be looking for a mix of solid college players and a few preps with weak commitments.  Looking into the state of Florida, that could mean righty pitcher Matt Heckroth, or maybe outfielder Ronnie Richardson.  I don’t know how strong Dane Williams’ NC State commitment is, but the Wolfpack generally don’t garner strong commitments, so he’s worth keeping an eye on as a possible fourth round prep righty.

All bonus information came from BA, and writeups on draft status going into the draft were a mixture of BA and PG.  Go to their sites for draft coverage.  They’re awesome.

What do you guys think?  What do the Nationals do?

Previous Draft Previews:

Tampa Bay Rays
Los Angeles Dodgers
Detroit Tigers
Philadelphia Phillies
Texas Rangers
Pittsburgh Pirates
Baltimore Orioles
Colorado Rockies
Chicago White Sox

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May 24, 2009 - Posted by | Draft Previews | , ,

7 Comments »

  1. Obviously the Nationals need to take Strasburg, and in a perfect world they’d take the BPA at #10, but that may not be realistic. Still, they can clearly get a top talent there, and while they’re stacked on outfielders in the system(at the MLB level and then guys like Michael Burgess), an athlete like Mike Trout or Everett Williams would make sense, even if that may be a bit of a reach.

    Comment by Kevin | May 25, 2009 | Reply

  2. i really think that they end up going BPA because of how badly their fan base currently looks upon them…

    Comment by john | May 25, 2009 | Reply

    • I think they’ve actually realized that they have no fan base. A normal fan base doesn’t even know who the tenth-best player is in a given draft anyway. So their motivating factor to pick the BPA is that they need the talent infusion. A grand total of 100 Nationals fans know who should be considered within the top ten picks in the draft this year I would guess.

      Comment by andyseiler | May 25, 2009 | Reply

  3. I believe the guy’s name is Jake McGeary.

    Comment by L | May 26, 2009 | Reply

    • It’s Jack/Jake. Both have been used. Well, to be technical, it’s John. I’m so confused. Anyway, his name is John Anthony McGeary, and I’ve seen both Jack and Jake used, though Jack is the name most commonly published.

      Comment by andyseiler | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  4. A minor correction, 2005 it was the Nationals first draft, not the Expos.

    Also, when Rizzo was hired in July 2k6, he was really Dana Brown’s boss – so to say the 2k7 and 2k8 drafts were Brown’s responsibility is false. Rizzo had considerable, if not primary, input into that draft.

    Here’s an entry about Rizzo’s hiring and his responsibilities:
    http://natsfarm.com/2006/07/24/nats-hire-mike-rizzo/

    Comment by VladiHondo | May 27, 2009 | Reply

  5. Or: for a text to mean something is for it to have somehow established a norm for such responses. ,

    Comment by SouthWind17 | October 10, 2009 | Reply


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