In 2005, the Washington Nationals, picking fourth overall, selected Ryan Zimmerman, a University of Virginia third baseman with players like Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Jay Bruce and Andrew McCutchen still on the board. The night before that draft, then-GM Jim Bowden phoned Bruce's agent, Matt Sosnick of Sosnick Cobbe Sports, explaining as Mr. Sosnick told it, that the Nationals had, "...narrowed it down to Jay [Bruce] and Ryan Zimmerman for the no.4 pick," and wanted to know, "...what kind of deal would you make?" Mr. Sosnick explained what he wanted for Bruce. The next day, the Nats went with Zimmerman, because, as Mr. Sosnick says Bowden explained, Zimmerman was, "... almost big-league-ready right now, we need a third baseman in the big leagues, [and] he's a really good defender." The second pick by the Nats that year was Justin Maxwell...
In 2006, with the 15th pick of the 1st Round, the Washington Nationals selected high school outfielder Chris Marrero out of Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Opa Locka, FL, with current Blue Jays' starter Kyle Drabek still available. Ian Kennedy, the D-Backs' starter in yesterday's game against Arizona went six picks later to the New York Yankees. The '07 Draft saw the Nationals, picking 6th overall as they will this year, select Missouri State University left-hander Ross Detwiler with their first 1st Round pick. In the supplemental round, with one of the compensation picks from the Cubs, who'd signed Alfonso Soriano, the Nats selected another pitcher, Josh Smoker and an outfielder, Michael Burgess, before selecting the one pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann, (with the second "Soriano pick") who's made a significant contribution on the Major League level in D.C. with their 2nd round pick.
When Washington selected Detwiler with their 1st Round pick in '07, Cleveland Indians' slugger Matt LaPorta, Braves' outfielder Jason Heyward and Giants' lefty Madison Bumgarner were still available. 2008 saw the Nationals picking 8th overall, and selecting University of Missouri right-hander Aaron Crow with their 1st Round pick. Crow never signed with the Nats, opting to reenter the draft the next year where he was selected by the Kansas City Royals, for whom he's currently the closer. The Nats used the pick they received as compensation for Crow to draft Stanford Cardinal closer Drew Storen with their second first-round pick in the '09 Draft.
The first 1st Round pick that year was, of course, Stephen Strasburg. There was no doubt about the Strasburg pick. For over a year beforehand, the San Diego State University right-hander was clearly identified as the top prospect in the country. A strong year at SDSU under the guidance of Hall of Fame hitter Tony Gwynn only served to solidify Strasburg's status. Bryce Harper, the Nats' 2010 1st Round pick, was another no-doubter, identified years before he was even eligible for the Draft as a can't miss prospect with once-in-a-generation talent. For the last two years, the only drama surrounding the draft began after the Nationals made their top picks, in later rounds and at the signing deadline in August when Washington had to pay for the privilege of signing Strasburg and Harper.
This season, however, it won't be so easy. Most draft experts are saying it will be a choice between University of Kentucky right-hander Alex Meyer, UCLA right-hander Trevor Bauer, or Oklahoma high schooler Bubba Starling, but it all depends on what happens with the top 5 picks. The Nationals have said that they'll take the best available player when it's time to make their selection, but they've also said they intend to draft pitching early and often. The Washington Nationals have outspent the league on the draft in each of the last two seasons, handing out record contracts to Strasburg and Harper, but also going way above slot recommendations to sign other picks whose stock had fallen due to their various commitments and salary demands.
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo's "baseball shop" front office with scouting director Kris Kline and former Braves' scouting director Roy Clark have their work cut out for them. You can guess and attempt to predict where the five teams in front of you in the first round will go, but until they make those selections, it's going to be a mystery. The Nats have emphasized the importance of the draft for years as a way to replenish the barren system Major League baseball gave them when the Montreal Expos relocated to the nation's capital.
Can the Nats add talent that will help within the two year window in which they believe they'll begin to field "competitive" teams? Can they get a college pitcher who's quick-to-the-majors and can help sooner rather than later. They'll have to react to what the Pirates, Mariners, D-Backs and Royals do, but they also have three picks in the first thirty-four selections in what's supposed to be a deep draft. The Nationals front office was built for this. Time to see what they've got and what they'll get...Who will the Washington Nationals take with the 6th pick?