We're obviously all excited about Bryce Harper, but he figures to be just one of about 50 players that the Nats are going to be drafting this week. We all knew that Harper was probably going to be shifted from behind the plate to somewhere else on the diamond, and Right Field is where most of us were thinking. Given his size, a shift to a middle infield situation wouldn't have made much sense, which basically limits the options to First Base, Third Base, or a Corner Outfield spot. With the face of the franchise currently locked up at Third Base through 2013, moving him there would be illogical. Not only is First Base below Right Field on the defensive spectrum, but one of Harper's better tools (his arm) would be rendered pretty useless at the position. So, the move to RF makes perfect sense. What did surprise me a bit was that he was announced that way at the draft, but I don't suppose that really matters much.
While Harper alone could make the draft, we'd all like to think that the Nats are going to find another handful of potential big leaguers down the line rather than simply getting organizational depth. Have they done so? Let's take a look after the jump.
I'd love to say I have a bunch of stuff on everyone they took, but I'd be lying. First I'll list the picks (Round/Overall Pick), and then we'll go with some of the highlights
2/51 Sammy Solis, LHP San Diego
3/83 Rick Hague, SS/3b Rice
4/116 A.J. Cole, RHP Oviedo (HS), Florida
5/146 Jason Martinson, SS Texas St.
6/176 Cole Leonida, C Georgia Tech
7/206 Kevin Keyes, RF Texas
8/236 Matthew Grace, LHP UCLA
9/266 Aaron Barrett, RHP Ole Miss
10/296 Blake Kelso, SS Houston
11/326 Neil Holland, RHP Louisville
12/356 Robbie Ray, LHP Brentwood (HS), TN
13/386 Christopher McKenzie RHP San Jacinto College
14/416 Timothy Smalling, SS Virginia Tech
15/446 David Freitas, C Hawaii
16/476 Mark Herrera, RHP San Jacinto College
17/506 Tyler Hanks, RHP College of Southern Nevada (JUCO... Harper's teammate)
18/536 Justin Miller, 2b Middle Tenn. St.
19/566 Wade Moore, CF Catawba College
20/596 Chad Mozingo, RF Rice
21/626 Connor Rowe, CF Texas
22/656 Cameron Selik, RHP Kansas
23/686 Colin Bates, RHP North Carolina
24/716 Russell Moldenhauer, Texas (Listed as a DH)
25/746 Cristian Meza, LHP Santa Ana College
26/776 Christopher Manno, LHP Duke
27/806 Sean Hoetscher, RHP Texas A&M - Corpus Christi
28/836 Joseph Rapp, RF Chipola (JUCO)
29/866 Rick Hughes, RF Marin (JUCO)
30/896 Timothy Kiene, 1b Avon Old Farms School (HS), CT
What to make of it?
Obviously, many of the later picks are guys whose names we'll probably never see again. Some will sign and end up as organizational depth. One or two might break through. Though there are few high schoolers that the Nats drafted, there will certainly be quite a few college players that stay in school rather than sign. And, of course, quite a few of these guys will end up becoming "organizational depth."
Still, I feel the Nats did pretty well in the early-to-mid rounds, including grabbing a couple of guys who slipped a bit due to signability much later than they should have been able to get them.
Round 2: Sammy Solis, LHP San Diego - No... that's not the San Diego State Aztecs (a la Strasburg), but the USD Toreros. Solis has a good pitching frame at 6'5, 220 lbs. His fastball isn't overpowering, sitting in the low 90s, but he has good movement. He complements it with a slurve and a solid change. He commands all his pitches well, and while he doesn't figure to turn any of his offerings into plus-plus pitches, they're all average or better. There are some injury concerns, as he redshirted last year due to a herniated disc. In a perfect world, Solis becomes a middle of the rotation starter. While the ceiling's not too high, though, he would seem to have a pretty high floor as well. In other words, expect him to progress fairly quickly and possibly be pitching for a rotation spot within the next two or three years.
Round 3: Rick Hague, SS/3b Rice - I've heard mixed reports on Hague's projected professional position. He primarily played SS at Rice, but moved to the hot corner when playing for Team USA. While there's a chance that he has the build to stick in the middle infield, most believe he'll play third base as a pro. He looks pretty average as a pure hitter, and doesn't ever figure to be elite as a power-hitter, though he was third in slugging percentage playing for Team USA. Hague is above average defensively, and should stick on the left side of the infield regardless of whether the Nats decide to stick him at SS or 3b.... two positions that they hope to have covered for the next few years at least.
Round 4: A.J. Cole, RHP Oviedo (HS), Florida - Love this pick.... if they can sign him! Great frame, at 6'5, 190 lbs. There's room to add plenty of bulk. He's touched 96 on the gun and throws a hard slurve. Cole's changeup projects as another possible plus pitch down the road. I've seen Cole ranked as high as 14th (USA Today) and 25th (Keith Law/Baseball America) on prospect lists, and he certainly fell due to signability concerns. He's committed to the University of Miami, but the Nats could have a late-round steal if they can lure him away. The problem is that he'll almost certainly command $1 million plus as a bonus, and Harper's going to chew up a lot of the draft budget. There's ace potential here.
Round 5: Jason Martinson, 2b/SS/3b Texas St. - A two-sport athlete (Martinson also played WR for the Texas St. football team), he's very athletic. Power doesn't look like it's going to be a plus tool for Martinson, but he does figure to stick on the left side of the infield defensively. He has a quick bat, but is prone to the strikeout. Looks like organizational depth, but there's a chance he eventually makes the roster as a backup/utility man.
Robbie Ray seems like an interesting prep pitcher taken in the twelfth round. He doesn't throw anything particularly overpowering, but does have three pitches that project to be average MLB offerings. He has good movement on a high 80s fastball, a quality curve, and a change that it looks like he may be able to harness. His command's not all there yet, but most feel he'll improve. Ray sounds like he could be a decent John Lannan type.
The other late round pick to watch should be Bryce Harper's teammate, Tyler Hanks. Unlike the other three pitchers we've discussed, Hanks doesn't figure to start. He really only throws two pitches, but one is a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and has been clocked as high as 98. He also throws a hard slider that has the potential to be a plus offering. A JUCO reliever at one of the better programs in the country, Hanks could have a shot to progress through the system fairly quickly and eventually find himself setting up Drew Storen down the road.