You may have noticed that in the last few days Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams has been conducting his post game press conferences from the cramped manager's office in the Nats' clubhouse instead of his usual chair on the dais in the media room in Nationals Park.
That's because the Nationals' front office, scouts and cross checkers have turned the media room into the "war room" for their preparations for the 2015 MLB Draft, which starts tonight at 7:00 PM and continues for the next two days.
"We’re hard at work right now," Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters in the nation's capital on Friday.
"All our cross checkers are in the room. We’re grinding it out. A lot of magnets are flying, so that’s a good thing."
The magnets, of course, are on the "big board" and they contain the names of the top prospects in baseball, and though the Nationals don't make their top selection until the second round, 58th overall, having surrendered their top pick when they signed Max Scherzer this winter, Rizzo said having to wait won't change the way they approach this year's draft.
"Doesn’t change our approach a bit," Rizzo explained. "We’re doing the same thing we’ve done since 1998 and [Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Operations] Kris Kline, he takes the same approach. We talk as much about the top 10 players in the country as we do the 800th player.
"We’re watching film every day. We’re looking at medicals and psychological tests on every single player and we’re going to line them up and when 58 comes, we’re going to pick the best guy that we see that’s available and hopefully we hit on a guy that helps us in the big leagues."
The Nationals were in a similar situation in 2013 when they gave up their top pick after signing veteran closer Rafael Soriano.
As Rizzo explained in an MLB Network Radio interview at the time, there are plenty of impressive prospects available in the second round.
"We pick 68th," Rizzo said that winter. "And there have been plenty of good players taken 68th.
"I remember we took Jordan Zimmermann, I think, 66 or 67th and over the years there [have] been a lot of good guys taken in those rounds."
Picking 58th overall this year, he said this week, doesn't make the preparation any harder.
"I don’t think it’s harder," Rizzo said Friday, "because the process is the same. We’re so tedious and we do [so much] background work and scout these guys so diligently that when our turn comes to pick, the guy that’s at the top of our board is the guy that we feel is the best player for us at that time. It’s just something that’s a little more boring because you don’t have the excitement of pick one or pick six or pick twenty-nine but it’s still to me the Super Bowl of the season and we will be fired up for it Monday and we’re going to have a few long sleepless nights for the next couple of days to tweak the board and get it in the order we want it.
"When Monday comes, when the horn rings, we’ll be ready."
As for what the Nationals might be looking for this time around? Rizzo said the fact that they've "graduated" a number of top prospects in the last few seasons and called up a number of top names already this season won't affect their thinking on what they're after in the draft.
"We take every draft independent of what the system is like and what the organization has and it’s kind of an entity of its own," he explained.
"We go with the best player available, the guy that gives us the best chance to have an impact player is the guy we're going to take. And there [are] certain drafts that are much deeper in position players than they are pitchers, and there [are] certain drafts that are college-orientated, there's some high-school orientated.
"So we're going to line them up and fight it out and see who goes on the top of the board and when the time comes, just pop them."