As compensation for not being able to agree on a deal with the 57th overall pick of last June's Draft, left-hander Andrew Suarez out of the University of Miami, the Washington Nationals get the 58th overall pick this time around. It's their top pick this year after they gave up their 1st Round pick when they signed Max Scherzer to a 7-year/$210M free agent deal this winter.
In three of the last four drafts, the Nationals have gambled on injured players, taking Erick Fedde 18th overall last year, Lucas Giolito with the 16th pick in 2012 and Anthony Rendon with the 6th pick in 2011.
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo was asked last week, when he spoke to reporters in the nation's capital, about his willingness to take risks on players with injury concerns, especially the pitchers Giolito and Fedde, both of whom had Tommy John surgery, Fedde days before the draft and Giolito after one professional outing.
"They're definitely case by case, and every injury is different," Rizzo explained. "Every Tommy John case is different. We've passed on many guys that we feel are going to need or have had Tommy John. Like I said, we do our due diligence on all these players. And when there's guys that we feel more confident than others as far as injuries go ... It's not a philosophy to draft a guy with an injury. That's not what we're looking to do. But when talents like Giolito and Fedde and those guys fall to you because of injuries, and the injuries are palatable for us, those are, we feel, opportunities to jump on guys that we would have no chance of getting without the injury."
Part of that due diligence is sending the Nationals' scouts around the country to check out all the prospects they can that are eligible in this year's draft.
These days, the Nats are able to cover all that ground, but it wasn't always the case. After the organization moved to the nation's capital from Montreal, and after the Lerner Family acquired the team from Major League Baseball, they had a lot of work to do to build up the infrastructure to do the preparation the right way.
"It's been our secret formula since we took over here," Rizzo said. "Remember when the Expos were here, they had very few scouts in their scouting department. When we came in, we were allowed to hire the best and brightest guys. We filled out the country with great scouts, and you can see we're reaping the benefits of it right now. I think you can never have enough talented player evaluators, and we've got a bunch of them."
In recent days, everyone has gathered in D.C. and the "war room" in Nationals Park to prepare for tonight and the two days of the Draft that follow. They'll have to wait for 57 other picks are made to get started, but Rizzo said that they're ready.
"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."
While you wait for the start of tonight's draft, which begins at 7:00 PM EDT, here's some reading material to get you ready: