With hours to go before the 2016 MLB Draft begins at 7:00 PM EDT tonight (on the MLB Network and MLB.com), there is, not surprisingly, little consensus on what the Washington Nationals will do with the 28th and 29th overall picks.
Baseball America's latest Mock Draft has the Nationals taking Louisville right-hander Kyle Funkhouser, who was selected with the 35th overall pick by the LA Dodgers last June, but didn't sign, at No.28.
At No.29, BA's scouts have the Nationals taking hard-throwing, high school right-hander Matt Manning out Sacramento, CA. Manning is a 6'6'' starter with a 95-98 mph fastball, a big curve and signability concerns.
In his fourth Mock Draft, ESPN.com's Keith Law has the Nationals' taking Carter Kieboom, a high school infielder out of Marietta, GA (whose brother Spencer is a backstop prospect in the Nats' system) at No. 28, but he also mentions that highly-regard infield prospect Drew Mendoza is of interest "if he's signable" and outfielder J.B. Woodman is on the Nats' radar here. At No. 29, Law matches the Nationals up with Dane Dunning, a right-hander out of Florida.
MLB.com's Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo put out dueling projections in their latest Mock Drafts with Callis moving away from Mendoza at No. 28 this time around because he doesn't think the infielder will break his commitment to Florida State, and matching the Nationals up with catcher Matt Thaiss out of Virginia at No. 29.
Mayo, while noting that, "[i]t's quite possible that Mendoza is unsignable due to his extremely strong commitment to Florida State," writes that with, "... back-to-back picks, the Nationals do have some room to be flexible and have shown a willingness to go after tough signs in the past."
At No. 29, Callis matches the Nationals up with Vanderbilt outfielder Bryan Reynolds, while noting that if Lousville's Kyle Funkhouser, "... has a chance to sneak into the first round for the second straight year, this is the most likely spot."
Mayo goes with Jesuit College Prep high schooler Kyle Muller at No.29.
Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals' front office will have to sit and wait until 27 names go off the board before they make their back-to-back selections, with the compensation picks they received when righty Jordan Zimmermann and infielder-turner-outfielder Ian Desmond left via free agency this winter.
They'll also make their second-round pick tonight (No. 58), and then Rizzo and Assistant GM Kris Kline will talk to reporters about their first and second round selections.
Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies yesterday that he and his staff are just eager to get going on this year's draft after months of preparation.
"Our guys have been locked in the draft room about seven days," Rizzo said. "We're looking forward to escaping tomorrow when the draft finally comes and we make our picks."
Asked if, all things being equal, he preferred drafting college players over high school-age prospects, Rizzo said that was a tough question to answer.
"It's so difficult to say, 'if all things are equal,' because they're never equal between a high school and a college player," he explained.
"I guess if talents are equal and readiness are equal and that type of thing, you'd like the player who's three years younger in the high school kid, but there is something to be said for attending three years of college, being on your own and that type of thing also. So, it's really a difficult question.
"In my career, I'll put it this way, we've often erred on the side of going towards the college player over the high school player if everything were equal, just because I think they're a little further along in their development, obviously, but you really have to have a broad view and an open mind on each and every player that is on the board.
"So, perfect world, if everything was perfectly equal, which it rarely is, I think I'd rather go with the guy closer to the big leagues in the college player over the high school player."
We'll find out what Rizzo and Co. do at some point tonight (maybe around 10:00-10:30?).
Start Time: 7:00 PM on the MLB Network and MLB.com (though pre-Draft coverage starts at 6:00 PM).
2016 MLB Draft Bonus Pools: Washington, according to MLB.com, has a $7,635,500 bonus pool to spend on their first ten draft picks, with the 28th and 29th picks assigned values of $2,065,900 and $2,034,600, respectively, and the 58th overall pick assigned a $1,107,000 value.
FBB Coverage: We'll post updates after each of the Nationals' three selections tonight and we'll hear from Mike Rizzo and Krls Kline when they speak to reporters after tonight's picks are made.
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