In the lead-up to last June’s draft, Washington Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo talked about the Nats’ approach to making selections and the preparation that goes into each pick.
The addition of a number of area scouts to the organization once he took over as GM made a significant difference, Rizzo explained.
“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."
When it comes time to make the picks, Rizzo said, the Nationals take the name at the top of their draft board.
"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.”
Washington had two first-round picks last season (Nos. 28-29), the 58th pick in the 2nd Round and the 94th pick in the third round.
Their top picks this time around are the 25th, 65th and 103rd overall selections.
MLB.com’s draft guru Jim Callis released his first mock draft yesterday, which included his projection for the Nationals’ first pick.
Callis matched the Nats up with Louisiana State University right-hander Alex Lange, a 6’3’’ Junior out of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, who is (6-5) in 13 starts, with a 2.92 ERA, 28 walks (3.02 BB/9), 100 Ks (10.80 K/9) and a .236 BAA in 83 1⁄3 innings pitched.
“Lange is another Southeastern Conference right-hander who had top-10 aspirations and could help his cause by performing well at the league tournament in two weeks,” Callis writes.
Another possibility he mentions for the Nationals’ top selection is a prep school right-hander.
“This could be the high-water mark for Tennessee high school right-hander Steven Jennings,” Callis writes, noting that Jennings, “... has wowed scouts with his rapid comeback after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in September.”
Jennings, a 6’2’’ righty out of DeKalb County High School in Smithville, Tennessee, tore his ACL playing quarterback for the school’s football team, and has pitched with a knee brace according to a Baseball America scouting report.
Rizzo reiterated last June that the Nationals don’t draft for organizational needs, so, for example, they won’t necessarily go pitching heavy just because they traded top prospects Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 1st Round pick Dane Dunning this winter.
“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,” Rizzo said.
“We’re hard at work right now. 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.”
It also depends on who’s available each June.
“There [are] certain drafts that are much deeper in position players than they are pitchers, and there's 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."
The 2017 MLB Draft begins on June 12th this time around and continues through the June 14th.