The assumption was that Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was talking about drafting players with injury concerns (like Lucas Giolito and Erick Fedde) when he talked to reporters this past Friday about the Nats’ approach to their selections in previous drafts.
“We’re often aggressive in the draft,” Rizzo said. “We take chances, and we’ll continue to be aggressive this year and take chances, and we’re looking forward to Draft day.
“It’s the best day of the year for me and for our staff, we really enjoy it and it’s the way you build your franchise and it’s an important and vital day in the yearly calendar.”
This time around, taking chances apparently meant drafting left-hand pitcher Seth Romero, a product of the University of Houston who was dismissed from the baseball team this season for conduct detrimental to the team.
It’s not too much of a surprise, actually, considering Baseball America’s latest Mock Draft, MLB.com’s Jim Callis and ESPN’s Keith Law’s latest mock draft all matched the Nationals up with the left-hander, with Callis, in particular, writing that, “... other teams consider the Nationals the favorite to take former Houston left-hander Seth Romero, a top-10 talent who got suspended and then dismissed by the Cougars.”
Here’s the Nationals write-up on Romero from tonight’s press release:
Romero, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound left-handed pitcher is considered one of the top collegiate left-handed pitchers in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft. He struck out 85 batters in 48.2 innings pitched while going 4-5 with a 3.51 ERA in 10 games (seven starts) for the University of Houston in 2017. He was named American Athletic Conference (AAC) Pitcher of the Week on two separate occasions (Feb. 20 and March 6). During his three-year collegiate career, he struck out 290 batters in 226.1 innings pitched (11.53 SO/9.0 IP) and walked just 70 batters (2.78 BB/9.0 IP).
A write-up in the Houston Chronicle by Joseph Duarte noted the reasons behind the southpaw’s dismissal, “after an incident,” in mid-May, and what was described as "... previous conduct detrimental to the team."
The issues, according to the article, included a fight with a teammate, “... a failed drug test, breaking curfew on a road trip and appearing in uniform in a photograph holding a bong, multiple sources told the Houston Chronicle.”
As the Nationals noted, however, Romero, “... entered the 2017 First-Year Player draft rated by MLB.com as the No. 24 draft prospect, and by Baseball America as the No. 27 prospect,” and prior to the 2017 campaign, he, “... was named a preseason second-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America,” and, the, “... native of West Columbia, [Texas]... attended Columbia (TX) High School, where he was a four-year letter winner. He was named First Team All-State as a senior after posting a 1.35 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 62.0 innings pitched.”
The hosts of the draft on the MLB Network said they were “still wrapping their minds around" the Nationals’ selection moments after they made it, but GM Mike Rizzo and his scouts were apparently willing to take a chance that with maturity some of the issues that caused Romero trouble will clear up.
Rizzo and Director of Scouting Kris Kline will speak to reporters after the Nationals’ second round selection, and they’re sure to be asked about their choice then...