WASHINGTON, D.C.: “We’re often aggressive in the draft, we take chances, and we’ll continue to be aggressive this year and take chances,” Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters in the nation’s capital when he talked about his approach to the 2017 MLB Draft last Friday.
On Monday night, the Nationals selected a hard-throwing, 21-year-old left-hander with character questions and a 22-year-old righty who underwent Tommy John surgery back in 2015 with their top two picks of the 2017 MLB Draft.
With the 25th overall pick, their first selection, the Nationals picked Seth Romero, a lefty out of the University of Houston who was dismissed from the team this season for what was described as “conduct detrimental to the team,” after he went (4-5) with a 3.51 ERA, 20 walks, 85 Ks and a .256 BAA in 10 games, seven starts and 48 2⁄3 IP.
In spite of the character concerns which led to the lefty being available when the Nats’ first pick came up, Rizzo and Nationals’ Assistant GM and Vice President of Scouting Operations Kris Kline both said they were comfortable making the selection.
“Seth Romero was a very polished, high-upside left-handed pitcher that we had scouted extensively,” Rizzo explained when he spoke after the completion of the second round of the Draft.
“We like the stuff. Obviously the factors that got him down to us, there were questions about his off-the-field — we felt comfortable in the fact that we knew his history, our area scouts and our guys who know him, and we expect him to conduct himself with maturity and be a professional, and be accountable for his actions and to immerse him within our organization.
“We feel that we do a really good job — our player development guys do a really good job of teaching them the Nationals’ way, how to conduct themselves on the field, in the clubhouse, and in the community, and we expect nothing less from Seth.”
Romero’s problems, Rizzo said, were related to maturity, and were something he said he did not expect to be an issue for the pitcher going forward.
“He turned 21 in April and he certainly needs to be accountable for his actions. We’re going to demand that he conduct himself like all of our players do. ‘Be proud of the name on the front of the jersey,’ is something that we harp on here once we sign the player and we feel that with our development system he’s going to conduct himself as a professional and adhere to the rules and regulations that we set forth for all of our minor league players.”
“First of all,” Kline added, “the stuff is what it is, and the ability. Look, we’ve all made mistakes in life. I have. It’s not like this kid committed a big crime or anything. There’s kids out there that do it. I think this kid’s learned his lesson and he’s going to go out there and be a very productive big leaguer. The stuff plays in the big leagues right now. Big fastball, he’s got a wipeout breaking ball. Good feel for his changeup, very competitive kid, so I don’t see an issue with this kid.”
Rizzo offered his own, brief scouting report on the left-hander as well, noting that the Nationals planned to develop Romero as a starter.
“We’re going to send him out when we sign him as a starting pitcher. We think he’s got a good mix. He throws strikes, he’s got power stuff, he’s got a good repertoire. He’s got a starter’s repertoire, and his performance this season was great.
“He’s a strikeout pitcher that throws a lot of strikes with good stuff from the left side.”
Lest you think the Nationals drafted a pitcher who can help their beleaguered bullpen this season, Rizzo, as noted, said they would develop him as a starter, and the Nats’ GM added that Romero wasn’t likely to reach the majors this season.
“It’s never happened to me,” he explained.
“I’ve never done anything like that where the drafted player gets to the big leagues the year you draft him. I don’t expect that in this scenario. We’re going to develop him at his own pace and utilizing our strong player development system and hopefully he’s a guy for us down the road.”
With the Nationals’ second round pick, the 65th overall selection, they drafted Wil Crowe, who missed the entire 2016 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015, but returned to action this season, going (6-5) in 15 starts for the South Carolina Gamecocks, over which he had a 3.41 ERA, 31 walks, 90 Ks and a .247 BAA in 92 1⁄3 IP.
Kline offered the following scouting report on the Nationals’ second round pick.
“Physical guy. Four-pitch mix. 94-95 mph fastball. Above-average secondary stuff,” Kline said.
“He was a Friday night guy at South Carolina. The fact that he got to us where we picked, I’m extremely elated.
“He’s ultra-competitive kid, good track record, profiles as a mid-rotation starter with secondary stuff, strike thrower.”
The Nationals’ next pick is the 103rd overall pick. The 2017 MLB Draft picks up again this afternoon at 1:00 PM EDT.