“It’s controlled chaos,” Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said of the Draft room when teams start making picks.
“There [are] months and months of work that get encapsulated into three days,” Rizzo told reporters in the lead-up to the 2017 edition of MLB’s First-Year Player Draft.
“We go by the premise that Round 40 is as important as Round 1, because there are major leaguers throughout the draft.”
Last year’s top picks were Nos. 25 and 65. This time around the Nationals have the 27th and 65th picks on Day 1 of the Draft, but as Rizzo said last June, they prepare for the entire class they’ll be selecting.
“A lot of focus is made on the first round picks, the top couple of round picks,” Rizzo said.
“But we’ve had great success not only in the first round picks, but throughout the draft and it’s a credit to [Assistant GM & VP of Scouting Operations] Kris Kline and the staff that he’s put together on what they can do and what they can find late in the draft.”
What will Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office do with their top pick this year?
“The Nationals have been chasing mostly injured or tough-sign prep players,” Fangraphs’ scouts Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel wrote in their third mock draft, which had Washington selecting right-hander Cole Wilcox out of Heritage High School in Georgia.
“They prefer Wilcox to [Mason] Denaburg and also have some interest in [J.T.] Ginn and [Alek] Thomas.
Wilcox, 18, is a 6’5’’, 220 lb right-hander, who went (9-2) in 11 games with a 1.59 ERA and 95 Ks in 65 2⁄3 IP this season.
Denaburg, 18, is a high school senior out of Merritt Island HS, the same school ‘09 Nats’ 9th Round pick Taylor Jordan attended, who dealt with a biceps injury issue this Spring.
Denaburg was one of three right-handed pitchers who have dealt with injury issues this season MLB.com’s Jim Callis thought might be targets for the Nationals.
Washington, Callis wrote, has, “... had a lot of success buying low on pitchers with physical questions,” so, “... Denaburg (biceps tendintis), [high school right-hander Ethan] Hankins and Massachusetts high school right-hander Mike Vasil (elbow soreness),” are on his list of possibilities for their top pick, with Denaburg the selection in his latest Mock Draft.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo too had the Nationals picking Denaburg, though he wrote that, “perhaps it’s too easy of a match, putting a pitcher with an injury issue with the Nationals, given their history.”
ESPN.com’s Keith Law matched the Nationals up with Denaburg in his third run at a Mock Draft, writing that he, “was set to be a top 15-ish pick but missed almost two months with biceps tendinitis,” and once he returned to the mound, he was back under consideration late in the first round, with the Nats, “... specifically linked to him (and he fits their profile in multiple ways).”
Baseball America’s staff noted in their look at the Nationals’ approach to the draft in recent years, that Rizzo and Co. in the front office in D.C., “... have been one of the more college-heavy clubs in recent years in the top five rounds, selecting 72 percent of their players in this span from four-year universities—the sixth-highest rate among major league teams.”
The Nationals, they added, “have had 11 top-five round selections,” since Eddie Longosz took over as Scouting Director in 2016, and, “... nine of those picks have gone to college players and just two (Carter Kieboom and Jesus Luzardo in 2016) have gone to high school players.”
Rizzo and the Nationals will have to wait until 26 other teams make their picks before they get to make their first selection.
Washington has a $5,603,800 bonus pool this time, with their top pick valued at $2,472,700 and the 65th pick valued at $986,200.
The 2018 MLB Draft preview show starts at 6:00 PM EDT tonight on the MLB Network and the picks start at 7:00 PM.