WASHINGTON – This was a challenging year for scouts at the amateur level in the Nationals’ player development office.
With only five rounds of the First-Year Player Draft, the Nationals had to identify the very top prospects and they ended up making six selections.
After that, with an uncertain future for the minor leagues, Washington had to figure out who and how many non-drafted free agents they could sign.
That was tricky as high school and college players had to weigh the uncertain status of amateur athletics in light of the pandemic.
Mark Scialabba, assistant general manager, player development with the Nationals, was impressed what he saw from the non-drafted free agents the club did sign at instructs last month in Florida. That includes infielders Jake Boone (Princeton) and Quade Tomlin (Lynchburg, Va. high school standout) and pitcher Zach Bryzkcy, (from Va. Tech).
“I thought the incoming class was very impressive,” Scialabba told Federal Baseball.
“Great job by our scoring department to identify talent in the short draft of five rounds but also find some impressive candidates beyond the five rounds as well.”
“A lot of bright futures and we look forward to seeing them in a full season” in 2021, he added. “I am just thankful we had that camp in Florida.”
That was not the case for every Major League team.
Baseball America reported that the Yankees did not have an Instructional League team while the Cardinals plan to have theirs in January.
“I have known him since he was a baby,” Nationals’ scout Bobby Myrick told Federal Baseball of Tomlin. “I scouted his dad Randy when he pitched (for Liberty). I have known the family for a long time. I was going to Lynchburg Christian and Liberty University and seeing him a lot. Some of it was by accident. I knew him personally, I watched his progress.”
Myrick, based in Virginia, also signed Brzykcy, who turned down a chance to play his senior year at Virginia Tech.
Other NDFAs of the Nationals who were in Florida for instructs were pitcher Edward Urena (Western Oklahoma State College), catcher Ray Torres (San Jacinto JC), and infielder Gio Diaz from Division I St. Mary’s of California.
Those 2020 NDFAs not in West Palm Beach for instructs were outfielder Zach Cornell (Southeastern University), infielder-outfielder Jackson Coutts (Rhode Island), outfielder Landon Dieterich (Mary Hardin-Baylor), and infielder Brandon Klein (Texas Tech).
“You have that head start over everybody else,” Coutts said of signing this year. “It was just a dream I had – I was just ready to get started with” a pro career.
Coutts, a first baseman/outfielder, hit .451 in 13 games this spring for the Rams before the season was shut down.
He had four hits in as many at-bats at Maryland in February then went 4-for-5 at Delaware State just before the season came to an end in March.
Born in North Carolina, Brzykcy headed to Florida to begin his pro career.
“It is definitely a roller coaster for me,” Brzykcy told Federal Baseball from Florida during instructs.
“It is great baseball weather; the fields are pristine. I can’t complain; it is perfect for a pro baseball” debut.
“I am looking forward to an off-season where our players can develop their bodies and follow (workout) guidelines for Spring Training and hopefully have a safe offseason.
“Hopefully, we get some good news here from a pandemic standpoint,” Scialabba said.