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Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo and Co. ready for extremely different 2020 MLB Draft

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Mike Rizzo talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last week about preparing for a unique 2020 MLB Draft...

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Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo (left) and Assistant GM Kris Kline talk after the 1st Round of the 2014 Draft.
Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo (left) and Assistant GM Kris Kline talk after the 1st Round of the 2014 Draft.
Photo © and courtesy @Nationals on Twitter

MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo matched the Washington Nationals with University of Georgia right-hander Cole Wilcox in his first 2020 mock draft on April 27th, but went with right-hand pitcher Slade Cecconi, out of the University of Miami, in his second mock draft last week.

The Athletic’s Keith Law too had the Nats taking Wilcox with the 22nd overall pick in the 1st Round when he released his first mock draft on May 13th.

Wilcox, 20, was a 37th Round pick (1,121st overall) by the Nationals back in 2018, when they selected the pitcher out of Heritage High School in Ringgold, Georgia, but weren’t able to sign him.

Law wrote that Wilcox was a first-round talent in ‘18, but was unsignable at that point, and noted that though there are, “some questions about his fastball quality ... [Wilcox] has the velocity and the breaking ball and competes really well.

The Nationals, Law added, “tend to like big, hard throwers, especially when they have track records.”

Whatever they do with their top pick in the draft this year, the Nationals, GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last week, the defending World Series champions will be ready for what the one-time scout and scouting director has in the past said he views as baseball’s Super Bowl.

Major League Baseball announced earlier this month that amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and with the 2020 season postponed, this year’s draft will be held on June 10-11, and will be limited two days (instead of the planned three days), and will be five rounds (as opposed to the usual 40), with eligible players not selected in those five rounds eligible to sign with any team they choose, but for no more than $20,000.

As Rizzo told the Junkies, it’s going to be a different experience this time. “It’s going to be extremely different,” Rizzo said.

“It’s going to be the most unique draft obviously that I’ve ever been a part of, and I’ve been a part of a lot of them. It’s going to be different.”

Usually the Nationals cordon off the media room in Nationals Park to set up a “war room” for their draft preparation.

How will Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office handle the draft this year?

“In the sense of communication and IT and that type of thing, I’m not sure exactly where I’ll be for the draft,” Rizzo explained.

“If there is a Spring Training and I’m in Spring Training, I will do it from our Spring Training facility in Florida. June 10-11 is the draft, and if Spring Training is postponed or canceled, then I would probably do it from D.C. either at my home or at headquarters in my office in D.C.

“Not sure where we’re going to do it yet, but I do know when, I do know we’re extremely prepared and I’m very, very excited about it.”

He also said, in an MLB Network Radio interview last month, that he thought the Nationals, as an organization, would fare well when it comes to the post-Round 5 free-for-all when it comes to signing the remaining eligible players.

“I think the organizations with the larger, more experienced scouting staffs who have been out earlier in the Spring seasons, that rely on really good, veteran area scouts to cultivate those particular areas, I think they’ll have the upper hand as far as who to approach first,” he told MLBNR hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette, “and as you two guys both know, they’re the backbone of any draft, because they’re the ones that are in the families’ living rooms and their kitchens talking to the parents and have a relationship with them, and I think the teams that have those types of scoutings staffs, both in experience and in depth, will have the upper hand because they have been in the kitchens, and they’ll have already a built-in trust factor with those particular players.”

What will Rizzo, Assistant GM and VP of Scoutings Ops Kris Kline, and the Nationals’ scouts do with their top pick this year? How will the defending World Series champs fare when it’s time to sign undrafted players? We’ll find out out in a few weeks...