Washington Nationals: Draft Review

General Manager: Mike Rizzo
Farm Director: Doug Harris
Scouting Director: Kris Kline

2006-2009 Draft Results:
First three rounds included
x- over-slot signees ($200,000 or more)

2009 1st Round: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego
1. Drew Storen, RHP, Stanford
2. Jeff Kobernus, 2B, California
3. Trevor Holder, RHP, Georgia
12x – Nathan Karns, RHP, Texas Tech

Strasburg is obviously the Nationals’ No. 1 prospect and you’ll read more about him tomorrow. Storen could beat Strasburg to Washington, though, as he’s already produced some very good numbers in the minors. The right-handed future closer pitched a total of 37.0 innings in pro ball in ’09 and allowed just 21 hits with 49 strikeouts. He did, though, walk six batters in 12.1 innings at double-A as his control got progressively worse as he faced better hitters. In other words, a little more minor-league seasoning will probably help.

Kobernus appeared in just 10 games after signing and hit .220/.273/.244. The second baseman should move up to low-A for 2010. Perhaps impressed with his ability to touch to mid-90s, the organization nabbed Holder about five to seven rounds higher than he was projected to go. In his debut, he played at three levels and reached high-A despite OK, but not great, numbers. The right-hander made six starts in high-A and allowed 33 hits in 23.1 innings, while posting a walk rate of 3.47 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 6.94 K/9. Karns signed too late to play in ’09; he’s similar to Holder in the fact that he can hit the mid-90s but he doesn’t dominate due to poor command and a lack of development in his secondary pitches.

2008 1st Round: Aaron Crow, RHP, Missouri (Did Not Sign)
2. Destin Hood, OF, Alabama HS
3. Danny Espinosa, SS, Long Beach State
x- Graham Hicks, LHP, Florida HS
x- Adrian Nieto, C, Florida HS
x- J.P. Ramirez, OF, Texas HS

The club definitely would have liked to get Crow signed, but he ended up going back in the draft and was taken (and inked) by Kansas City in the first round of the 2009 draft. Both Hood and Espinosa appear on the club’s Top 10 list.

Hicks spent time in extended spring training in ’09 and then pitched the majority of the season in low-A ball where he struggled with a 5.38 FIP. He allowed 53 hits in 36.2 innings of work. Nieto also began the year in extended spring training before spending a second season in rookie ball where his bat failed to develop. The catcher hit just .228/.337/.287 in 136 at-bats. He clearly needs to drive the ball more after posting an ISO of .059 despite his solid frame (6’0”, 200 lbs).

Ramirez just missed to the Top 10 list after a solid short-season ball season. The outfielder hit .264/.306/.407 in 295 at-bats. He has speed, but Ramirez is still learning the art of base running; he was caught nine times in 15 attempts. His walk rate was just 4.5% so he’s going to need to show more patience at the plate. Ramirez also needs to improve against southpaws after hitting just .203/.259/.266.

2007 1st Round: Ross Detwiler, RHP, Missouri State
1S. Josh Smoker, LHP, Georgia HS
1S. Michael Burgess, OF, Florida HS
2. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Wisconsin-Stevens
2. Jake Smolinski, 3B, Illinois HS
3. Steven Souza, 3B, Washington HS
x- Jack McGeary, LHP, Massachusetts HS

With six picks in the first three rounds (and one large over-slot deal), the club was set to really infuse some talent into the system. Unfortunately, only Zimmermann has met or exceeded expectations and he’s currently on the shelf after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Detwiler has appeared in 16 MLB games over the past three seasons, but he has yet to take a stranglehold on a rotation spot. Burgess still appears on the club’s Top 10 list, but he needs a strong 2010 season. Smoker has battled injury problems and he has yet to get out of short-season ball for an significant period of time (five starts in low-A before being demoted in ’09).

Smolinski had some value, as he was traded to Florida in the Scott Olsen deal, which really didn’t work out for the Nats. Souza spent ’09 in low-A but he strikes out too much (26.0%) for someone with modest power (.081 ISO). McGeary originally signed a contract that allowed him to play pro ball and also attended college but he committed to the sport full-time in ’09. Unfortunately, he had a pretty poor season and posted a 5.09 FIP in low-A.

Derek Norris (4th round) and Bradley Meyers (5th) were both excellent acquisitions.

2006 1st Round: Chris Marrero, OF/1B, Florida HS
1. Colton Willems, RHP, Florida HS
2. Sean Black, RHP, New Jersey HS (Did not sign)
2. Stephen Englund, OF, Washington HS
3. Stephen King, SS, Florida HS

Marrero has not posted above-average numbers in the minors despite his favorable draft status. Despite that, he is still amongst the Nationals’ Top 10 prospects. Willems’ ’09 season was ruined by injuries. Englund hit so poorly that he’s now giving pitching a try. King may want to try the same thing after hitting just .222/.304/.340 with a 31.1% strikeout rate in 315 high-A at-bats.

Up Next: The Washington Nationals Top 10 Prospects

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

15 Responses to “Washington Nationals: Draft Review”

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  1. Michael says:

    Quick mention Marc re: the trade that you mentioned between the Marlins and Nats. I believe Smolinski went to the Marlins as part of the deal that sent Emilio Bonifacio to the Fish and netted both Olsen and Willingham. At least, that’s how I have always thought of that trade. I would say that that has worked out OK for the Nationals and not so well for the Fish. By the way, since we did not see Smolinski in the Top 10 for the Marlins, what are your thoughts on him? I’ve heard good things on his bat, but I’ve also heard he can’t find a position.

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  2. pm says:

    The Scott Olsen did work out for the Nationals. Josh Willingham is a 0.5 win downgrade of Jason Bay but paid 10 Million less. Scott Olsen can still produce for the nationals. The deal was a big win for the Nationals.

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  3. Steve says:

    Does anyone else get annoyed at the way BB’s are taken as an indication of control, as indicated by the line “he lost some control upon promotion to AA”? Walks are really more an indicator of stuff; the less stuff a guy has the more he has to live at the edges and the more batters he walks.

    I’ve watched probably at least 50 starts by both Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum and am firmly convinced that Barry has far better control though he walks about twice as many batters as Timmy. However Lincecum can grease ‘em down the heart of the plate and when batters hit the ball it still stays in the park.

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    • scott says:

      Clearly, all those Nolan Ryan and Kerry Wood walks were because they were lacking in stuff.

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      • Steve says:

        My point is that walks, in and of themselves, are not a good indicator of control

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      • funketown says:

        This is an interesting suggestion. Given two pitchers with equal control (however one would define that), the pitcher with better ‘stuff’ would likely have a lower walk rate. Likewise, given two pitchers with equal ‘stuff’, the pitcher with better control would likely have a lower walk rate.

        It would be interesting to see a study done on which has a greater influence on walk rate.

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    • scott says:

      ….or maybe Joel Zumaya and his 6.39 bb/9 this year.

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      • Richie Abernathy says:

        Scott, stop being snarky. OBVIOUSLY Tim Lincecum has more margin for error than Barry Zito (because of stuff), which is a big part of Steve’s point.

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      • scott says:

        So then what *is* a better indication of control? It seems to me that, velocity aside, Lincecum is just the better pitcher.

        Maddux, Buehrle, James Shields, Zack Duke…come to mind as pitchers that all had/have a fastball that barely topped/tops 90mph and wake rates < 2.2/9. We would say that most of these players have good control.

        Contratily, Josh Johnson, Greinke, Hammel…all those players sit at 92+ and also had walks rates < 2.5/9. We would say that these players alse have good control, right?

        Much like those pitchers with good control is a mixed bag, it's the same way for those with poor control; Kershaw, Sanchez, Gallardo, Burnett to Doug Davis, Pettitte, Marquis, Cahill…all +3.5/9

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    • don says:

      Pitchers with better stuff will probably get more chase swings, too, because batters have less of an idea where the pitch will end up.

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    • Steve says:

      A measure of control would probably have to be based off of observed data … looking where the catcher sets the target and where the pitch ends up. If you really wanted to measure command.

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  4. Brian says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong: didn’t Jake Smolinski retire after the trade to Florida? The Nationals really won that deal – Bonifacio for Willingham and Olsen, essentially.

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