Nationals armed, ready for Draft
Washington hopes to utilize extra scouts, extra picks effectively
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have never kept it a secret that they have a long way to go when it comes to having a very good farm system.
However, the system could get better in a hurry. Washington has five of the first 70 picks in Thursday's 2007 First-Year Player Draft. The picks could close a gap, which has been wide ever since the Expos traded left-hander Cliff Lee, infielder Brandon Phillips and outfielder Grady Sizemore to the Indians, and outfielder Jason Bay to the Mets during the 2002 season.
The Nationals, who have the sixth overall pick in the Draft, were able to get two sandwich picks and an extra second-rounder because outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Jose Guillen signed as free agents with the Cubs and Mariners, respectively.
"Extra picks are going to help you close the gap," said Dana Brown, the Nationals' director of amateur scouting. "So if you want to catch the Braves, Mets and some of the teams that are on the top of the division, you have to get young talent than can make an impact in the big-league level.
"When you are behind, you need to pour prospects into the system. When you lose a lot of players like we lost when we were the Expos, it takes time to make up that ground."
What also makes this Draft so special is that the Lerner group put in a lot of money to hire a ton of scouts this past offseason to make sure that the Nationals have enough eyes to find the best players in the draft.
"Coming into this year, we have more help," Brown said. "We've added some experience to our scouting staff. That really helped us out as far as getting out and seeing the players."
MLB.com will broadcast every pick of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place Thursday and Friday, at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. Day 1 coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET, with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks.
Video coverage of the remaining rounds on Day 1 will air on MLB.com, with live interviews and analysis from Orlando by Casey Stern, Jonathan Mayo and Perfect Game USA's Dave Rawnsley. Day 2 of the Draft will get under way at 11:30 a.m. ET, and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com with analysis from Mayo and Perfect Game USA's Allan Simpson.
Also once again this year, fans can follow every pick with MLB.com's live Draft Tracker, a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player featuring biographical data, statistics, scouting reports and rare scouting video.
According to Brown, it's good to have those extra picks because this year's Draft is one of the strongest in recent memory. It is pitching-heavy, especially in the high school level, and the Nationals need starting pitching in the worst way.
Outside of right-hander Collin Balester and left-hander Colton Willems, the Nationals don't have any solid top-of-the-rotation players in the Minor League system. Whether Washington drafts a pitcher with the sixth pick remains to be seen.
Nobody would talk about the players the Nationals were interested in, but sources aware of their thinking said that they have their sights on left-hander Ross Detwiler or right-hander Phillippe Aumont.
Detwiler has been impressive for Missouri State this season, posting a 2.22 ERA in 14 appearances while striking out 110 batters in 89 innings. In the last five years, the Nationals have not hesitated to pick a lot of college players because -- as Washington's history has shown -- they have been able to get to the big leagues quicker (see Ryan Zimmerman and Chad Cordero).
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
Aumont is from Quebec, and the Nationals have been eying him for months. He is 6-foot-7, weighs 225 pounds and has a fastball that is clocked in the mid-90s. According to Baseball America, scouts took notice of Aumont when he was playing in the high school Cape Cod and East Coast Showcase All-Star Games.
"You always have to roll with the strength of the draft. You can't create a player," Brown said. "But because we are building, we realize that high school pitching is the strength of the draft, so that is an exciting thing for us. We want to build the organization with young prospects that could be front-of-the-rotation pitchers. It complements our philosophy."
It's not a secret that general manager Jim Bowden loves power bats, so the Nationals could draft a hitter in the first round. The team likes infielder Mike Moustakas, a left-handed hitter from Chatsworth, Calif., who could play shortstop, first and third base. He is hitting over .500 with 20 home runs for Chatsworth High School.
Baseball America reported that Moustakas will be represented by agent Scott Boras, who is known to get top dollar for his clients. Are the Nationals willing to fork over a lot of money if they draft Moustakas? That remains to be seen.
Recent Nationals first-round picks:
Bill Bray, LHP, first round, 2004: Bray was looked upon as the team's future closer, but Bowden traded him to the Reds as part of an eight-player deal that sent outfielder Austin Kearns and second baseman Felipe Lopez to the Nationals.
Zimmerman, 3B, first round, 2005: On Sept. 1, 2005, Zimmerman was in the big leagues, a little more than two months after being drafted. In his first full season, Zimmerman led the Nationals with 110 RBIs, and he finished second to Hanley Ramirez in NL Rookie of the Year balloting.
Chris Marrero, 3B, first round, 2006: With Zimmerman as the third baseman for years to come, the Nationals are converting Marrero into an outfielder. The transition has not been easy, but it has not affected his bat. Marrero was hitting over .290 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs for Class A Hagerstown entering this week.
Willems, LHP, first round, 2006: After being signed to his first professional contract, Willems had an impressive bullpen session at RFK Stadium. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire liked the fact that Willems had good command of all of his pitches. Willems then went to play for the Gulf Coast Nationals and pitched 16 innings before being shut down because of shoulder fatigue.
Rising fast: Injuries have stood in the way of Justin Maxwell's success, but he is healthy for the first time and hitting close to .280 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs for Hagerstown entering the week. He could find himself promoted to Class A Potomac before the season is over. Maxwell is considered the fastest baserunner and best athlete in the organization.
Cinderella Story: Drafted in the 46th round of the 2003 Draft, Morales struck out 206 batters in 204 1/3 innings prior to the 2007 season. He was recently promoted to Triple-A Columbus after giving up a combined three runs in 25 2/3 innings for Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.
In the Show: RHP Cordero (First round, 2003); LHP Bray (First round, 2004); 3B Zimmerman (First round, 2005).
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.