The Nats did good with their first pick of the draft this season, picking up Ross Detwiler in the first round. An analysis of this pick can be found in last week’s column.
Supplemental Round Picks
Josh Smoker was their next pick at 31. He was basically taken at the end of the first round/beginning of the supplemental round, and he is a first round talent. He was listed as the #16 prospect by Baseball America, one slot for each pitch he uses. Seriously though, he uses 6 pitches effectively, and his numbers last year included 100 Ks to 17 BBs (you are allowed no additional time to figure out that ratio) and an ERA below 1.00. Last week they were still projecting him to go as high as the #14 pick. Smoker is a lefty high schooler who may not come up as fast as Detwiler, but is projected to be great starting pitcher.
With their second Soriano selection, Washington picked up the kind of the player they could use right now, although he won’t be ready for a few years. At pick #49 overall, they selected Michael Burgess, a power hitting OF. Another high schooler, he had a disappointing first half of his senior season after an incredible junior season. He had some issues with focus but found his stroke again towards the end of the year. He’ll need some time to develop, but his inconsistency can be worked on by the farm system. He is probably riskier than some other guys the Nationals picked, but if he pans out the way scouts think he can, he will be a 40-HR guy in RF for the Nats. Other teams will be scared if his game develops like other players who went to his high school – Gary Sheffield, Dwight Gooden, and Elijah Dukes. The Nats will be scared if his attitude develops like them.
Second Round Picks
Jordan Zimmermann was DC’s next pick, at #67 overall. He is a pitcher, but this time he’s a righty out of college. He can throw in the mid-90s, but his performance was hard to judge. He broke his jaw after being hit while throwing batting practice, and wasn’t able to pitch early on in the season. He did show he had recovered, but there was not a consistent senior season to judge him on. In the end the Nats staff probably thought “eh, his name is Zimmermann, let’s give him a shot”.
The Nationals final pick in the first 2 rounds, their 5th pick of the draft at #71, was an interesting one. Jake Smolinski is a high school star, but he is a shortstop that many project to be moved to 3B or OF. He is a power hitter and is a multi-sport athlete in high school, but his signability is an issue. If he decides to go to college in the fall, the pick will be wasted, but if not he could be very good for Washington. He is considered to be extremely smart with great leadership ability, leading some teams to want to move him to catcher. If the Nats do that, I certainly wouldn’t complain about a backstop named Jake. If he moves there and is effective, his lack of speed won’t be an issue, and his bat wouldn’t have to develop much more.
Overall, the draft was very successful for the Nats. Keith Law of former scouting and current ESPN fame (someday he will be the Mel Kiper of baseball) gave them the third best draft of the day, and one of the teams ahead of them was SF, who had 3 first round picks. Signing everyone up at the top of the draft will be tough, but certainly not impossible. Also nice to see, the Nationals, unlike other teams, used all 50 rounds they were given to make picks. This signifies how deep their scouting department was able to look this season. Regardless, they were able to grab some real talent in hopes of bolstering a farm system depleted by years of non-ownership.
And thanks again to Baseball America for their great reviews and resources, in case you hadn’t guessed, I didn’t actually scout these players myself…