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2010 Draft Preview - Washington Nationals

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Here is the first part of my 2010 Draft Preview series, where I’ll review each scouting director’s previous picks, along with where they might focus for 2010. My first writeup focuses on the Nationals and new scouting director Kris Kline. Since this is Kline’s first draft, I’ll start with Arizona’s drafts of 2004-2006, when Kline was their "Western Supervisor" (or crosschecker), then Washington’s 2007 and 2008 drafts, where he filled the same role. He was the Nationals’ national crosschecker a year ago, so that draft will be handled in full.

Owner: Ted Lerner, bought club in 2006
General Manager: Mike Rizzo, promoted in 2009
Scouting Director: Kris Kline, first draft is 2010

Looking Back

2004 Draft: Arizona Western Supervisor

1. Brandon Burgess, OF, Sonoma State (CA), #176 Overall: Burgess was the first player taken by Arizona in Kline’s region in 2004, being taken in the 6th round. He was noted for plus power and a big pro body and arm, and he was slated to go anywhere from the 6th to 10th round. Following players selected: Cory Patton, Daniel Batz, Adam Russell. Signing bonus: $140,000.
2. Koley Kolberg, RHP, Arizona, #206 Overall: The Diamondbacks followed up their Burgess selection with another West Coast pick in Kolberg. He was slated to go anywhere in this range, and he featured essentially average stuff. He rated as a future middle reliever even then. Following players selected: Randy Dicken, Barry Richmond, Tim Murphey. Signing bonus: $90,000.
3. Jimmy Shull, RHP, Cal Poly, #236 Overall: The Diamondbacks began trusting Kline here, despite not using any early picks on West Coast players. Shull was a pitcher on his way up the charts, and this was about where most expected him to go. He was quite raw for a college pitcher, but had more than average upside. He did not sign. Following players selected: Chip Cannon, Carlos Medero-Stullz, Nick Lemon. DID NOT SIGN.
4. A.J. Shappi, RHP, UC Riverside, #266 Overall: This was the last West Coast pick in the top ten rounds for the Diamondbacks in 2004. He was a typical college ace with average stuff, and his ceiling was essentially another middle reliever arm. Following players selected: Joey Metropoulos, David Nicholson, Ryan McCarthy. Signing bonus: $65,000.
Other Notable Selections: 1B Chris Carter (17th), Stanford

2005 Draft: Arizona Western Supervisor

1. Mark Romanczuk, LHP, Stanford, #111 Overall: Fourth-rounder Romanczuk was Arizona’s first West Coast pick in 2005, as the Diamondbacks continued to skim over Kline’s region in early picks. Romanczuk was a heralded pitcher in high school, but lost stuff in college, and he was represented by Scott Boras. He had a back-end of the rotation ceiling. Following players selected: Joe Dickerson, Justin Thomas, Justin Maxwell. Signing bonus: $300,000.
2. Ryan Schreppel, LHP, Cal State Fullerton, #231 Overall: The Diamondbacks went back to Kline’s region for another college lefty in the eighth round. Schreppel, like Romanczuk, was more heralded coming into college than he was leaving it, and he was expected to go somewhere in this range after underachieving and being hurt. He was an unknown. Following players selected: Nicholas Doscher, David Asher, Jack Spradlin. Signing bonus: $80,000.
3. Cody Davis, RHP, Long Beach State, #291 Overall: Davis was another low-ceiling pitcher taken in Kline’s region, this time in the tenth round. He wasn’t really expected to be a major factor for teams in the draft, and that showed with a low draft slot and relatively low signing bonus. Following players selected: Jeff Howell, Ronnie Prettyman, Dee Brown. Signing bonus: $60,000.
Other Notable Selections: None.

2006 Draft: Arizona Western Supervisor

1. Dallas Buck, RHP, Oregon State, #86 Overall: Buck became the highest-drafted player in Kline’s region in his three years as Western Supervisor with Arizona. Buck was another oft-injured pitcher to be taken in Kline’s region, as Buck dealt with elbow problems during his draft year. He had flashed above-average stuff in previous years. Following players selected: Cyle Hankerd, Chad Tracy, Clayton Tanner. Signing bonus: $250,000.
2. Cyle Hankerd, OF, USC, #87 Overall: With back-to-back picks, the Diamondbacks went back to Kline’s region with Hankerd. Hankerd wasn’t known for big tools, but rather his ability to spray the ball around the field with his bat. He was expected to be stuck in a corner outfield spot for his career, which had a ceiling of a fourth outfield type of player. Following players selected: Chad Tracy, Clayton Tanner, Torre Langley. Signing bonus: $430,000.
3. Hector Ambriz, RHP, UCLA, #147 Overall: Ambriz was yet another previously-injured pitcher taken in Kline’s region, this time in the fifth round. He had shoulder surgery early in his collegiate career, but had stayed healthy upon returning. He had back-end of the rotation upside. Following players selected: Chris Davis, Jeff Samardzija, Luke Hopkins. Signing bonus: $160,000.
4. Daniel Stange, RHP, UC Riverside, #207 Overall: Stange was a reliever at Riverside with a plus fastball. His delivery was noted for being quite awful, and the chance for future injury seemed high. However, getting a power reliever in the seventh round of the draft is respectable, and Stange was expected to move through the system quickly if healthy. Following players selected: Grant Gerrard, Steve Clevenger, John Baksh. Signing bonus: $115,000.
5. Eddie Romero, LHP, Fresno State, #267 Overall: Romero was expected to go a bit higher as a lefty with some potential, though his ceiling wasn’t the highest. He was likely drafted for depth, and his selection shows the added faith in Kline for the 2006 draft. Following players selected: Brennan Garr, Cliff Andersen, Cole Figueroa. Signing bonus: $75,000.
Other Notable Selections: RHP Tony Barnette (10th), Arizona State, $10,000 bonus

2007 Draft: Washington West Coast Crosschecker

1. Bradley Meyers, RHP, Loyola Marymount, #160 Overall: This was the first pick in Kline’s region after he joined Washington’s scouting department for the 2007 draft. Meyers’ value was in his big pro body, as he was 6’6’’ and a former prep standout. He hadn’t performed up to his standards, but he offered more upside than the typical college righty. Following players selected: Caleb Gindl, Connor Graham, Tyrell Worthington. Signing bonus: $145,800.
2. Patrick McCoy, LHP, Sahuaro HS (AZ), #310 Overall: McCoy was the only other player in Kline’s region picked by Washington in the top ten rounds in 2007. He was a relatively low upside prep pitcher, but his left-handedness and perceived signability were attractive to a number of teams picking around this area of the tenth round. Following players selected: Eric Fryer, Jeffrey Fischer, Evan Frey. Signing bonus: $100,000.
Other Notable Selections: None.

2008 Draft: Washington West Coast Crosschecker

1. Danny Espinosa, SS, Long Beach State, #87 Overall: Espinosa has made Kris Kline look very good. He was seen as an average tools player that perhaps didn’t even have a ceiling as a Major League starter, either at second or short. However, he was known for his hard work and plus makeup, and this pick was solid at the time. Following players selected: Chase Davidson, Tim Murphy, Petey Paramore. Signing bonus: $525,000.
2. Ricardo Pecina, LHP, San Diego, #241 Overall: Pecina looked like an average college pitcher with little upside and a fair amount of safety. He was expected to go somewhere from round 8 to 15 as a potential lefty specialist. Following players selected: Brad Dydalewicz, Mike Bianucci, Jeremy Barfield. Signing bonus: $100,000.
3. J.R. Higley, 1B, Sacramento CC (CA), #271 Overall: Higley was more known as being a Loyola Marymount transfer than a Sacramento CC player, and he stood out on a field with lesser-known JuCo players. He had a fair amount of upside, and there was speculation he could move off first base to either third base or a corner outfield spot. Following players selected: Luis Cruz, Jared Bolden, Mitch LeVier. Signing bonus: $150,000.
4. Tom Milone, LHP, USC, #301 Overall: Milone was yet another fringe lefty arm picked in Kline’s region, this time in the tenth round. He was projected as a future middle reliever or lefty specialist, and he relied almost completely on command over stuff. Following players selected: Jarred Holloway, Kevin Castner, Rashun Dixon. Signing bonus: $65,000.
Other Notable Selections: None.

2009 Draft: National Crosschecker

1. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State, #1 Overall: This was a no-brainer and was well beyond Kline’s influence, but I’ll list it here anyway. Strasburg continues to be known as the biggest thing in draft history, even above the hyped Bryce Harper. Following players selected: Dustin Ackley, Donavan Tate, Tony Sanchez. Signing bonus: $7,500,000*.
2. Drew Storen, RHP, Stanford, #10 Overall: Funny enough, both Strasburg and Storen came out of Kline’s old region, and it was rumored that the Nationals took Storen over Kennesaw State righty Chad Jenkins. Storen was thought of being able to eventually convert to starting, but he starred so well as a reliever that he could move faster there. Following players selected: Tyler Matzek, Aaron Crow, Grant Green. Signing bonus: $1,600,000.
3. Jeff Kobernus, 2B, California, #50 Overall: Once again, the Nationals went with another player out of Kline’s old region. I don’t necessarily think this is not a coincidence. The Nationals had plenty of options here, but still chose to go with Kobernus, a kid that has upside as an average Major League second baseman with experience at third base, too. Following players selected: Rich Poythress, Everett Williams, Brooks Pounders.
4. Trevor Holder, RHP, Georgia, #81 Overall: Holder was likely chosen for his signability, as his projected draft position was as much as seven rounds lower than the third round in which he was taken. He ended up signing for under slot as a collegiate righty with middle reliever upside. Following players selected: Kyle Seager, Jerry Sullivan, Evan Chambers. Signing bonus: $200,000.
5. A.J. Morris, RHP, Kansas State, #112 Overall: Morris was a 22 year old junior that had been a dud until going undrafted following a draft-eligible sophomore year. He had average stuff with swing man upside, and he fits into Kline’s history of college arms. Following players selected: James Jones, Keyvius Sampson, Zack Dodson. Signing bonus: $270,000.
Other Notable Selections: RHP Taylor Jordan (9th), Brevard CC (FL), $99,500 bonus; RHP Nathan Karns (12th), Texas Tech, $225K bonus; RHP Brandon King (27th), Martinsburg HS (WV), $100K bonus.

Kris Kline’s experience as a scout goes back two decades, and there aren’t many people who can claim that he isn’t qualified to be a scouting director. The interesting dynamic in Washington is that Kline is essentially part of a drafting team that starts with Mike Rizzo at the GM level. Rizzo was Kline’s boss in his years with Arizona, when Rizzo ran Arizona’s drafts as their scouting director. Kline followed Rizzo to Washington for the 2007 draft, when Rizzo became the head of baseball ops under Jim Bowden. Rizzo’s ascension to general manager ensures Kline’s job security, at least for a few years. It also means that drafting will be done in a team environment, especially considering the arrival of Roy Clark from Atlanta, another previous scouting director. Clark took over the scouting department in Atlanta from the legendary Paul Snyder, and he enters Washington as Vice President of Player Personnel, essentially Rizzo’s right-hand man for scouting. This triumvirate will mean excellent scouting and use of scouting resources this season, and despite Kline’s lack of experience at the scouting director level, I don’t expect a weak draft, even going beyond whoever they selected at number one overall. This Washington front office is set up to be very successful for the coming years if they use the combined scouting knowledge they have in the front office.

It’s hard to predict how much money the Nationals will have to spend on this year’s draft. Their selection of Stephen Strasburg a year ago pretty much blew up the scouting budget, yet they were still able to spend approximately $4 million on players not named Strasburg in draft bonuses. A healthy scouting budget like that is sure to reap dividends in the end, and I expect more of the same this year. I don’t think anyone will command such a large contract in this year’s draft, even though Bryce Harper is represented by the same Scott Boras that represented Strasburg. Knowing this, and the fact that the Nationals don’t have a second first-round pick this year, I expect their budget to decline, at least by a few million dollars. That’s not due to the Nationals deemphasizing drafting, but actually points out how special Stephen Strasburg is. Assuming Rod Barajas signs a Major League contract with another team before the draft, the Nationals will hold picks 1, 51, 83, 116, and every 30 picks after that. It’s a normal draft lineup with no extra compensation picks. I expect a budget somewhere around $9-10 million, though that could easily change between now and June.

Pointing you to specific players is not very easy before most of the 2010 season is underway, but I think we all know who the favorite for the number one pick is going to be for most of the season. Bryce Harper, despite what you hear about his faults, is clearly the top prospect in this draft class at the moment, and I don’t expect that to change between now and June. I expect him to take somewhere in the neighborhood of $6.5-7 million in a bonus to sign, probably with a Major League contract, too. Knowing Kline’s draft history, and Rizzo’s years at Arizona, too, I expect the Nationals to stick closely with collegiate players and signable preps and JuCos, too. Some possible names to remember are Michael Choice, Hunter Morris, Sammy Solis, Sam Dyson, and Daniel Tillman for the second round. Martin Viramontes, Ross Wilson, Jake Thompson, and Mark Canha could easily sneak up as third round names. I expect a fair amount of West Coast names like a year ago, though with Roy Clark in the fold, they could easily seek a broader geographic area, most likely Georgia, where Clark’s roots are deeply ingrained. Florida is also a highly scouted state for Washington, so expect some early-to-mid round names from there. Watch out for the names of Austin Wood and Cody Allen.

*Bonus information came from BA.

What do you guys think? What will the Nationals do?