Back in June, when the Nationals used their top draft pick on Jake Johansen, I thought to myself “the Nationals amateur scouting department is at it again.”
Even now that they’re winning, and signing free agents tied to compensation picks, the Nationals are still managing to take home the best young talent in each years draft class. After raking in all-world prospects like Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman during their early, sub-500 seasons in DC, they’ve taken home Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin, Alex Meyer, Lucas Giolito with much weaker draft slots picks in recent years.
They’ve also used their scouting department to extract great value from areas most organizations traditionally struggle in. They found ace-level pitcher Jordan Zimmermann at UW-Milwaukee, a DII program, former P-Nats catcher and on-base machine David Freitas at U Hawaii (sent to Oakland in the Kurt Suzuki deal), and took top outfield prospect Michael Taylor in the 6th round of the ’09 draft, when few pro clubs were even giving him work outs. In the mid to late rounds of recent drafts, they’ve snagged top arms like Tommy Milone (10th round in 2008), Taylor Jordan (9th round in ’09), Nate Karns (12th round in ’09), Aaron Barrett (9th round in ’10), and Robbie Ray (12th round in ’10), as well as slugging first baseman Tyler Moore (16th round in ’08).
Essentially, while under new hard-slotting rules and with lesser picks and lesser resources in general at their disposal, the Nats are still able to get it done.
This June, saddled without a first-round pick because of an (ill-advised) Rafael Soriano contract, they still took home the draft’s most gifted young athletes. They got a 6’6″ flamethrower out of Dallas Baptist in the second round, and then took the utterly underrated and supremely-toolsy Drew Ward in the third round. They followed those two gems with a bunch of other great picks, taking Cody Gunter, a smart third-baseman with thunder in his bat, crafty little southpaw David Napoli, and PAC-10 workhorse Austin Voth.