Monday, June 3, 2013

Nats ten best draft picks in team history

Photo by USA Today
With the 2013 MLB Draft coming up on Thursday, June 6, we will be taking a look at the Nationals' history in the draft over the next few days. Here's how we rank the ten best draft picks the Nats have made since bringing baseball back to the city of Washington.

10. Alex Meyer, SP – 2011: 1st round, 23rd overall
Yet to make MLB debut

Alex Meyer has yet to pitch in a major league game, but by all accounts is a top pitching prospect who could someday be a front of the rotation starter. He also helped land the Nationals their current starting center fielder in Denard Span. Now, whether the trade really worked out for the Nats can’t be determined at this point. But to get a starting quality outfielder who plays defense like Span shows the value of Meyer. What they currently get out of Span is more than worth the 23rd pick in the draft.

9. Craig Stammen, RP – 2005: 12th round, 354th overall pick
MLB career stats: 18-14, 4.13 ERA, 134 games, 360.0 IP

Picked out of the University of Dayton, Stammen was a nice surprise in the minor leagues and made his MLB debut in 2009. He began as a starting pitcher, but struggled in the role and was sent back down to Triple-A. He came back towards the end of 2011 to try his hand at coming out of the bullpen and found a more comfortable spot. Now Stammen is one of the most indispensable relief pitchers on the Nationals’ roster, a reliable commodity whether they need him to get one out or spell a starter for four innings of work.

8. Tommy Milone, SP – 2008: 10th round, 301st pick
MLB career stats: 19-15, 3.82 ERA, 47 games, 285.0 IP

Though most of his success hasn’t been in a Nats uniform, Tommy Milone was a terrific pick for the organization. He was solid in the minors so the Nats decided to showcase him down the stretch of the 2011 season. They were then able to use him as the centerpiece in a 2012 offseason trade to land All-Star lefty Gio Gonzalez. Milone has gone on to have success with the Oakland Athletics and Gonzalez has been just what the doctor ordered in Washington. Not bad for a tenth round selection.

7. Drew Storen, RP – 2009: 1st round, 10th pick
MLB career stats: 13-9, 3.12 ERA, 188 games, 184.2 IP, 53 SV

The Nats took Storen with a compensatory pick from the season before after failing to sign relief pitcher Aaron Crow. Storen was quick to the majors and has made a significant impact over the last few years, particularly in 2011 with 43 saves. He is going through some troubles nowadays with a 4.18 ERA this season, but all in all a solid choice at tenth overall. 

6. Ross Detwiler, SP – 2007: 1st round, 6th pick
MLB career stats: 18-26, 3.63 ERA, 80 games, 382.1 IP

Being considered as a great draft pick for the Nationals is about the exact opposite of where Detwiler would be if this list were made two years ago. Picked sixth overall, the lefty starter was a large disappointment for several years, but bloomed late and is now a big part of the Nationals’ future. He was always tall with mid-90s heat from the left side, and now has command of his pitches and confidence on the mound. 

5. John Lannan, SP – 2005: 11th round, 324th pick
MLB career stats: 42-53, 4.05 ERA, 137 games, 798.1 IP

Lannan isn’t an ace or a top of the rotation guy by any means, but considering where he was taken, he produced major value. This was perhaps best shown in 2012 when he came up to the majors to take Stephen Strasburg’s rotation spot. He filled in admirably and helped stabilize the Nats’ rotation amid trying times. Lannan was an Opening Day starter for the Nats and was their most reliable pitcher for several years. Things didn’t work out in the end between the two sides, as he walked in free agency, but Lannan’s time in Washington far exceeded the expectations for where he was picked.

4. Jordan Zimmermann, SP – 2007: 2nd round, 67th pick
MLB career stats: 32-29, 3.32 ERA, 92 games, 559.0 IP

Picking Zimmermann is probably one of the best decisions the Nationals’ front office has ever made. They selected an ace who has become one of the best pitchers in the league, and he didn’t fall into their lap like Stephen Strasburg did. Zimmermann was unheralded enough to fall out of the top 65 picks and was developed into who he is now. They projected his talent, noting his command and character, and plucked a franchise cornerstone who really should have been picked much higher. If the 2007 draft were done over, Zimmermann would easily be a top five pick. 

3. Stephen Strasburg, SP – 2009: 1st round, 1st pick
MLB career stats: 24-15, 2.85 ERA, 57 games, 325.2 IP

After losing 102 games in the 2008 season, Washington was awarded the number one pick in a draft that was all about one guy. Stephen Strasburg was considered the best pitching prospect in ages with triple digit heat and a ready-made repertoire of plus pitches. He made for an easy choice and, looking back, there wasn’t a whole lot of talent at the top of the 2009 class. Mike Trout did go 25th that year, but he wasn’t considered a candidate for number one overall. Strasburg has battled some injuries, most notably involving his 2010 Tommy John surgery, but has already been an All-Star and a Silver Slugger in his brief tenure (just 57 games) in the majors.

2. Bryce Harper, OF – 2010: 1st round, 1st pick
MLB career stats: .274 BA, 34 HR, 82 RBI, 127 R, 183 games

The Nationals had the good fortune of having the first overall pick to get Strasburg, and they may have been even more fortunate to have it the following year. The 2010 draft class was absolutely stacked with Harper, Manny Machado, Matt Harvey, and Chris Sale all picked in the top 13. The Nats, however, couldn’t pass up a talent as rare as Harper who was projected as an MLB superstar from the age of 16. Harper has since been an MLB All-Star and N.L. Rookie of the Year, and at age 20 is still likely a few years away from reaching his prime. It seems only a matter of time before he is clearly the top choice for this list.

1. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B – 2005: 1st round, 5th pick
MLB career stats: .287 BA, 159 HR, 621 RBI, 1033 games

The Face of the Franchise as he’s called, Zimmerman was the first draft pick the franchise officially made as the Washington Nationals. Zimmerman has since gone on to be an All-Star and win both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger at third base. The Nationals hit it big with a local guy as Zimmerman hailed from the University of Virginia, but truthfully it would have been hard to mess up the pick. Also taken in the first round that year were Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce and Jacoby Ellsbury. It was a nice year to be looking for a franchise cornerstone and they found one.

46 comments:

Section 222 said...

Unfortunately, every time I see a list like this, I remember that Mike Trout was picked by the Angels after Storen and Giancarlo Stanton was picked in the 2nd round in the same draft as Detwiler.

3on2out said...

It's a fair point, 222, but hindsight is always 20/20. Remember how many times EVERYBODY passed on Mike Piazza:

He was taken in the 62nd round. 1,390th overall.

Tcostant said...

On Tommy Milone: "They were then able to use him as the centerpiece in a 2012 offseason trade to land All-Star lefty Gio Gonzalez."

Just revisionist history, everyone said then that the centerpiece of the trade was Brad Peacock.

Water23 said...

repost as I was the last of the previous post.

I was wondering what move Rizzo could make to ignite the Nats for the rest of the season. Many times, a rookie is promoted, a underperforming player is slotted in roster or a trade is made that reignites the fire. Yes, the Nats have a bunch of injuries but who could be the Scutaro? Freese? Torres?

It seems that the Nats need something like this. Maybe Werth's return starts the fire, then Ramos, Harper come back combined with ALR annual 2nd half improvement but it does seem something else needs to happen.

The only spot that makes sense now is 2b - Kelly Johnson would have been nice but maybe something out of the box will work?

3B - A. Ramirez? Avg & some Power.
C - John Buck? Power + experience.
SP - Gallardo (expensive) or Bud Norris Ricky Nolasco - Depth at SP is critical.

and dare I mention Morse? The Mariners are not going anywhere fast and he is a free agent at the end of the season. It would make things crowded but do we really think Werth, Harper, ALR etc will all stay healthy the rest of the year?

The Nats have money to eat a contract right now but in a year or two the Werth deal and the cost of Harper/JZim/Stras will begin to weigh on the roster.

Water23 said...

Tcostant,

Agreed as to the revisionist history.

Section 222 said...

3o2o, very true. You'll notice I wasn't casting aspersions, throwing stones, or calling for anyone to be fired. Just wishing things were different, that's all.

Tcostant said...

And don't forget Keith Hernandez in the42nd round...

And Albert Pujols in the 13th round.

Scooter said...

It might be interesting to put together an all-2nd-round-or-later team (or 3rd, or whatever round one chooses), to get a sense of what guys were passed on but still made good.

natsfan1a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
natsfan1a said...

Sigh. Reposted with correction (thanks a lot, spellcheck).

On another note, the SS and Harper picks, while good players, were kinda sorta no-brainers, imo. Perhaps not as impressive from a scouting/draft standpoint as the guys that fly under the radar and turn out to be surprises, in a good way. But then I'm not an armchair GM or a scout, so what do I know? (That's rhetorical, btw. :-))

Scooter said...

I mean, among current players. If you used the entire history of the draft, I'm sure you'd easily find an All-Star team. Heck, you guys have a good start already, just off the top of your heads.

Don said...

I thought Zim was the 4th pick in 2005, no? He went ahead of Braun and Tulo that year.

Section 222 said...

In our endless discussions of Espi's shortcomings this year, a lot of folks have made the point that Espi's wrist (or shoulder) isn't responsible for his terrible pitch recognition. As NL put it in her recent blog post: "[A] torn rotator cuff and and bone chip in your wrist don’t cause you to swing at balls in the dirt." Seems obvious, but I wonder if it's actually true. Isn't it possible that if you are anticipating pain or trying to compensate for perceived or actual weakness you might pull the trigger a tiny bit early and therefore not recognize the location of a pitch as well as when you are completely healthy and comfortable at the plate? Or might you modify your swing in a small way that would cause you to miss a pitch that you'd otherwise hit?

Maybe some of our ex-coaches or players can opine.

natsfan1a said...

I found this on teh googlez:

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ycn-8568987

Scooter said...

I mean, among current players. If you used the entire history of the draft, I'm sure you'd easily find an All-Star team. Heck, you guys have a good start already, just off the top of your heads.
June 03, 2013 4:16 PM

Rabbit34 said...

The column is interesting, but we're still below sea level and a game from dropping into third.

Caps Fan said...

Kilgore had a piece this morning comparing how Adam LaRoche felt during the first part of 2012 when he tried to play through his shoulder injury and how Espinosa is probably feeling now. LaRoche felt no pain but finally realized the injury was causing his poor performance so he voluntarily shut himself down and had the surgery. The difference with Espi is that there's no way Espi will ever do that. At some point Rizzo will have to offer Espinosa a choice: go on the DL, or if you want to continue to try to play through the shoulder injury you'll have to do it in AA or AAA. I wouldn't be surprised if there aren't discussions going on right now among Rizzo, Johnson, Espinosa and Boras on that very topic. You know Boras is involved, or it would have happened already.

Section 222 said...

Hmm, I guess that Kilgore piece pretty much answers my question. Note to self, need to check out NJ more regularly.

Dave said...

This list reminds me that, as glad as I am that he's gone, Jim Bowden made a few pretty darn good draft moves. He still gloats on XM Radio from time to time about letting Alfonso Soriano go and then drafting JZimm. Gotta give the devil his due--that turned out all right.

bowdenball said...

Absolutely agree, Section 222. A torn rotator cuff and a wrist injury can slow your swing. Even a slightly slower swing forces you to make a decision about a pitch sooner, whether consciously or subconsciously. Being forced to make a decision about a pitch sooner makes pitch recognition more difficult. It's all related.

Nats 128 said...

Dave I agree plus all the losing from the Bowden error ;) is the reason the Nats drafted Stras and Bryce.

Knoxville Nat said...

Dave,

I'll give Bowden his due for getting JZimm however I still can't get over him bringing up Detwiler for what, 1 inning in 2006 or 2007, and burning an option that would have benefited both Det and the Nats later on.

David Proctor said...

J.C. Romero opted out with #Nationals. #Indians working to finalize deal with him. Could report to AAA as soon as Thursday.

Nats 128 said...

"bowdenball said...

Absolutely agree, Section 222. A torn rotator cuff and a wrist injury can slow your swing. Even a slightly slower swing forces you to make a decision about a pitch sooner, whether consciously or subconsciously. Being forced to make a decision about a pitch sooner makes pitch recognition more difficult. It's all related."

Is that right. So all of Espys problems in 2012 and 2011 on swinging on fastballs at his eyeballs and pitches in the dirt were from the injuries suffered in September 2012 and April 14 2013.

You all give new meaning to excuses. Im reading this in disbelief.

Yes, I can believe that some of this is injury related but this wasn't a good hitter before, during or after the said injuries. This young man led the entire Major Leagues in strikeouts in 2012.

Alphabet Soup Erik said...

Once again...how could anybody possibly think Rizzo is a great GM? I just don't get it...what has he done? What talent has he acquired from Latin America? What big trades has he clearly won? What gems has he found in the draft (and no, pitchers with hurt arms who haven't played yet don't count)? What big free agents has he signed that have really helped this team? I have been trotting this list out here for 2 years on this website and maybe now people are starting to see the light. Please do not give him a contract extension.

JD said...


Bowdenball,

What you said and also I imagine that it's very harder to stop your swing once you start. Having said that I don't understand why one wouldn't just go get everything fixed and come back strong next year (ALA LaRoche).

Nats 128 said...

"David Proctor said...
J.C. Romero opted out with #Nationals. #Indians working to finalize deal with him. Could report to AAA as soon as Thursday."

Well of course there is no room with the studs that Rizzo has in Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke ¿!

Nats 128 said...

Yes, JD is smarter than the Medical Doctors that advised Danny Espinosa. Just pathetic. Maybe the batters eye should be blamed for this one also¿!

MicheleS said...

Wasn't Romero still on the AAA DL?

Nats 128 said...

Yes he was Michelle and due to come off the 7 day.

Section 222 said...

Nats128, not making excuses, just questioning what seems to be the conventional wisdom that his injuries are completely unrelated to his inability to recognize pitches in the dirt or up at his eyes as pitches he shouldn't swing at. You seem to have forgotten that I've been calling for Espi's demotion or shipment to the DL since long before you started commenting on this blog under your current moniker a week ago.

JD said...


Nats 128,

You are right that Espi wasn't a good hitter in 2011 and 2012 but he was a good enough hitter compared to all other 2nd basemen given his defense. That's all we are saying here. Now for the 1st time he is below replacement level and he should be removed from the lineup.

You and ghost claim that this was a major problem prior to this year but he was 3.5 games above replacement in both these years and he ranked 3rd among all 2nd basemen last year. Strike outs are only a small part of the story, if you still manage to get on base at a respectable rate then strike outs aren't that big of a problem.

David Proctor said...

I'll just do one of each, but I could list more:


"What big trades has he clearly won?"

Gio Gonzalez.

"What gems has he found in the draft (and no, pitchers with hurt arms who haven't played yet don't count)?"

Tommy Milone.

"What big free agents has he signed that have really helped this team?"

Jayson Werth.

bowdenball said...

Nats 128 said...


"Is that right. So all of Espys problems in 2012 and 2011 on swinging on fastballs at his eyeballs and pitches in the dirt were from the injuries suffered in September 2012 and April 14 2013."


Everybody swings at pitches in the dirt sometimes. It's called a changeup. If the pitcher executes a change so that the hitter is convinced a fastball is coming, he ends up swinging at a pitch that's nowhere near where he expected. It happens to perennial all-stars and weak-hitting middle infielders alike. Have you not watched enough Strasburg outings?

We've talked about the fact that Espinosa was an average or maybe even an above-average hitter for a second baseman before this season. Every stat on run production shows it. I'm sorry you don't like the strikeouts, but he also used to walk a lot. That's changed substantially this year. So yes, I think whatever is wrong with him this year- be it injury or whatever- has affected his pitch recognition. Walk rates don't drop like his has unless you can't recognize and react to the pitch like you used to.

You also might want to keep in mind that I'm not Danny Espinosa. If you want to badmouth Danny, I guess that's your choice, but enough with the hissy fits about what I post. But I'm just a guy on a message board talking baseball. I'm not making excuses for anyone, I'm offering my opinion.

baseballswami said...

Sec 222 correct about the swing. And thus screwing up whatever mechanics that were there on a very young switch hitter, who may never recover from this. Look how hard it is for a veteran like Zim to try to get back his throwing motion. When you start compensating, it becomes a huge mess. Someone needs to be the adult in the room and save him from himself. The draft? If you are a forever Nats fan it has got to be Zimmy. But I do think JZ was a great scouting victory. I agree with Scooter that it would be fun to look at some later pick diamonds in the rough.

Nats 128 said...

JD, please dont associate my thoughts with anyone elses because I doubt I share the exact same views and have barely spoken my piece on the subject.

I actually see value in Espinosa as a bench player. Im not a Medical Doctor and wont assume what you are shoveling.

I see an undiscplined batter who just cant help himself and generally is swinging for the fences and coming up with strikeouts. Hes not helping the team as he is hurting the team.

Nats 128 said...

"Everybody swings at pitches in the dirt sometimes. It's called a changeup."

Really, he swings at changeups, sliders, curveballs in the dirt.

The worst is the fastball at his eyeballs. I lose it every time he does that.

This isnt injury related. Its like he cant help himself.

baseballswami said...

I actually feel sorry for the kid. His career is in a precarious position. Either he is physically damaged and no one would want him, or he is a terrible hitter who can't play at this level, or he is uncoachable. Does he have any advisors who care about him and his future??? The team will always be able to find a player, they will go on. But can his career survive this? It is very sad to watch a guy with his potential going nowhere but downhill. I think that is at the root of my frustration.

Section 222 said...

Does he have any advisors who care about him and his future???

I completely agree swami. And that's why I strongly doubt that Boras is somehow pulling the strings and forcing Davey to keep him in the lineup, as some have suggested. He can't possibly believe that this futility is good for Espi's long term earnings potential.

JD said...


Sec222,

I think that one way or another this is coming to an end. Rizzo admitted as much by moving Rendon to 2nd base. Again if this is medical Danny and his people should do a LaRoche and come back healthy next year.

Section 222 said...

JD, agreed. That's why I'm done beating the Espi needs to sit drum. It's only a matter of time. Too bad it took this long.

Steady Eddie said...

222 and JD -- the fact that it took this long when Espi's April 2013 numbers looked just like his September-October 2012 numbers, suggests a strange clubhouse pathology, which is only emphasized by the contrast with ALR in 2011.

As we painfully recall, Danny started 2012 really slow, hitting .212 by mid-May, and only slowly improving to about .230 by the end of June. But what some (not you two guys) conveniently forget is that he was hitting .258 by the time he injured his rotator cuff in the Miami series in early September. I don't have his July and August 2012 numbers but to overcome a terrible start like that, they'd have to be high enough to bely the claims of some here that he has never hit MLB pitching for any meaningful period of time.

But seeing that, the fact that since that injury he has fallen off the cliff and stayed there at the bottom makes clear that there is NO chance of him hitting even adequately without fixing his current injuries.

(The fact that he did OK in ST this year proves nothing other than the pitchers either were MLB and didn't try very hard or were MiLB.)

i don't think anyone can credibly vouch for his capacity to return to his summer 2012 hitting form in the future if he gets his injuries fixed. But what seems clear is that there's no way he has any chance of getting back to that form without getting both his shoulder and his wrist fixed.

David Proctor said...

Stephania Bell of ESPN had this to say about Harper:

Last week, I said not to expect Harper's left knee (originally injured crashing into the outfield wall in Dodger Stadium on May 13) to land him on the DL if he could help it. It couldn't be helped. In fact, Harper acknowledged to reporters that he aggravated his knee with a headfirst slide May 25 and it turns out the persistent swelling and soreness was too much to overcome. On Sunday, Harper described his knee as "still swollen and crappy" yet said he hopes to start running and hitting at some point this week. The bottom line is he won't be given the green light to run if he is still experiencing swelling to the point where he continues to walk with a limp, as he reportedly was Thursday night.

There's no magic antidote for the swelling associated with bursitis; rest is perhaps the key ingredient for getting it under control. The bigger concern would be preventing this from turning into a chronic issue over the remainder of the season. Harper's move to the DL reflects the Nationals' desire to curb the problem now and he's not likely to resurface until his progress moves him out of range of the easy threat of a setback. After all, teammate and fellow outfielder Jayson Werth followed a similar pattern of being placed on the DL following a string of consecutive missed games. At the time, Werth expected to return when eligible but was held back when his hamstring continued to nag at him with certain explosive activities. Now it looks as if Werth will rejoin the team Tuesday, so at least the Nationals anticipate getting a player back as they lose Harper, but it's worth noting his absence will have exceeded a month. If Harper's progress remains slow, expect his timetable to be extended because the Nationals know he isn't wired to play at anything less than 110 percent effort, regardless of how his body actually feels.

baseballswami said...

I understand there is some kind of event at Penn Social tonight with Davey and Rizzo and the WJFK folks with fans. Will the fans suck up or rag on them? Might be a bit testy??

Laddie Blah Blah said...

"Everybody swings at pitches in the dirt sometimes."

Last year Dany swung at, and missed, more pitches out of the strike zone than any other player in the entire major leagues, whether those pitches were in the dirt, off the outside of the plate, bouncing off his shoe tops, or sailing over his head. Only Brandon Phillips swung at more bad pitches than Danny, but Phillips connected on enough of them to give the "bad pitch swing and miss" title to Mr. Espinosa.

Espinosa reportedly did not tear his rotator cuff until September of last year, and he incurred the injury to his wrist this year, so there were no injuries contributing to his miserable record of swinging at, and missing, more pitches out of the strike zone than any other ML player, last year.

He may be even worse, this year, although I have not checked the stats. But he has had a dreadful, sustained record of fruitfully and consistently flailing at junk.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

"I actually feel sorry for the kid. His career is in a precarious position. Either he is physically damaged and no one would want him, or he is a terrible hitter who can't play at this level, or he is uncoachable. Does he have any advisors who care about him and his future???"

My sentiments, exactly. He should have been told to get that shoulder fixed in the off-season or forget about reporting to spring training. That's what they should be telling him to do now. Espinosa is being mis-managed, and is losing value as a ML player with each 1 for 20 streak, which he seems to be accumulating faster than Davey can say "any game now."

biggoose said...

Espinosa was an average player at his best. People keep talking about his potential. Why? His minor league stats are average (never hit over 300) and his fielding is above average but not great. During the off season he had no trade value and now he reports he is injured and told no one about this supposed rotator problem. On the other hand what about Lombardozzi's potential? .273 as a rookie playing out of position and misused. He led the team in avg. with runners in scoring position. He is a golden glove minor league 2baseman. Let's give him a chance to help our club.

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