The Nationals were finally active in the draft today after not having a first round pick and picking just once yesterday. Today’s draft covered rounds 3-10, and the team added some players who could one day be making a big league impact. However, one of the biggest items of news today actually concerned yesterday’s draft pick. RHP Jake Johansen signed his deal with the Nationals just a day after being drafted. He signed for slot value, which is $820,ooo for the 68th overall pick. He said that he would report to the Nationals’ extended spring training facilities in Viera, and then join the short-season Auburn Doubledays when their season begins June 17th.
July 31, 2012; Washington D. C., USA; Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo (center) talks to reporters prior to the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
In round three, the Nationals selected Oklahoma high school shortstop Drew Ward. Ward is committed to attend Oklahoma, but graduated high school early to be eligible for the 2013 draft. He seems eager to start his pro career and should not be overly difficult to sign. He will likely play third base as a pro.
The team’s fourth round pick was New Mexico Junior College RHP Nicholas Pivetta. He is a similar prospect to Johansen, being a big fireballer whose fastball sits in the mid 90s and can touch higher. However, he also has a future plus curveball. He might be able to stick as a starter if he can improve his changeup, but could be a late-inning reliever if not.
At 166th overall, in the fifth round, the Nats chose Austin Voth, a RHP from the University of Washington. He had a 2.99 ERA this season and was second in the PAC-12 in strikeouts, trailing only first overall pick Mark Appel. However, despite his collegiate success, some expect him to move to the bullpen, given his height (6′ 2″) and unimpressive secondary offerings.
In the sixth round, the team chose third baseman Cody Gunter from Grayson County College. Gunter has good power from the left side of the plate, but was also a successful closer for his team. He was announced as a third baseman, meaning he will likely focus on batting first, but could be converted to the mound if he struggles.
May 26, 2013; Durham, NC, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies third baseman Brendon Hayden (34) throws to first base against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the ACC baseball tournament at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
The Nationals’ seventh round pick was held in relatively high regard. James Yezzo, first baseman from the University of Delaware, was named the 2013 Colonial Athletic Association player of the year after hitting .410 with 64 RBI and a .714 slugging percentage in just 55 games. It’s easy to see him slugging his way through the minors and making it to the bigs with sheer consistent production, a la Tyler Moore.
The Nats took the first of three consecutive seniors in the eighth round with Tulane’s David Napoli. He should sign for far under the 256th pick’s $149,500 slot value, saving the Nats pool money they might need for other picks or tough signs later in the draft. The lefty had a .176 opponent’s batting average in his senior season as a starter, but should move to the bullpen. The Nats capped their draft off with two more seniors in the ninth and tenth rounds: Virginia Tech RHP Jake Joyce and Tulane SS Brennan Middleton. Both are not top prospects but will sign cheaply and get to work quickly. Joyce will probably move to the bullpen like Napoli. Middleton played on the Bethesda Big Train, a collegiate summer team, and will stay in town as he joins the Nats, though his season will likely begin on with the short-season Auburn Doubledays.
With a bit of extra bonus money tucked away, look for the Nationals to gamble on a high-upside high schooler early on Day 3, and to try to sign him with the money they save on the seniors they drafted on Day 2.