Washington Nationals: Pitching the biggest need heading into MLB Draft

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Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo during the MLB general managers meeting at the Omni Scottsdale Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo during the MLB general managers meeting at the Omni Scottsdale Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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With today being the MLB Draft, the Washington Nationals need to make pitching an emphasis in this year’s draft

Tonight, the Washington Nationals will make their first and second round selections in this year’s MLB Draft. You can watch the first round on MLB Network at 7 p.m ET. For the last few weeks, we have profiled many different players the Nats could take with the 25th pick, but there’s been one main theme: pitching.

When the Nats traded away Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning over the winter, it left a gaping hole in their farm system for upper level staring rotation options. If you look at how the Nats system is ranked on MLB Pipeline, only five pitchers are on that list of 30 prospects.

Those five pitchers are Erick Fedde, Austin Voth, Jesus Luzardo, Tyler Watson, and Joan Baez. Last year, the Washington Nationals selected Luzardo in the third round, but he has not thrown a pitch in professional baseball as he is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

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On Saturday, I was listening to Mike Rizzo talk to the media on the Nats Xtra pregame show on MASN about the draft. He talked about how it was a “pitching-oriented draft”, but he was also asked about whether or not that trade with the White Sox will affect how they approach the draft. Here’s what he said:

"“We rarely go for an organizational need. We try to get the most impactful player in each round, “ said Rizzo."

At pick 25, you may not get the player that you want, so you have to go for the best player on the board. No one is arguing that. But, at the same time, the Nats need to find some impactful pitchers in this draft. They won’t help the team this year, but could play a part in the future of the organization down the road. Let’s look at their past draft history.

Over the last five drafts, the Nats have selected 23 pitchers in the first ten rounds (48 picks total). Last year, they only took three pitchers in the first ten rounds and one of them was Dunning. Back in 2015, they took six pitchers in their first nine picks, including closer Koda Glover in the eighth round.

On Thursday night, I recorded a special edition of the DoDcast with Benjamin Chase, who is the draft expert for FanSided’s baseball site, Call To The Pen. Ben and I talked about possible pick options for the Nats and previewed the draft as a whole. You can find the video below:

Right now, the name being linked to the Nats the most is Houston left-hander Seth Romero. The 21-year-old had 85 strikeouts in ten games this season (seven starts), but was suspended by the team earlier in the year and was later kicked off the team entirely.

Taking Romero would be a big risk, but it’s important to note that his agent is Scott Boras and the Nats have a good relationship with Boras, as we all know. In his latest mock draft, John Manuel of Baseball America has the Washington Nationals picking Romero with the 25th pick.

There is good depth at the bottom of the first round for possible pitcher options. One pitcher that stands out to me in particular is Alex Lange out of LSU. Lange had six walks in his Super Regional outing against Mississippi State Saturday night, but he also struck out ten and made it thru 7.2 innings on 111 pitches. Lange was one of the pitchers I profiled last month and Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline pointed out that Lange is also a Boras client.

Next: 5 to watch at home against Atlanta

No one should be surprised if the Nats take a position player with their first pick, but the theme of this draft should be to find starting rotation arms for the future. It will be interesting what direction the organization decides to go in with the 25th pick tonight.

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