Which Washington Nationals draft picks stand out above the rest?
Tonight is the NFL draft, and the sports world is buzzing. With sports on hold, as the world tries to stay safe, tonight is the closest we will get to sports for a while. With many eyes going to be on the NFL draft tonight, it got me thinking. Who were some of the top draft picks in Washington Nationals history?
Ryan Zimmerman. 2005, #4
Drafted number four overall in 2005, Ryan Zimmerman was the first draft pick in Nationals history. UVA’s sports website had this to set about Zimmerman after he was drafted,
"Zimmerman is arguably the best player to ever suit up for the Virginia Cavaliers. This season, he was named a 2005 Second Team All-ACC selection and was named to the 2005 ACC All-Tournament Team. He ended his UVa career ranked in several Virginia career statistical categories such as fifth in doubles (47), sixth in hits (250) and seventh in RBI (140) after three seasons of action. He also established a new school record for most hits in a single season with 92, breaking his own former school record of 90 from last season (2004)."
In his final season at UVA, Zimmerman played in all 61 games and hit .393, with six homers, 59 RBIs, and a slugging percentage of .581, while only striking out 14 times.
Zimmerman lived up to his immense potential in the pros and has put together an excellent career. In 15 seasons with the Nats, Zimmerman has hit .279, with 270 homers, 1015 RBIs, and an OPS of .818. He has accumulated a WAR of 38.5 and helped the franchise win their first-ever World Series title in 2019. Zimmerman is a two-time All-Star, won a Silver Slugger (2009, and two Gold Gloves (2009, 2010).
He suffered multiple injuries that have affected his career and led to him switching from third to first base. Despite this, Zimmerman is one of the most clutch hitters of all time, having hit 11 career walk-off homers, only two behind Jim Thome for most all-time. Overall, Mr. National has lived up to his draft selection and more.
Stephen Strasburg. 2009, #1
Drafted number one overall in 2010, Stephen Strasburg was the most hyped pitching prospect of all time. In his final season at San Diego State, Strasburg went 13-1, with a 1.32 ERA, and 195 strikeouts in 109 innings. He went on to win the DIck Howser Trophy, which is awarded to the top college baseball player of the year. The righty made his MLB debut on June 8, 2010, with the entire league watching and he put on a show. Facing the Pittsburg Pirates, Strasburg went seven innings, gave up two runs, and struck out 14.
According to Jayson Stark of ESPN,
"His 14 strikeouts were the third-most by any pitcher in history in a big league debut — behind only J.R. Richard (15) in 1971 and Karl Spooner (15) in 1954."
In 10 seasons with the Nats, Strasburg is 112-58, with a 3.17 ERA, and 1695 strikeouts. He has been named to three All-Star teams, won a Silver Slugger (2012), led the league in strikeouts in 2014, led the league in wins in 2019, and was named to the All-MLB First Team in 2019. Oh, yea. He was also the 2019 World Series MVP.
Bryce Harper. 2010, #1
A year after drafting Strasburg, the Nationals took Bryce Harper number one overall in 2010. Similar to Strasburg, Harper was one of the most hyped prospects in a while. He had already graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 16.
Harper graduated high school early at the age of 17 so he could play at the College of Southern Nevada which was apart of NJCAA. In 66 games with the team, he hit .443, with 31 homers, 98 RBIs, and a slugging percentage of .987.
Harper made his debut with the Nats in 2012 and he went on to win NL Rookie of the Year. Harper helped lead the Nats to the playoffs for the first time since they moved from Montreal. In his seven seasons with the team, Harper hit .279, with 184 homers, 521 RBIs, and an OPS of .900. While with the team, Harper and the Nats won four division titles (2012, 2014, 2016, 2017), and emerged as one of the top teams in the league. He racked up the accolades with the team, as he was named to six All-Star teams, won NL Rookie of the Year, won a Silver Slugger (2015), led the league in homers (2015), and won the 2015 NL MVP.
Despite leaving after the 2018 season, Harper lived up to his draft selection and helped change the team into a winner.
Anthony Rendon. 2011, #6
If he didn’t break his ankle in 2010, Anthony Rendon may have gone number one overall. Instead, he fell to the Nats who chose him sixth overall in 2011.
Rendon was a monster at Rice University. After his freshmen season, he was named Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year, Conference USA Player of the Year, and All-Conference USA (first team). In 63 games during his Sophmore season, Rendon hit .394, with 26 homers, 85 RBIs, and struck out on 22 times. He went on to win the Dick Howser Trophy.
Rendon debuted with the Nats in 2013 and broke out in 2014. He helped the Nats win the division and finished sixth in NL MVP voting. In seven seasons with the Nats, Rendon hit .290, with 136 homers, 546 RBIs, and an OPS of .859. After being one of the most underrated players in the game, Rendon emerged as one of the best in 2019. He finished 2019 hitting .319, with 34 homers, 126 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.010. He finished the season third in NL MVP voting and helped the Nats go back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Rendon was essential in the Nationals winning their first-ever World Series title.
In his career with the Nats, Rendon was named to an All-Star team, was named to the All-MLB First Team (2019), won two Silver Sluggers (2014, 2016), won NL Comeback Player of the Year (2016), and led the league in RBIs (2019).
After posting losing seasons from 2006-2011, the Nationals capitalized on their top draft picks and quickly changed the team into a winning franchise.