Last night at the Winter Meetings in the first ever MLB Draft Lottery, the Washington Nationals were awarded the second overall pick, their highest overall selection since Bryce Harper in 2010.
The first-year player draft has become much easier for the Nationals now obtaining the second overall selection, only behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, although there is certainly more pressure on Mike Rizzo to have success in the 2023 MLB Draft.
Most recently, former first round pick Erick Fedde, was non-tendered and became a free agent. This is one of many former first round picks that have not worked out for Rizzo. Washington is in need of homegrown talent, especially after fans recently saw Trea Turner and Bryce Harper team up in Philadelphia.
The Nationals are certainly set up for talent in next year’s draft. Among scouts and experts, the top three prospects are Dylan Crews, Chase Dollander and Jacob Gonzalez.
Dylan Crews, an outfielder at LSU, is a 5-tool player. Most scouts have been familiar with Crews for years as he was highly recruited out of high school. He has the ability to hit to all fields with power and play consistent defense, as he hit .349 as a sophomore. The 6’0 slugger is the consensus number one overall pick on most draft boards.
Chase Dollander, a pitcher at Tennessee, stashes a high-90s fastball with a nice slider and changeup that compliment his heater. Projecting as a top of the line starter, Dollander is being labeled, “The best college or prep arm in the draft.” The SEC pitcher of the year will look to build on his strong 10-0 record and continue to solidify his draft position in the 2023 season.
Jacob Gonzalez, a shortstop at Ole Miss, who might not be as appealing as Crews and Collander, does everything a baseball player should do. As a freshman, Gonzalez started all 67 games for the Rebels and hit .335 with 12 home runs. Gonzalez produced an 87% contact rate in 2022, showing he rarely strikes out, which is hard to find in today’s modern version of baseball.
The Washington Nationals have a history of drafting pitchers with their top overall pick, selecting them from 2017-2020 and 2012-2014. In the previous two drafts, Washington has selected outfielder Elijah Green and shortstop Brady House. Will the position player trend continue, or will Mike Rizzo resort back to selecting a pitcher?
The selection will likely be based on who the Pittsburgh Pirates pick at number one overall. Looking at mock drafts, most of them have Dylan Crews being taken first off the board. Following that pick, things get more complicated. Multiple mock drafts have Washington selecting Chase Dollander, and others have them picking Jacob Gonzalez. Mike Rizzo likely has a choice to either draft the best pitcher in the class, Dollander, or a productive bat and fielder in Gonzalez.
Rizzo has been often criticized for drafting injury prone pitchers, but Dollander does not fit that bill. The hard throwing right hander has shown his ability to be available for an entire season. If Dollander repeats his success again this year, he could certainly jump to number one overall.
The anticipation for the 2023 MLB Draft has begun. The Nationals are in the rebuilding phase and are in desperate need of young talent. The second overall pick is a great place for Mike Rizzo and his staff to locate it.