July 17th, following the announcement of the first-overall draft pick, the Washington Nationals will be on the clock.
As of now, the consensus "best player in the draft" is Louisiana State University's Dylan Crews, but the Nationals' decision is not as simple. There are arguments for Crews' teammate, six-foot-six right-hander Paul Skenes, but others believe Florida's Wyatt Langford is the safest selection. In three months there's no telling if there will be more names in the mix.
With all the attention on the shiny second pick in the draft, the importance of the remaining rounds to fans wanes, but for a franchise in the midst of a rebuild the next four rounds could prove to be just as crucial.
After the second pick, thirty-eight names will be called before the Nationals make another selection. As you can imagine that makes the middle rounds a lot more difficult to predict. Based on draft history, MLB Pipeline's Top 100 draft prospect list, and intuition it is possible to sniff out a few potential draft picks for the rounds following the coveted #2 pick.
By cashing out in the draft lottery, the Nationals were granted the 2nd, 40th, 71st, 102nd, and 138th overall picks through the first five rounds. As it's common for teams with a high first-round pick, the Nats could go with an under-slot value selection in the second round. A name to watch in that mix is Jake Gelof, the brother of A's top prospect Zack Gelof.
Gelof, a product of University of Virginia, is 38th in MLB Pipeline's Top 100 draft prospects rankings for his 50-grade hit tool, 60-grade power tool, and 50-grade field tool. Despite the above-average field tool, the third baseman's future position remains a question.
Swinging from the right side, he has torn up the ACC slashing .345/.437/.704 with 37 homers and 149 runs batted in through 128 career games. MLB Pipeline credits him with an exceptional approach at the plate saying, "Gelof does not get cheated... He has an aggressive approach, looking to do damage and tap into his huge raw power."
Moving on to the third round, the Nationals could continue with the college route as they have the last two years. Now three years removed from the COVD-19 draft in 2020, the college ranks are loaded with pitchers that were negatively affected by the loss of games coming out of high school.
In most cases, these 20 and 21-year-old arms have fantastic stuff, but are struggling with strikes, then failing to miss bats when they fall behind in the count.
For Florida State starting pitcher Carson Montgomery, this is the case. Montgomery was 34th on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 draft prospects coming out of high school in 2020, but went undrafted due to the shortened draft and his commitment to FSU. Now a junior at the SEC program, he is 62nd on the Top 100 and expected to be selected this time around.
Montgomery, like many other college arms, will be somewhat of a project for the team that takes him. He has electric stuff including a 60-grade fastball that gets up to 98 mph, but doesn't throw enough strikes quite yet. With time and more experience he could be a force.
At some point in the draft expect the club to go after a high school shortstop as they tend to be popular in the mid-to-early rounds. There is no shortage of high school talent in this draft class, but for the Nationals in specific it could make sense to take someone like Roman Martin. Martin is a UCLA commit that impressed scouts at multiple showcases and while playing for USA Baseball's 18U team in the summer. The 6-foot-2 175 pound shortstop is scouted as someone who will remain at the position in the future, but still has a few questions to answer at the plate.
There are still three months between now and the 2023 MLB Draft. With the college season in full swing there will be new names and constant whispers until the official announcement of each pick. All we can do as fans is speculate, and hope the Nationals will make the correct selections on draft night.