From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Developing from Within
Hello everyone. Welcome to another big week here at Nationals Park.
Take a look around you. We have a full-fledged pennant race going on. And like many Nats fans, I have never had so much fun.
Just knowing that every game means something – every division game essentially constitutes two games – this race has taken my scoreboard watching ups and downs to new levels. Can you imagine this in September?
How about witnessing history on Sunday afternoon as Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper became the first pair of rookie teammates in modern-day MLB history (since 1900) to begin a game’s first inning with back-to-back home runs.
These two young guys seem to provide a thrill or two every night. Even though the Braves came back to win Sunday’s finale, I took solace in knowing that Steve and Bryce are homegrown products. Is there anything better for fans than cheering for players unearthed, drafted and developed in your own system?
Lombardozzi is literally homegrown, as he hails from Atholton High School in Columbia, Maryland. Upon Lombardozzi hitting his first big league homer, I was able to congratulate his father, Steve, on his son’s big moment. His urge was to run out to the bullpen to get the ball, but I told him we had it under control.
Speaking of homegrown, on Monday night we drafted righthander Lucas Giolito from Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles with the 16th pick in the 2012 Draft.
In talking to Mike Rizzo, Roy Clark and Kris Kline, they conveyed to me that Lucas is the epitome of what a high school power pitcher should look like. He’s already 6-foot-6, 220 pounds and has not turned 18 yet.
Entering the new year, Lucas’ talents had him on a short list of players to be considered for the draft’s top overall selection. Lucas unfortunately strained his right elbow during his senior season at Harvard-Westlake. But he was immediately examined by some of this country’s foremost doctors who happen to reside in the L.A. area. We have been made privy to all of his medicals and felt totally comfortable calling his name at pick #16.
Then, in the second round, Rizzo took Cal-Berkeley second baseman Tony Renda, who is said to have strong offensive skills (he was the Pac-10 player of the Year as a sophomore) and even better intangibles. In the third round, we tabbed Brett Mooneyham, a lefty out of Stanford University who is 6’5″ and 225 pounds. Power pitching!
The beauty of this is that despite Lucas’ supreme talent, there is no urgency on our part. Remember, we have a fleet of young power pitchers in place for the next 4-5 years. Their names: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Detwiler. So, when Lucas and his power arm are good and ready to ascend to the big leagues, we’ll find the space.
Most scouts will tell you that Day Two of the Draft is a much better reflection of a club’s scouting department and its depth than Day One, which is overflowing with high-end talent. I am always excited to chat with our scouts who really are the vanguards of the sport. There is no ‘tomorrow’ in this game without a scout nearby.
I am looking forward to getting up to Fenway Park this weekend as interleague play restarts. I am also even happier that Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann are slated to face Boston’s deep lineup. Should be a fun weekend test for Davey and the boys.
Reminder to get out and vote for your favorite Nationals as part of MLB’s All-Star Vote, whether it be at Nationals Park or online.
I have already punched a few ballots and am especially hopeful that Adam LaRoche can get some much-deserved traction. And don’t forget you can vote for both Harper and Lombardozzi as write-in candidates.
Enjoy the games everybody … and see you soon at Nationals Park.