Results tagged ‘ First-Year Player Draft ’
It’s June, and the Nationals are still in first place, albeit by a tenuous half-game in a competitive NL East. The new month does bring some changes, though, including the second edition of Nationals Magazine. This issue includes features on Bryce Harper, Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson, as you can see below.
We are also on to the fourth edition of Inside Pitch, which previews the MLB First-Year Player Draft, starting on Monday. Make sure to pick up both of them at the ballpark this homestand!
The Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft begins next Monday evening, June 4, providing 50 rounds for every club in the game to find fresh talent with which they can stock their farm systems for years to come. The Nationals have had some excellent drafts in recent years (as we detail in this homestand’s Inside Pitch, available at the ballpark beginning Friday!), and their haul from 2011 was especially impressive. Beyond their top four picks – Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin and Matt Purke – they also snagged talents like outfielder Caleb Ramsey (11th round) and Bryce Harper’s older brother, left-handed pitcher Bryan (30th round). But one of their most intriguing picks was fifth-rounder Matt Skole, a power-hitting third baseman out of Georgia Tech.
Skole belted 47 home runs and posted a slugging percentage above .600 over his three-year collegiate career with the Yellow Jackets. After signing last summer, he hit just five home runs, but rapped 23 doubles in 72 games for Short-Season Auburn. The 22 year-old has been able to carry more balls over the wall this year at Low-A Hagerstown, batting .306/.454/.561 with 11 doubles, 11 home runs, 38 runs scored and 50 RBI in his first 51 games played. Those numbers have him on pace for 30 doubles, 30 home runs, and a mind-blowing 135 RBI as the Minor League schedule passes its one-third mark. There are two numbers, though, that stand above the rest in the eyes of Nationals Director of Player Development Doug Harris.
The first is that gaudy on-base percentage. Harris, who estimates that he has already seen Skole about 10 times this season amongst his travels throughout the Washington farm system, points out the two components of the powerful lefty’s approach that have led to his success.
“When he did get a pitch to hit, he did a good job centering the baseball,” Harris says. “When they didn’t give him a pitch to hit, he did a good job controlling the strike zone and not chasing.”
That patient eye has paid dividends, as Skole has racked up 49 walks, a full dozen more than the next closest total in the South Atlantic League. That has been especially important, as the Suns have suffered the injury bug almost as bad as the one that has afflicted the Major League club. This has left Skole as one of the lone power threats in the lineup at times, and opponents have often pitched around him.
The second area where the left-handed Skole has made significant strides is in his situational hitting. After batting 120 points higher against righties last year (.323 compared to .203 vs. lefties), he is amazingly hitting better against southpaws, a rarity for those who bat from the left side. Skole’s .291 mark vs. righties is still strong, but his .329 against southpaws is especially impressive.
“He has done some things in his approach, staying in his legs, having more balance,” explains Harris. “He is just in a more consistent position to hit. When left-handers have a mindset of backing up contact, where they are willing to use the entire field rather than just look to pull, that puts them in a better position. He has done that.”
At 6’4”, 230 pounds, Skole came into the system as a big-bodied kid who projected as a power bat, but not necessarily a nimble defender. After assigning him to the hot corner, the Nationals were looking for Skole to take strides to improve his body composition to better allow himself to handle the position.
“A lot of big guys have to do a little extra to control their bodies,” explains Harris. “He has really done a nice job with his footwork and how he allows the rest of his body to get into position, both fielding a ball and throwing.”
After a rigorous offseason conditioning program, in which Skole worked with his brother Jacob, an outfielder in the Rangers organization, Harris has seen that transformation pay dividends. Both Skole’s willingness to adapt, and the results he has achieved, have left him in a good position moving forward.
“He’s done a lot of things you look for to consider advancement, in particular, controlling the strike zone,” says Harris. “He has certainly put him in a spot that awards consideration down the road.”
On our second day here in Viera, we snuck over to the minor league complex a few hundred yards north of Space Coast Stadium to catch up with some of the up-and-comers in camp. We spoke with pitchers Alex Meyer and Danny Rosenbaum as well as outfielders Michael Taylor and Destin Hood, then followed up with infielder Anthony Rendon in big league camp. We’ll be providing full prospect watch pieces (as we did with Tyler Moore) on each of them in the weeks and months to come, but in the meantime, we spoke with Rendon about what he’s learned his first couple days in camp.
For those unfamiliar with Rendon, he was the Nationals’ first-round pick last year’s First-Year Player Draft, going sixth overall. Many insiders considered the Rice University junior to have the best bat in the Draft, after he hit 26 home runs and drew 65 walks while striking out just 22 times in his sophomore season. The 21-year-old is experiencing his first Spring Training starting this week and soaking in the experience.
Curly W Live: It’s your first camp. How is it coming in and being a professional for the first time? Do you feel like a professional yet?
Anthony Rendon: Yeah, I guess so, I’m out of college (laughing). It’s a great experience down here, I wasn’t expecting this much, but everybody’s been pretty nice to me. I’ve had a lot of free time, but everything’s been scheduled out pretty good. I’m just happy to get into a routine.
CWL: Who were you most excited to meet and start working with?
AR: I was excited to meet everybody in the Nationals organization as a whole. If I’m going to be part of this organization for a long time, I’ve got to get used to everybody.
CWL: How much anticipation was there for you to get down here and start playing?
AR: I was really excited. I haven’t been playing for a long time. You know, the offseason really kills you. You start getting that itch, once you see the high school kids start to play, then the college kids start to play. You see your old teammates playing and you have to wait another week or so to start playing. So I was really excited to get down here and get started.
CWL: What are you looking to accomplish in your first professional season?
AR: I’m just trying to get used to everything, trying to get into a routine. I want to be out there every day, trying to be an everyday player throughout the whole season. I just want to play 130 games, or however many games I play. Because I know I’ve had a history of missing out, I want to try to leave that in the past and move forward.
CWL: Have any of the veterans tried to help you out at all?
AR: I talked to a couple of the guys, I told (Chad) Tracy and (Adam) LaRoche, “I need tips for the first Spring Training”. They told me to just stay quiet and be observant, just try to take everything in and not try to do too much. Take it easy, don’t try to go out there and showboat, just try to be the first guy out here and get used to it.
Stay tuned through the weekend, as we’ll have coverage of a very special event here at Space Coast Stadium. In advance of the second annual Wounded Warrior Amputee Celebrity Softball Classic (check out highlights from last year’s event here), following the Nationals-Red Sox exhibition game at Nationals Park on April 3, the team will join Nats at Spring Training. This Friday and Saturday the team will visit Space Coast Stadium in Viera to work out and meet with Nationals players in preparation for the Celebrity Softball Classic. More on that and everything else happening here at Nationals Spring Training coming up later this week.
Greetings from the Nationals 2011 Draft War Room. I am John Dever, the Nationals Sr. Director of Baseball Media Relations and I am collaborating with Principal Owner Mark Lerner and Mike Gazda (Dir. Baseball PR) on various observations gathered in/around the Nationals’ Draft efforts. Tonight promises to be an exciting event.
In talking with friends and colleagues in this room and around the game, one underlying theme is that the 2011 Draft class is extremely deep. One cohort outside our organization told me that individually, each of the top 6 or 7 picks in this year’s Draft would have gone second—behind our own Bryce Harper—if they were somehow eligible for the 2010 Draft. So, while no one in this room wants to annually pick in the top 10, we also feel that there is an opportunity here to grab impact players at #6, #23 and #34.
By the way, the Nationals second (23rdoverall) and third (34th) selections in the 2011 Draft were granted as a result of Adam Dunn signing as a free agent with the White Sox. Also, understand that Washington forfeited its standard second-round selection with the signing of Jayson Werth. That is why and how your Nationals have three picks among the Draft’s top 34 selections.
We are in the same room, the Media Interview Room, we have used since 2009. We are located adjacent to the Lexus Presidents Club, just down the concourse from the Nationals Clubhouse.
I am going to attempt to draw a visual for those of you who are not glued to the telecast on MLB Network (seriously, how did Seamheads survive before this fantastic network was born three years ago?).
First and foremost there is the Draft Triumvirate of Mike Rizzo (GM), Roy Clark (Asst. GM, VP of Player Personnel) and Kris Kline (Director of Scouting). This is THE biggest day of the year for these gentlemen. This is what they live for. This is when they thrive. These three are located in the middle of the room, essentially at a 10-foot long table that serves as the War Room’s Epicenter. They are our Sun and everything else revolves around them.
Think of Mike Rizzo as an orchestrator. Mike’s been a scout for 30+ years. He’s run Draft rooms before, but now he is a GM. Yes, Mike engages in trade talk on an almost daily basis. Sure, he adds and subtracts players from the 40-man roster on a weekly basis. Indeed it is true, he’s signed players to eight-figure contracts. But if you cut Mike open, he’s a scout. Always has been, always will be. This is what gets Mike’s blood pumping. But, he is also smart enough to know he cannot be everywhere at once. So, he hired…
Clark and Kline. Both of whom I’d put on a short list of the nicest folks I have met in this game. But to see these gentlemen in DC is rare. To see them together… that’s as rare as a solar eclipse (wow, do I get paid by the solar reference or what?). Why are they “never” around. Because they are out beating the bushes. Watching high school talent in rural Georgia (Clark’s nook) or taking in a junior college game in Florida (Kline). Meeting with coaches, a parent, school administrators, fellow scouts, perhaps a pastor. Their eyes just DON’T deceive them like they may for you and I. But just in case, they do their homework on hundreds (thousands?) of players. Their breadth of knowledge is downright scary.
Beyond the Triumvirate, picture two rows of tables orbiting the Sun. The inner orbit consists of the three cross checkers (Jeff Zona, Jimmy Gonzalez, Mark Baca) and a few choice area scouts (Mitch Sokol, Reed Dunn, Eric Robinson). The coordinated efforts of these guys set the table for the likes of Clark and Kline. Their knowledge and roles are respected because they do their jobs, gladly, with little coming their way in terms of frills. We are talking seemingly never-ending 8-, 10- or 12-hour drives from the lower reaches of Michigan to the interior of Arkansas. Do they sleep? Do they have families? The answer to both of those questions is most often “yes,” but understand these are the truest form of emissaries in our game. Just think about it, they do all this, and they may not have a player drafted by the Nationals from their territory.
Tis almost time to get started as we approach 7 p.m. ET. But before we get there, let me inform you of the days culinary treats. For lunch, the staff feasted on steak, shrimp and crab cakes from Jerry’s Seafood (did I say no frills?). Delicious. Dinner consisted of 10-12 pizzas, while snacks consist of Red liquorish, granold bars, oreo cookies, gum, mints and M&Ms (plain, peanut, almond). You can gain eight here if not extremely careful.
Alright the draft is underway … hello Commissioner …
*The Pirates take UCLA RHP Garrett Cole. No shock there.
*Ok, Draft shock waves just hit DC as the Mariners draft local product, UVA LHP Danny Hultzen, second overall. He attended St. Albans in DC before becoming a Cavalier. Back story is that Danny’s brother, Joe, is interning for Mike Rizzo in baseball operations. Joe has a smile on his face as wide as the day is long. Lots of good cheer for Danny, Joe and the entire Hultzen clan. What a proud day this must be. Back to work…
*The D-Backs take RHP Trevor Bauer. Some draft experts had us selecting Bauer. Won’t be the case.
*Royals take prep OF Bubba Starling, who makes sense as he is from Kansas.
With the Starling-to-KC announcement, Mike Rizzo decries “Rendon.” There was a lot of talk before the Draft about being “true to the board,” to use the 6th selection on the top name left remaining. And Rendon is that name. Everyone in this room is excited. But there are also equal parts surprise. No one, not even the Triumvirate, expected the consensus top hitter in the draft to fall to number 6.
I just caught Mike’s eye and he laughed at me. Why? Because over the weekend, he gave me four names and asked me to put together some press releases so we are ready and prepared at No. 6. I will not be disclosing those names, and they did not reflect the order of our board, but that foursome were all selected during the Draft’s first 5 picks. I am scurrying, BIG TIME!
Ok, I am back, briefly. Mike Gazda just conducted a press gathering with Rizzo to talk about Rendon. Mike freely admitted that he was “surprised” we were able to secure Rendon at No. 6.
No time to gloat, I just put out the Rendon release, about 25 minutes after the actual selection. And that leaves me only 9 or 10 picks until we get to #23. And #34 will not be far behind.
Now, after some internal info gathering, I was given the names of RHP Alex Meyer (Univ. of Kentucky) and OF Brian Goodwin (Miami Dade College). Somehow, (make that THANKFULLY) we were able to select both players. Roy Clark has a country grin on his face. Like he stole something, has it and knows he got away with it.
The funny back story here is that I finished the Meyer-Goodwin press release, which contained both Meyer and Goodwin, around the 27th selection. I was on the verge of sending this release to both Mark Lerner and Mike Rizzo for approval when my computer froze. I had to re-write the entire Meyer portion from memory, while Gazda had actually written the two paragraphs on Goodwin, so I was able to retrieve those from my email once I rebooted. Boy, I was hot for about 10 minutes there. Still simmering to be honest.
As we wait for the sandwich round and MLB Network Coverage to finish, everyone in the room is in a mood that reminds me of how I felt every year in college when I finished my last final exam. Time to slap some backs one more time as we depart, head home and get some sleep. There is more work to be done here in this room once the sun comes up.