Results tagged ‘ First-Year Player Draft ’

What A Difference A Day Makes

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

The Washington Nationals head into a three-game series in Boston Friday night in a situation that surprises many on the outside of the baseball world. The Nationals reside in first place in the NL East, while the Red Sox pull up the rear of the AL East, albeit with a winning record of 29-28. Peripheral fans, who see Boston as a perennial playoff contender and winner of two of the last eight World Series, and the Nationals as a franchise with no winning seasons under its belt, might feel that the natural order of the game has been turned on its head this season. But really, that transformation began exactly two years ago, in what may arguably have been the most significant 24-hour period in the history of the young Washington franchise.

Bryce Harper has been one of the biggest stories of the 2012 season.

The first round of Major League Baseball’s 2010 First-Year Player Draft was televised on MLB Network, beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, June 7. The number one overall pick had been preordained for months, as the Nationals had made clear their intentions to select 17 year-old catcher/outfielder Bryce Harper out of Southern Nevada College, much the same way they had taken San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the first selection the year prior. They did so just a few minutes after 7 o’clock, and so began this defining 24-hour stretch.

Fittingly, Strasburg – after overwhelming batters at each of his Minor League stops – had been summoned to make his Major League debut the very next day. He took the field in front of more than 40,000 raucous fans at Nationals Park and turned in a performance for the ages, striking out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates, including the last seven batters he faced that night, to set a new franchise record.

24 hours after Harper was drafted, Strasburg took the baseball world by storm.

While it was just a single game, and Harper was still unsigned, seemingly several years away from the Major Leagues, there was good reason to hope for a bright future as a Nationals fan.

Fast-forward two years, and here we stand, with Harper having just recorded his first Major League walk-off (and the first by a teenager since 1988), and Strasburg putting up All-Star-caliber numbers atop the rotation. It is only fitting that the two phenoms take their show on the road this weekend to one of baseball’s most hallowed grounds, Fenway Park, where Strasburg will face the Red Sox for the first time in his career Friday night.

It is amazing to think what a difference two years makes, but perhaps more so, the difference those pivotal 24 hours made – from a few minutes after 7:00 p.m. on June 7 to the same time on June 8, two years ago.

Meanwhile, Strasburg, Harper and the first-place Nationals will take the field a few minutes after 7:00 p.m. Friday night (7:10, to be exact), seeking their first-ever win at Fenway.

What to Watch for: 6/6

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Game 54: New York Mets (31-25) vs. Washington Nationals (31-22)

RHP Jeremy Hefner (1-2, 5.60) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (1-3, 3.17)

Tonight, the Nationals are looking to secure a second win over the Mets in game two of the series at Nationals Park. After the 12 inning-long battle last night in which Washington used each of its relief pitchers, starter Edwin Jackson is toes the rubber for the Nationals tonight.


The Nationals notable selection of the second day of the MLB First-Year Player Draft was University of California-Berkeley second baseman Tony Renda. He hit .342 with 16 doubles, five home runs and 27 RBI as a junior in 2012. His 16 stolen bases led his club and ranked second in the Pac-12. For his efforts in 2012, Renda was named Third-Team TPX All-American by Collegiate Baseball as well as First-Team All-Pac-12.


With his game-ending hit in the bottom of the 12th inning last night, Bryce Harper became the first teenage to record a game-ending hit since 1988. With RBI in the 8th, 10th and 12th innings, Ian Desmond became the first big leaguer since Cincinnati’s Art Shamsky in 1966 to tie a game three separate times in the 8th inning or later.


The Nationals are 13-7 against NL East competition (4-1 vs. ATL, 2-3 vs. MIA, 4-2 vs. PHI, 3-1 vs. NYM) and their .650 intradivision winning percentage is tops in the NL East.


From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Developing from Within

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

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.

Rookie Steve Lombardozzi has found a home at the top of Manager Davey Johnson’s lineup.

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.

Adam LaRoche is among the leaders in All-Star votes at first base in the National League.

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.

2012 Draft: Top Ten Rounds Recap

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

The 2012 First-Year Player Draft is in full swing, with rounds 2-15 taking place on Tuesday. The Draft got started with a televised round one on Monday night, and will conclude with the final 35 rounds taking place on Wednesday. In the meantime, here’s a little more on the Nationals top 10 selections from this year’s crop.

1. RHP Lucas Giolito | 6’6” – 230 | Harvard-Westlake HS, North Hollywood, CA | 16th overall

See our complete breakdown of Giolito here.

2. 2B Tony Renda | 5’8” – 180 | University of California-Berkeley | 80th overall

The 2011 Pac-10 Player of the Year, Renda has drawn Dustin Pedroia comparisons due to his surprising power at his size. A plus defensive second baseman, Renda hit .342 with 16 2B, 5 HR and 27 RBI in 54 games for the Bears en route to being named a 2012 third-team TPX All-American in 2012. Renda leaves Cal tied for fourth on the schools all-time career doubles list with 51. In 2012, he led the Golden Bears with 16 SB and 29 BB.

Scout’s Take: In our opinion, Tony has the quickest bat in the draft. He has always hit. He brings controlled aggression and a strong, compact swing. He has tremendous makeup and is a great kid. Kris Kline, Nationals Director of Scouting

3. LHP Brett Mooneyham | 6’5” – 235 | Stanford University | 111th overall

Mooneyham was selected as a fourth-year junior out of Renda’s college rival, Stanford. The tall lefty was the Cardinal’s number two starter this season, following eighth overall selection Mark Appel (PIT). Mooneyham went 7-5 with a 4.26 ERA over 14 starts and was fourth in the Pac-12 with 90 strikeouts.

Scout’s Take: A plus athlete with a fastball that touches 97 to go along with a plus curveball and changeup. Mooneyham projects as high as a number three starter. His father, Bill, was a former Major Leaguer. – Kline

4. OF Brandon Miller | 6’1” – 208 | Samford University | 144th overall

A senior redraft by the Nationals, who also selected him in the 48th round in 2010 (the Red Sox selected him out of high school in ’08), Miller led NCAA with 23 HR while being named 2nd team Louisville Slugger All-America. He leaves Samford as the career leader in HR with 39.

Scout’s Take: A redraft out of Junior College, he has middle of the lineup power. Miller is a versatile catcher who profiles both at right field and catcher and has great makeup. His profile reminds me of our own Tyler Moore. – Eric Robinson, SE Area Supervisor

5. C Spencer Kieboom | 6’0” – 220 | Clemson University | 174th overall

A junior, Kieboom was rated the #84 prospect in the preseason by Baseball America. The backstop is a two-time ACC Academic Honor Roll member

Scout’s Take: We thought Spencer was one of the best defensive catchers in the country. He hit very well during ACC play. He’s a workhorse. – Nationals Assistant GM Roy Clark

6. OF Hayden Jennings | 6’0” – 170 | Evangel Christian Academy (LA) | 204th overall

Jennings logged a .439 batting average along with a 0.00 ERA in three pitching starts. The outfielder hit 12 home runs as a leadoff man, driving home 31 RBI and swiping a perfect 23-for-23 on the base paths. Jennings was an honorable mention All-American as a junior in 2011.

Scout’s Take: He’s a center fielder that can really run. He’s a plus defensive player overall and a leadoff hitter. – Kline

7. RHP Robert Benincasa | 6’1” – 180 | Florida State University | 234th overall

In 29 appearances in 2012, Benincasa allowed just five earned runs in 35.0 innings pitched (1.29 ERA), going 4-1 with a team-leading 15 saves along the way. He was named first team All-ACC, a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, a third team All-American by Collegiate Baseball ,and a finalist for Stopper of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

Scout’s Take: He’s put up tremendous numbers this year. He goes 90-92 with a sinker and uses the slider as an out pitch. He’s a strike thrower with good command and good feel. He should progress quickly through the system. – Kline

8. SS Stephen Perez | 5’11” – 175 | University of Miami | 264th overall

While he may be better known for his fielding, Perez led the University of Miami with four triples, 18 stolen bases and 32 walks. He also ranked among team leaders in doubles (tied-second, 12) and home runs (second, five).

Scout’s Take: Perez is a switch hitter that displays some power from the right side. He’s a very solid, smart base runner. He is a slick fielder up the middle. He displays some flash, some flare, some excitement. – Kline

9. RHP Derek Self | 6’3” – 205 | University of Louisville | 294th overall

Selected in the 27th round as a junior by Oakland, Self returned for his senior year and led the Cardinals with seven saves in 26 relief appearances. The righty posted a modest 3.41 ERA, but his 23-5 strikeout to walk ratio bodes well, and only five of the 34 hits he allowed went for extra bases.

Scout’s Take: We’ve been watching him for two years. Has a hard slider and his fastball is 90-93. He began the season as Louisville’s setup man but eventually took over the closer role. – National Crosschecker Jeff Zona

10. C Craig Manuel | 6’1” – 205 | Rice University | 324th overall

Manuel showed a great eye at the plate, drawing 18 walks while striking out just 13 times his senior year. The backstop also logged a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage behind the plate.

Scout’s Take: He’s been a starter for 3 years and has handled all of their big pitchers. Very good receiver, very good thrower. His coach called him one of the best situational hitters in college baseball. – National Crosschecker Jimmy Gonzales

Don’t Call Him Little Gio

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

“With the 16th selection of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, the Washington Nationals select…”

There were months of planning and anticipation leading up to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig saying those words from the stage in New York City Monday night. And while the Nationals did not make headlines before the draft as they had in each of the past few seasons, they found a way to make some noise with their mid-round pick.

Coming off the first overall selection in 2009 (Stephen Strasburg) and 2010 (Bryce Harper), and a pair of first-round selections in 2011 (Anthony Rendon at #6, Alex Meyer at #23), the organization was out of the spotlight for the first time in a while. But they were able to find a pitcher who was talked about earlier in the year as a possible number one overall pick in right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito.

The Nationals tabbed prep RHP Lucas Giolito as their first round selection Monday night. (AP)

A 17 year-old from North Hollywood California’s Harvard-Westlake Prep, the 6-foot, 6-inch, 220-pounder has been clocked with a fastball as high as 100 miles-per-hour and possesses a sharp, 12-6 breaking ball in the mid 80s. His physical makeup drew comparisons to Roy Halladay from both Nationals AGM & VP of Player Personnel Roy Clark, as well as the MLB Network crew covering the draft. But a strain of his ulnar collateral ligament gave teams just enough pause for Giolito to fall to the Nats at 16.

After making the comparison to Halladay, Clark explained the pick thusly at the press conference on Monday night.

“A top of the rotation guy that you can get at 16? It was a no-brainier for us.”

Nationals EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo detailed the reasons the organization was happy to add Giolito to the illustrious list of first-round selections since the franchise’s relocation to our Nation’s Capital.

“Lucas has the body, power arm, character and make-up to become a front-line starter in the big leagues,” said Rizzo. “This is the type of player, the type of ceiling, and the type of stuff we want in this organization.”

It will be up to Rizzo and company now to sign Giolito, who has a college commitment to nearby UCLA.

“This is one of those moves where five years from now you might look back and say, ‘even if he misses a year, what does it really matter?’” said MLB Network’s Peter Gammons during live coverage of the draft immediately after the pick. “The Nationals look like they’re going to be so good that they’re not going to have many shots at this kind of player.”

With a rotation that already includes young hurlers like Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann under team control for the next several seasons, plus Meyer and Matt Purke developing in the pipeline, adding Giolito can only strengthen an already formidable collection of young power arms.

The 2012 First-Year Player Draft will continue with rounds 2-15 beginning at noon on Tuesday, and conclude with rounds 16-50 on Wednesday. Make sure to follow @Nationals on Twitter for updates on all the organization’s selections, along with exclusive quotes from baseball operations executives on the top 10 picks.

Round Two (Through 50)

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

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!

Down on the Farm: Matt Skole

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

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.

Matt Skole has impressed so far in his first full season in the Minor Leagues.

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.”

The First Round

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

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?

Rendon takes a minute to sign for a fan.

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.

News and Notes from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft

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.