Results tagged ‘ MLB Draft ’
With Spring Training games beginning on Saturday, we’re taking the final few practice days of camp to bring you a closer look at some of the more interesting stories among this year’s Non-Roster Invitees. Today, we learn more about one of the most compelling personalities in the group, pitcher Ross Ohlendorf.
When it comes to the 6-foot-4, 240-pound pitcher with the power sinker, Ross Ohlendorf looks the part of the professional athlete. Born in Austin, Texas, he serves as a ranch-hand on his father’s farm in the offseason, where they raise longhorns. With huge hands and a bullish frame, he fits right into a throwing line of Nationals power pitchers, firing darts across an open expanse of outfield grass along the practice fields behind Space Coast Stadium.
However, Ohlendorf’s story does not end there. Not even close.
Athletes are sometimes thought of simply in terms of the game they play, but a quick look at Ohlendorf’s resume – his degree from Princeton (the same alma mater as the recently signed Chris Young) in Operations Research and Financial Engineering, along with internships in the office of finance at the University of Texas and another with the Department of Agriculture in D.C. – dispels that notion quickly. In fact, after being drafted following his junior year, he penned a 140-page senior thesis while playing his first season of minor league ball. The topic, given his major, had to be rooted in mathematics, statistics or finance. Ohlendorf knew just the thing.
“The (MLB) Draft was really relevant at the time, so that’s what I decided to focus on,” he explained. “A lot of people would talk about how much players were getting paid as a signing bonus and say they were getting paid too much or not paid enough, so I decided to do a study to try to estimate how it’s worked out for teams.”
He analyzed the top 100 picks over a five-year period, then analyzed the return on the initial investment over the next 12 years of the players’ careers. If that sounds like the kind of thing that would make him a prime candidate to follow in the footsteps of players-turned-executives like Billy Beane, perhaps so. But all that talk is a little premature for Ohlendorf. He’s still got plenty of baseball left in his arm.
“I’m not sure yet,” he said, laughing, about the prospect of someday moving into the front office for a team. “It’s definitely something that would interest me, but I’m not really thinking that far ahead right now.”
Indeed. For now, Ohlendorf provides some of that starting pitching depth that EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo has been talking about all offseason. Of course, Rizzo was the Director of Scouting for Arizona when the Diamondbacks first selected and signed Ohlendorf in the fourth round of the 2004 First-year Player Draft. If Ohlendorf’s familiarity with Rizzo – as well as former teammates like Tyler Clippard and Micah Owings – wasn’t enough to sell him on Washington, his throwing partner this offseason was fellow NRI Bill Bray.
“That really makes the transition easier,” said Ohlendorf of the familiarity across different levels of the Nationals organization, his sixth. “I’ve really, really enjoyed Spring Training so far. It’s well done, and people really like each other here. It’s such a great environment here.”
Ohlendorf’s internship experience, as well as his five seasons spent pitching in the National League, have also brought him to the Nation’s Capital a number of times. He even lived near Capitol Hill for his 10-week internship with the USDA, which was mornings only, so he could go through his baseball workouts in the afternoon.
“I really liked it,” he said of his stint in Washington. “And I’ve really liked it when I’ve gone to play against the Nationals, too. It’s one of my favorite cities.”
While the positive Spring Training environment and the prospect of pitching in Washington help, perhaps the real reason Ohlendorf projects so much positivity about camp this year is internal. With 108 Major League appearances (73 starts) under his belt, the 30-year-old is happy to be fully healthy and feels particularly good about his physical well-being going into the spring.
“I’m really excited about this season, it’s the best I’ve felt in a long time,” he explained. “I think part of the reason I feel so good, having stayed healthy last year, my arm feels even better this year. My workouts have changed a little bit each offseason and I feel like I’ve improved my diet this year, which I think has helped.”
The more he has focused on his workouts and his nutrition over the years, the less Ohlendorf has paid attention to his own personal numbers. And while discovering more about the statistical intricacies of the game he plays has been an intellectually stimulating project, as a player, Ohlendorf has learned not to overanalyze his own metrics and simply focus on what he can control.
“I do think they have a lot of value,” Ohlendorf said of the figures that formed the basis of his thesis. “But I’ve kind of found, for me as a player, I don’t think it does me much good, and it can do me harm to worry too much about my stats.”
As Crash Davis lectured Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham, sometimes it’s better to not think, and just throw. However intricate and complex his intellectual pursuits are off the field, Ohlendorf is content taking that basic game plan into this season.
“Each game I try to pitch as deep into the game as I can and I try to get a win,” he said. “Just keep it simple.”
A week after the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, the Nationals have signed 17 of their draft picks, including first round pick Drew Storen, a right-handed relief pitcher out of Stanford University. Of the 16 picks signed yesterday, the Nationals picked up seven right-handed pitchers, two southpaws, three outfielders, two shortstops, one third baseman and one catcher.
Here are some of the highlights from the players signed:
Trevor Holder (Third round, University of Georgia): This pick by the Nationals stunned some draft experts with their third round selection. Trevor Holder, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-handed pitcher and recent Georgia graduate, had been drafted in the tenth round last year by the Florida Marlins. After going 7-5 with a 4.48 ERA, many people predicted that he would fare about the same this year. However, Assistant General Manager Mike Rizzo has information on Holder from the past five years and believes that, as far as he can see, he made the right decision.
“Every [scout that saw him] stamped the guy as a Big League starting pitcher,” Rizzo said. “Everyone in our room [saw a] Big League starting pitcher…He’s been a good performer in the SEC. He’s a college senior. People had seen him for too long and he’d had too much success to roll the dice. And if you like a guy and he’s a Big League player, you just take him.”
Patrick Lehman (13th round, George Washington University): The Nationals went local with their 13th round pick when they drafted recent George Washington University graduate Patrick Lehman. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound right-handed pitcher, originally from New Jersey, just finished up a senior season where he led the A-10 Conference in ERA (2.40), strikeouts (89) and innings pitched (105), and was named A-10 Pitcher of the Year.
“Being selected by the Nationals is very exciting and is a great opportunity for me,” Lehman said. “They have a great organization and to be a part of their young pitching prospects is a great honor and opportunity for me. I am looking forward to getting back on the field and representing the Washington Nationals organization.”
Naoya Washiya (14th round, College [CA] of the Desert): Washiya, an outfielder, is originally from Hokkaido, Japan but played college baseball at the College of the Desert in California. In Japan he was a member of the Komadai Tomakomai team that won the prestigious 2005 Japanese High School Baseball Championship, a nationwide tournament which is the second most popular baseball event in Japan, behind the Japan Series (the Japanese league championship). This past season, Washiya stole 17 bases and batted .274 with three home runs and 24 RBI.
And here is the complete list of players signed thus far:
Right-handed pitcher Drew Storen (first round, Stanford University)
Right-handed pitcher Trevor Holder (third round, University of Georgia)
Shortstop Michael Taylor (sixth round, Westminster [FL] Academy)
Right-handed pitcher Taylor Jordan (ninth round, Brevard [FL] Community College)
Outfielder Justin Bloxom (11th round, Kansas State University)
Right-handed pitcher Patrick Lehman (13th round, George Washington University)
Outfielder Naoya Washiya (14th round, College [CA] of the Desert)
Shortstop Sean Nicol (16th round, University of San Diego)
Right-handed pitcher Frank Corolla (19th round, University of Houston)
Third baseman Jack Walker (20th round, Concordia [IL] University)
Left-handed pitcher Mitchell Clegg (21st round, University of Massachusetts)
Right-handed pitcher Dustin Crane (24th round, Snead [AL] State Community College)
Catcher Dianison Boekhoudt (Mary Carroll [TX] High)
Left-handed pitcher Evan Bronson (29th round, Trinity [TX] College)
RHP Rob Wort (30th round, Jefferson [Mo] College)
Outfielder Jay Sferra (31st round, UNLV)
Right-handed pitcher Kyle Morrison (32nd round, Wagner [NY] College)