Nationals 2008 Draft Preview

This week, the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft will be taking place on June 5 (live on ESPN from 2 pm to 6 pm if you’re interested and unemployed). Unlike last season, where the Nats had 37 of the first 100 picks and grabbed current highly touted prospects Ross Detwiler and Michael Burgess, among others, they only have 3 of the first 108 picks that make up the first 3 rounds. They start out with a not too shabby pick #9, then have to skip the supplemental round, which is what happens when you don’t have any good players bolt for free agency, and pick again at #55 then at #87. I’m not even gonna try to analyze who they’ll get at #55, but we can get an idea of who they might get at #9.

As of Friday May 29th, Baseball America had Kyle Skipworth as the #9 pick. What do they say about him? Well, they call him America’s best high school catcher. He is extremely athletic and can really hit. He hits for average and for serious power. His defense has been a bit of a question, but it is supposedly gotten much better over the year. Don’t get to worried about the fact that we already have Jesus Flores as a young catcher. A pick like this is nice because if his bat really is that good, he doesn’t need to catch to succeed. But if he does end up catching… well it’s always nice to have another serious bat at that position, even if you trade the one who is closer to being a free agent.

A few weeks ago Jim from DC (I know who you really are) asked one of the gurus at ESPN about his thoughts on who they’d get. Here’s how it went:

Jim (DC): Keith, Who are the Nats looking at in the first round?

SportsNation Keith Law: (1:35 PM ET ) I know their whole crew went to see Kyle Skipworth last week, then went to see Collier and Castro later on in the week. I’ve heard secondhand that Dana Brown really likes Skipworth, but that other teams are backing off of him because of concerns his bat won’t play at another position.

So that’s Skipworth, Collier and Castro. We already looked at Skipworth, let’s look at Collier and Castro.

Jason Castro is another catching prospect, this time a college player out of Stanford. He was primarily known for hitting, and played some first base, but worked as the main catcher for the team this season and did very well. Baseball America considers him the third best catcher in the draft this year, but says in most other seasons he’d probably be the best.

Zach Collier is a high school OF prospect with above average speed. That puts him in CF for now, he’s considered very athletic, and hits with power. He has a good arm, so if he fills out, losing some speed and gaining some power, he can also play RF. They call him “one of the best bets among high school hitters.” And they think he could go up to the middle of the first round as a pick, but as of May 29, he was listed as the #20 pick. Which brings me to another point

Baseball America lists Collier and Castro as #20 and #21, so maybe they aren’t really who the Nats are going after. Let’s, for the heck of it, look at the #8 and #10 ranked player on their boards, just to see the possibilities close to the Nats pick.

Ranked #8, they have Gordon Beckham, a college SS, not to be confused with Tim Beckham, a high school SS who may go in the top 3 picks. Also not to be confused with David Beckham, who is allegedly some sort of dreamboat/athlete combo the likes of which America has never seen. GORDON Beckham went to University of Georgia, starting out as a power but swing-and-miss type of player. He has developed into someone who can hit consistently and hit for power to all fields. According to BA, scouts question whether he has the hands to stay at SS, but his range, arm and instincts are all good enough for the position.

Coming in at #10 is Yonder Alonso, a 1B from the University of Miami. BA calls him “The most dangerous slugger on one of the nation’s top hitting teams,” and says that he has power to all fields and has a consistent approach to the plate. This is probably due in part due to a great eye, he has very good strikeout to walk ratio and has subsequently always hit for both average and power. He also is supposedly a good fielder at first despite poor speed and likely a limited range. His hitting is what really shines though, and has the chance to be a true LH power bat in the majors.

Finally, on Saturday, the aforementioned Keith Law posted top 75 prospect list, and had yet another name listed as the #9 talent on the board, Brett Wallace. Wallace used to be an overweight third baseman who could hit but was on his way to playing first, but BA says that he has gotten in better shape. Regardless, its his hitting that is getting him noticed, as Law says he is “probably the best hitter in the draft.” BA writes that he has good plate discipline, above average power, and has a good swing that helps him make good contact. If the Nats take him, he may not need to play the hot corner anyway, so in this organization they may try to facilitate the transition to first base.

Well, there you have it, that is a quick and dirty preview of who the Nats might take. Of course, they’ll probably end up grabbing one of the other dozen guys that would be good at that pick. Either way, I’ll give a more in depth write up on whoever they take after June 5.

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