A Recap & Analysis Of The Washington Nationals Selections on Day 2 of the MLB Draft

After drafting two collegiate pitchers on Day 1, the Washington Nationals used their 8 picks in Rounds 3-10  to continue this trend, selecting 7 more college arms on Tuesday.  Washington presently lacks pitching prospect depth due to offseason trades, thus the organization has prioritized replenishing the farm system with flame-throwing pitchers in the 2017 MLB Draft.

In the 3rd round, 103rd overall, the Nationals went with a (somewhat) local product, selecting William & Mary LHP Nick Raquet.  An undersized southpaw, Raquet shows outstanding pure stuff, reaching 95-96mph with his fastball, along with the ability to spin both a slider and a curveball, plus will flash a changeup.  A transfer from the University of North Carolina, Raquet had to sit out a year, so he has a “fresher” arm than most college picks.  He has below-average to well below-average command, which when coupled with his size, likely portends a shift to the bullpen.  The Nationals will likely develop him as a starter, but his ceiling is as a 7th/8th inning reliever, with a likely outcome of a matchup bullpen lefty.

Next in the 4th round, Washington chose LSU 2B Cole Freeman, a senior left-handed hitter who was drafted in the 18th round of the 2016 draft.  Freeman is an undersized 5-9 174lbs who has performed well in his two seasons at LSU and last summer for Wareham in the Cape Cod League.  He has above-average speed and shows outstanding bat-to-ball skills, allowing him to profile as a plus hitter.  Freeman lacks much home run power, more likely collecting doubles and triples in the gaps, and has a below-average arm, giving him a difficult defensive profile.  Washington will likely start him as a second baseman, with the backup option being left field or a utility profile.  Because he is a senior, Washington should save a great deal of money against their bonus pool and will hope he can hit his way to the major leagues.

Round 5 found Washington picking another college pitcher, this time Texas A&M right-handed pitcher Brigham Hill.  He spurned Oakland last year as a 20th round pick, preferring to return to college and improve his draft stock.  An undersized right-handed pitcher listed at 6-0 185lbs (I might take the under), Hill pounds the strike zone with a 90-92mph fastball which touches 94mph, along with a devastating plus changeup.  In addition he throws both a curveball and slider, with scouts preferring the curveball.  He is known for his competitive nature, bulldog demeanor on the mound and off-the-charts makeup.  His lack of size and present above-average breaking pitch keeps his ceiling rather modest, but Hill could move quickly if shifted to the bullpen.  Hill’s ceiling is that of a #5 starter, with the most likely outcome being a role in middle to long relief.  Hill is a nice value late in the 5th round.

Then in the 6th round the team plucked another college pitcher from the state of Texas, University of Texas RHP Kyle Johnston, an undersized righty at 6-0 225lbs.  Johnston will show a low-90s fastball that can reportedly reach 96mph, along with an intriguing and potentially future plus upper-80s cutter.  In addition, he will throw a changeup, but it is a distant third offering.  Washington will likely start his professional career as a starting pitcher to quicken his development, but Johnston profiles as a middle reliever, with perhaps a set-up man ceiling.

Round 7 found Washington dipping into the Florida junior college ranks, choosing RHP Jackson Tetreault from the State College of Florida Manatee.  Tetreault is a projectable righty standing a reported 6-5 170lbs, with the potential to add significant weight as he matures.  Only a sophomore, Tetreault has a low-to-mid-90s fastball with some life, along with the ability to spin a breaking ball and throw a changeup.  Scouts like his impressive arm speed and project him to add velocity in the future.  He struggles with his command, as evidenced by his 40 walks in 80.1 innings pitched this season.  Tetreault sounds like a project for the Nationals’ development staff, but there are some quality tools present for a 7th round pick.

Continuing a theme, in the 8th round Washington selected Samford University RHP Jared Brasher, a senior pitcher with a live arm.  He possesses a big 93-98mph fastball with life along with a nasty swing-and-miss quality slider.  Brasher is still available because he is undersized at 6-0 200lbs and has a poor delivery with several flaws, which contributed to his 30 walks allowed in 33.2 innings pitched.  Brasher is a pure relief profile and projects as a middle reliever if things come together – this is an intriguing senior with a big arm.

The 9th round found Washington taking Michigan State University LHP Alex Troop, a redshirt sophomore who was a 2-way player for the Spartans.  A large man standing 6-5, Troop is a lefty with a high-80s to low-90s fastball, along with a promising above-average changeup and a nascent curveball.  He has an unconventional delivery, which is much less athletic than one might expect from a decent athlete.  Scouts believe once he focuses exclusively on pitching, he could gain some velocity and refine his mechanics.  He will be more difficult to sign than the usual 9th round pick, but Troop has a chance to develop into either a backend starter or reliever in the future.

With their final selection on Day 2, the Nationals chose another college pitcher, Missouri State RHP Trey Turner, a junior righty who was a 2-way player in college but will move to the mound as a professional.  The information is scarce on Turner, as he made only 7 appearances this season, throwing 13.1 innings with 22 strikeouts.  One of Washington’s area scouts must have liked his raw potential on the mound this spring.  He will be the 9th pitching prospect Washington has added in the first 10 rounds of the draft.

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Overall through two days of the 2017 MLB Draft, the Washington Nationals have stuck to their game plan, capitalizing on a deep collegiate pitching crop to fill an organizational weakness.  I am surprised they have selected only one hitter and have not selected a high school pitcher or a seemingly challenging prospect to sign so far.

That said the pitchers they have chosen all seem to have big arms with excellent fastball velocity, along with the potential for quality secondary stuff.  The development people will have their work “cut out” for them molding these arms into major league pitchers, but their are raw tools present with each.  While I might quibble at a few of the picks, Washington has done a fantastic job through two days maximizing the talent they acquired considering their available bonus pool.

NatsGM Overall Grade ->  B to B+

Washington Selects Seth Romero & Wil Crowe On Day 1 Of The MLB Draft

Monday evening the Washington Nationals selected University of Houston LHP Seth Romero and University of South Carolina RHP Wil Crowe on Day 1 of the MLB Draft.  After building their offensive prospect depth in the minors in recent years, the Nationals have obviously prioritized pitching early in the 2017 draft.

With their 1st pick, 25th overall, Washington selected Romero, a top-10 candidate before a series of off-field incidents this spring eventually caused his dismissal from the team.  While much of the behavior can fall into the “knucklehead college kid” category, there are legitimate makeup concerns that caused him to slide to the Nationals.

When on the mound Romero is extremely impressive, throwing from a low 3/4s arm slot, and possessing a powerful three pitch arsenal.  His repertoire begins with a mid-90s fastball that he can locate throughout the zone.  In addition he will show a plus mid-80s slider with hard, late break – this pitch is simply nasty against left-handed hitters.  Finally Romero will occasionally show a quality changeup in which he replicates his arm speed well.  He did not use this offering much in college, but it has shown future average potential with development.  Listed at 6-3 240lbs, he does not have a body to sell jeans and there have been conditioning issues in the past, but he has reasonable athleticism and repeats his mechanics well.

Overall Romero is the latest example of the Nationals gambling in the 1st round of the draft.  Certainly they tend to speculate on players recovering from injury rather than those with makeup concerns, but Washington will again attempt to capitalize on the seemingly elevated risk of a prospect to acquire someone with upside.  He profiles as a long-term #3 or #4 starting pitcher if everything comes together, although due to his lack of innings this spring, he could pitch in relief this summer to possibly bolster the major league bullpen.  This would be challenging, but not completely unreasonable.  If you are willing to accept the elevated risk due to possible character issues, this was a solid gamble for the Nationals at #25.

Then with their 2nd round pick, 65th overall, the Nationals chose Crowe, a well-built right-handed pitcher with a past Tommy John surgery.  He overcame this injury to lead the Gamecocks’ pitching staff this season.  Crowe features an impressive 4-pitch repertoire, with a 92-94mph fastball, reportedly touching 97mph at its best, with some sink and arm-side movement.  In addition Crowe throws both a low-80s slider and a high-70s curveball – both show similar shape and the slider has potential to be an above-average future offering.  Finally Crowe throws a quality 82-85mph changeup with fade to his arm-side and he replicates his arm speed well.

Listed at 6-2 245lbs, he lacks physical projection and his surgery cost him almost two seasons, making him old for this draft class at 22.5 years old; these two flaws, plus the fact his stuff slumped a bit toward the end of the season caused him to slide from a likely supplemental 1st round pick into the 2nd round.  Nonetheless, this is an impressive collegiate arm whom has excelled against competition in the SEC and feels like an excellent value selection for Washington at #65.

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After Day 1 I believe the Nationals did a fantastic job of maximizing the potential talent they could acquire at the positions they selected.  Despite the fact no team should ever prioritize position over talent in the draft, Washington enters this year with a preference for pitching and was able to capitalize on this area of depth in this draft class.

Without question both players have some risk in their profile, but both also have the potential to move quickly through the minors and be average or better major league starters.  If there is one minor quibble, I might have leaned toward LSU RHP Alex Lange, who went #30 to Chicago, over Romero in Round 1, as I see them having similar ceilings while Lange has less risk.  On the other hand, Crowe was my primary target in Round 2 and a player I would have considered at #25.  While impossible to legitimately grade a draft until well into the future, the Nationals did well maximizing talent, need, risk and reward with their two selections Monday evening.

NatsGM Instant Grade ->               A-

Eyewitness Evaluation – Potomac Nationals CF Victor Robles

Victor Robles      CF           Potomac Nationals

DOB:  5/19/97      Height: 6-0        Weight:   185      Bats:  Right         Throws: Right

7-Word Scouting Report:  Elite Prospect, Exceptional Athlete, Impact 2-Way Centerfielder

Future Grades:   Hit (60) Power (55)   Run (60+)   Defense (60)   Arm (60+)

International free agent signed for $225,000 by Washington in 2013; 20y/o listed at 6-0 185lbs with impressive physicality – a lithe, projectable obvious athlete with long legs, a high waist and a wiry upper body, projects to add 7-10lbs of muscle as he matures.  Robles possesses plus or better speed, routinely posting 4.12 – 4.18 second times home to first.  He appears to have quality makeup, seems popular with his teammates and is consistently smiling on the field.

In the field Robles has outstanding potential – he has a very strong arm for center field, shows good carry and accuracy, easy “60”.  Robles utilizes his plus speed to cover tremendous ground, excellent range in all directions.  Only (minor) knock defensively is Robles does not always take the most direct route to the baseball – this should improve with repetition but instincts are more solid than elite.  Profiles well as a “60” defender in center field.

Right-handed hitter; quick-twitch athlete with lightning fast wrists – generates obvious and noticeable bat speed, whips the barrel through the zone.  Advanced approach at the plate and awareness of the strike zone, will work the count, hunts fastballs and recognizes spin well.  Impressive barrel skills, which coupled with impressive bat speed allows the ball to jump off his bat – shows power to all fields during batting practice and to the pull side in game action, generates more power than one might expect from his physique.  Robles reminds me a great deal of Alfonso Soriano with his swing and body.  Still needs minor league at-bats, but projects as a potential plus hitter with above-average raw power.

Robles is a truly exceptional athlete with developing 5-tool major league potential.  The only true warts in his game at this point are a lack of polish both offensively and defensively – he needs refinement in the outfield to improve routes and the challenge of Double-A pitchers with better command and offspeed offerings.  He should receive a promotion to Double-A in the next 30-45 days and could reach the major leagues sometime in 2018 as a 21-year-old.

Robles has a relatively high floor as a prospect due to his defensive ability, speed and raw power – he profiles comfortably as a league-average center fielder if the hit tool lags against better competition.  Robles projects as an impact 2-way centerfielder at his peak, with a ceiling as a .280-.290 hitter with mid-teens power and fringe gold-glove defense.  This is an elite talent and one of the best prospects I have evaluated at this level.

THE NatsGM Show #99 – Guest Grant Paulsen

On a special Memorial Day episode, THE NatsGM Show #99 is now available and we are proud to welcome back from the “Grant and Danny Show” on 106.7 The Fan DC, Grant Paulsen!

This week’s conversation sees Grant giving his thoughts on the Washington Nationals, the problems with the bullpen, the depth of the starting rotation and looking ahead to the trade deadline.  In addition, Grant talks about the Washington Capitals, the upcoming expansion draft and the forthcoming offseason.

Thank you to Grant for joining us again and to you for downloading!

Link to our previous interview ->  http://natsgm.com/2015/04/15/the-natsgm-show-episode-32-guest-grant-paulsen/