Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

First Look: Quick overview of Nats top 10 Draft picks for 2016


Carter Kieboom is the first pick of the Nats in 2016's draft. Photo via PerfectGame

Carter Kieboom is the first pick of the Nats in 2016’s draft. Photo via PerfectGame

It was a strange first two days of the draft, with no consensus 1-1 overall, some very last minute moves, and some pretty surprising picks.  For me, the best player in this draft (NJ prep LHP Jason Groome) fell all the way to 12th and the Phillies picked a kid 1-1 overall in Mickey Moniak who seems to have the ceiling of a weaker Steve Finley.  We saw a consensus top-5 pick test positive for PEDs (Delvin Perez), and a sub-par CWS appearance cost A.J. Puk millions of dollars as he falls from everyone’s 1-1 prediction to #6 overall.

The Nats seemed to really depart from the draft strategy we’ve seen the Mike Rizzo-led front office follow in the past, where they normally focused on college arms with an occasional high-ceiling prep bat.  Here’s a quick look at the top 10 draft picks with some thoughts.

RoundOverallName/PositionPositionCol/HSSchoolSlot Value
1-S28Carter KieboomSSHSClemson2065900
1-S29Dane DunningRHPCol Jr.Florida2034600
258Sheldon Neuse3BCol Jr.Oklahoma1107000
394Jesus NuzardoLHPHSMiami635800
4124Nick BanksOF (rf)Col Jr.TAMU473300
5154Daniel JohnsonOF (CF)Col Jr.New Mexico State354300
6184Tres BarreraCCol Jr.Texas265400
7214Jacob Noll2BCol Sr.FGCU198900
8244A.J. BoguckiRHPCol Jr.UNC177700
9274Joey HarrisCCol Sr.Gonzaga166000
10304Paul PanaccioneSSCol Sr.Grand Canyon156600

Pick by Pick: if they’re ranked on the four main rankings sites I like (Keith Law, MLBpipeline, BaseballAmerica, and BaseballDraftReport) I’ll note them as such.  Links to these three master rankings are at the bottom of the post.

  • 1s/28: Carter Kieboom, SS/3B from Georgia HS.  Law #27, MLB #45, BA #44, BDR #14:  Brother of our budding C prospect Spencer Kieboom, Carter is thought to be the best of three baseball playing brothers.  Described consistently as a great hitter, one of the best prep hitters in the class, he currently plays SS but is projected to move to 3B.  He’s an overdraft according to MLB and BA but right in line with Law’s rankings (Law tends to favor toolsy prep players over lower floor/lower ceiling college guys).  My thoughts: very surprising first pick here; as we soon find out, the team is clearly focusing on bats this year and has no qualms about picking a guy who won’t feature for the MLB team for years.  Update: he’s *already* signed!
  • 1s/29: Dane Dunning, RHP starter/reliever from Florida.  Law #25, MLB #59, BA #60, BDR unranked. Once again, Law has this player significantly higher than MLB or BA.  For me its notable that when projected 1-1 pick A.J. Puk got hit around in the CWS regional, it was Dunning who came in and pitchd 3 2/3rds of 1-hit ball to win the game for Florida.  It wouldn’t be the first time that a college coach mis-used a quality arm (see Illinois using Tyler Jay inexplicably as a closer most of last year).  Dunning goes before even his team’s friday starter Logan Shore and surprised the heck out of me.  Especially when you consider who was still on the board in terms of college arms (notably Anthony Kay and Dakota Hudsonboth of whom went in the picks just after Dunning.  I’m talking myself into Dunning though; he was on my very early list for upper 1st round talents anyway, and seems like he was a better pro prospect than guys pitching ahead of him in the Florida rotation.  Florida is known as a great program for developing arms, and he comes to the Nats without a ton of use.
  • 2nd/58: Sheldon Neuse, SS/3B Oklahoma.  Law #60, MLB #50, BA #129, BDR #40.  Interesting discrepancy of opinion on Neuse; MLB likes him a ton and thinks the Nats got good value.  He’s a 3-time all-Big12 pick who likely moves to third in pro ball and also throws out of the Oklahoma bullpen (so there’s a reliever fall back; he’s clocked at 94).  At the plate, he’s got a ton of power, profiles as a 3-true outcomes guy and drastically improved his walk rate this year.  The scouting reports also think his big arm could profile in RF, and his size could look promising behind the plate.  He sounds like a polished college hitter with some pop, not unlike last year’s 3rd rounder Rhett Wiseman.
  • 3rd/94: Jesus Nuzardo, LHP from Florida HS.  Law #42, MLB #77, BA #50, BDR #58.  The Nats special; a Tommy John reclamation project.  Nuzardo was projecting as a mid 1st rounder early this spring before blowing out the elbow; if he comes back to form, then the Nats just stole a 1st round talent in the 3rd round.  You’d have to think that Nuzardo’s advisor will tell him that it makes more sense to join the Nats and their experienced TJ-rehab team than to head to Miami, but we’ll see what happens.
  • 4th/124: Nick Banks, OF from Texas A&M.  Law Unranked, MLB #101, BA #88, BDR #148.  I love this pick; Banks led the US Collegiate national team in hitting just last summer, but his stats backed up after he had a minor surgical procedure.  Skills don’t erode overnight, and Banks was thought to be a mid 1st round pick who slid precipitously.  I think the Nats got an absolute steal here and Banks will be a stud for this team for years to come.
  • 5th/154: Daniel Johnson, OF from New Mexico State.  BA #222.  Johnson was the WAC player of the year, hit for power and average.  Barely rated and seems like he’ll sign for slot or less.  Sounds like a nice little value pick.
  • 6th/184: Tres Barrera, C from Texas.  Law unranked, MLB #194, BA #284, BDR unraked.  A Catcher who had the defensive flexibility to move around as the Texas team needed him.  This is more than just a filler pick at this point; i’m guessing he signs for a bit less than slot and could feature later on.
  • 7th/214: Jacob Noll, 2B from Florida Gulf Coast.  BA #240, BDR #193: Nice slash line for a senior, even if it was in a weaker conference.  367/.427/.620 .  Classic senior sign; 6th-10th round, middle infielder, likely a nominal bonus to save cash for later.  Can’t argue with the pick.
  • 8th/244: A.J. Bogucki: RHP reliever from UNC.  BA #263, BDR #388.  Nice stats for a guy at this point: 9.48 K/9 – 4.47 BB/9 – 50.1 IP – 2.86 ERA.  Good MPH on his fastball, looks a little wild though.  I wonder if he signs.  Still has a year of eligibility and he’s in that area where they’re looking for bonus savings.
  • 9th/274: Joey Harris, C from Gonzaga; unranked anywhere.  Classic college senior sign who likely backs up Barrera at Auburn.
  • 10th/304: Paul Panaccione, Sr. SS from Grand Canyon U.  See 9th round pick; likely a one-and-done middle infielder for Auburn in 2016.

First 10 rounds worth of picks breakdown:

  • 8 Position players, just 3 arms.
  • 9 College, 2 prep (typical)
  • 3 clear senior sign/save on bonus money that I could tell (Noll, Harris, Panaccione)
  • 2 more in Johnson and Barrera who could be targeted for under-slot deals
  • Regional breakdown: 5 from SouthEast (Georgia, Florida, North Carolina), 5 from the South West (Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona), and one from the upper NW (Washington).

Conclusion: I like the first four picks, a lot.  Keith Law liked the Nats first couple of days too.    I like the focus on hitters after years of focus on arms.  I like the underrated pick up of Dunning over other “big name” guys who may be overrated.   I love the Banks pick; think its a steal not  unlike the situation where Rendon fell to the Nats because of a short-term injury concern.  I know practically nothing of anyone after Banks.

What do you guys think of it?



Draft Links of Use

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31 Responses to 'First Look: Quick overview of Nats top 10 Draft picks for 2016'

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  1. I like the draft for all I can tell about it, but this far out it’s hard to know what a team really has. Back when the draft and the future was all the Nationals had, someone (possibly on this blog) described the draft as being like Christmas – where you have to wait for 4-5 years before you can unwrap the pretty packages and find out whether you have anything at all.

    Obviously signing will be the issue, and the allocation of money. I’m also curious as to whether the Nats (finally) decide to make a big splash in the July 2 international signing market. Todd, do you have any intel on that?

    John C.

    14 Jun 16 at 9:56 am

  2. Noll is a junior


    14 Jun 16 at 10:15 am

  3. Here’s a link to the full list of Nats’ draftees, for those interested:!ft=team&fv=was

    I’ll add more thoughts at lunch.


    14 Jun 16 at 10:42 am

  4. I am very hopeful about this draft, depending upon whom the Nats sign. The strategy I see makes a lot of sense to me, and is VERY aggressive — no seniors in the first nine picks. Minetti was gone after 2014 and the money management of the Suarez/Byler picks lost. This regime did great last year, and managed funds very well. This year – no high school picks in the teens – smart. Let’s see what is in store in 2016.

    There are several power bats here. Neuse, Noll, and Simonetti (11th rounder). The 5th round pick, according to Rizzo, is an 80 speed and his power showed up too. Banks is a high ceiling bat. Some lower bats at SS, so the Nats are drafting athletes who can hit and move as their bats carry them.

    Lots of catchers to compete at the lower levels with holdovers from the DSL-GCL who struggled last year stateside.

    Continued additions to the lefthanded arsenal. A high ceiling lefty starter. And then, lots and lots of pitching into an organization with truly amazing success in rounds 20-30 last year, and successes beyond round 30 on the mound.

    This sets up a lot of competition and upward drift when the players break camp for short season baseball. Let’s see whom they sign fast and who is ready to play. Clearly there are holdovers all over the diamond in Auburn (like Gardner, Dulin, and Franco) who could not break camp with Hagerstown, and 5-7 Hagerstown position players (Robles, Wiseman, Page, Davidson, Schrock, Gutierrez) who have earned promotions. We will see a lot of shakeout from slumping Potomac, via releases and promotions like Ward and perhaps Keller and releases at the AA level.

    The Nats system is quite improved depth wise but far from dominant. But great development and talent influx will endow slow and steady upward drift. Performance at the upper minors is improving and as the players get older, some of those who have higher ceilings will elevate the system with them.

    And we have not yet even touched on pitching. Lots of pitchers in the dock waiting to hit the field this year, more talent than in past. Very excited to see people like Valerio and Pena, Watson, Fuentes, others.


    14 Jun 16 at 10:48 am

  5. I’ve yet to really dive into the 11th-40th round players. Too busy finishing up HS and CWS posts. But i’ll get there.

    Todd Boss

    14 Jun 16 at 10:54 am

  6. After reading the reviews, I like it if they sign the top 10. Only thing that was a bit surprising is that there doesn’t appear to be many late round fliers on probably-unsignable prep kids, other than McFarland.

    On Jul 2 – BA put up a list that has the nats signing 3 big time guys for > $1m each:
    Luis Garcia – SS (DR)
    Yasel Antuna – SS (DR) for $4m (yikes)
    Jose Sanchez – (VZ)


    14 Jun 16 at 10:56 am

  7. The other change to the FO going back a couple of years is Derek Ladnier leaving for Arizona ( I think). So with turnover from Roy Clark, Minniti and Ladnier, it appears some new blood is doing a good job.


    14 Jun 16 at 10:59 am

  8. KW

    14 Jun 16 at 11:12 am

  9. btw, who is the Nats scouting director? Its not Harris, right?


    14 Jun 16 at 11:23 am

  10. Minitti was the $ guy. Miller is now.

    Kline and I am sure Rizzo run the draft from a talent perspective. But the pool arrangement means the economics are integral.

    The late round high schoolers are literally relatives, locals, and people they’ve done some talking to. I think what we saw last year was good money management and hopefully this year as well, to support scout talent. Investing in high end DR talent takes the pressure off bets on US HS talent when it means not drafting a cheaper college player.


    14 Jun 16 at 11:41 am

  11. Nats’ front office:

    My understanding is that Kline ultimately oversees the scouting.


    14 Jun 16 at 11:52 am

  12. Overall thoughts: First of all, I’m a Moneyball guy from before Moneyball. I have a huge preference for college guys, and I generally think that this “higher ceiling” talk about the HS kids is mostly bunk. How di you have any idea what their ceiling is based on what they’ve done against 16-year-olds? The guys in the SEC are facing a 1st- or 2d-round starter nearly every Friday, and sometimes on Saturday as well. Just sayin’.

    Also, I wanted bats, big bats. Unfortunately, the biggest college bats in this draft were attached to 1B bodies (Collins, Thaiss, and Craig) and were all gone before the Nats picked.

    Then there’s the financial maneuvering on which we have no visibility. With the exception of Bogucki, picks 5-10 look to me to be extreme cost-savers. Whether all that savings is going to Kieboom and Luzardo, or whether there’s enough left over to chase someone like McFarland, we don’t know. McFarland is really the only rated HS draftee from the 30s.

    Thoughts on individual picks to follow.


    14 Jun 16 at 12:26 pm

  13. Getting Banks redeemed a few things for me. He may have a higher ceiling than Bryan Reynolds, who the Nats passed on in rounds 1 & 2. Banks was one of the highest-projected hitters coming into the season. He has some power potential, maybe up to 20 HRs or so. He’s a Rendon-like gap-power guy. He’s about the same size as Wiseman and projects pretty similarly.

    The Dunning pick surprised me at first but has grown on me. If he does have the three or four pitches necessary to be an MLB starter, the great thing about him is that he’ll come out of college with only ~160 innings total on his arm. If he becomes a mid-rotation guy from the late first round, it’s solid; if he becomes Stammen, not so much.

    Kieboom is 6’2″ and has plenty of room to fill out. Kline said that the Nats would keep him at SS for now. They’ve already got a lot of young 3Bs in Franco, Gutierrez, and Ward, with Neuse possibly joining that list. We’ll see. If Kieboom can make it to Auburn this summer and hold his own against the college kids, then we’ll have something.

    Luzardo is even more of a lottery ticket than Kieboom. With the TJ, he’ll be doing well to be in the GCL next summer, so it’s going to be a long time before he surfaces. His profile reminds me a bit of Gio.

    Neuse is a gamer. He has a rocket arm and is built like Uggla. I’m intrigued by him. He may have a higher power ceiling than Schrock, who has been showing well thus far. Neuse could advance quickly unless he has to learn a new position (particularly if it’s catcher).

    Johnson (5th) also intrigues me. He’s a big-time speed guy, great arm, but unlike many of the CFs already in the Nats’ system (Stevenson, Bautista), he’s shown some power potential. We’ll see. He may be a bit raw and need some GCL time. Upshaw (11th) is another interesting OF.

    Lots of good arms in rounds 12-24. The Nats found some real gems in this draft region last year. Williamson was a solid starter at NCSU but needs TJ. Howard has pitched a lot out of the bullpen in Texas Tech’s run to the CWS. He seems to be their Dunning.


    14 Jun 16 at 12:57 pm

  14. I mentioned in the last post that what impressed me was that unlike 2012 and 2014, the Nats seemed to have a detailed plan for the whole draft rather than just the first round and they stuck with it.

    I also wonder if adding Spencer Kieboom to the 40-man was motivated in part because they were targeting Carter as early as last fall and wanted to get in the family’s good graces. Not that Spencer is unworthy of a 40-man roster spot, but it seemed unlikely he would stick with another team all year had he been taken in the Rule 5 draft.

    I’ll reserve final judgement until I see who all gets signed, though the quick inking of Carter is very promising.

    Karl Kolchak

    14 Jun 16 at 1:42 pm

  15. Wally had noted on another post that he had seen that Luzardo had also signed. If so, they’ve already knocked out the two big-ticket high-schoolers. Dunning officially can’t sign until after the CWS, although I’m sure there have been conversations with his “people.” Banks’ team just got eliminated. I’m a little concerned that he will want budget-busting money since he had hope to be a first-rounder.

    Yes, contrast to 2014 and not signing 2d and 9th-round picks is striking. The folks running the operation now seem to have their ducks in a row.


    14 Jun 16 at 2:36 pm

  16. Sickels called out Noll as a very promising bat without a clear position.


    14 Jun 16 at 2:42 pm

  17. That sorta makes Noll sound like Schrock. There were a lot of questions about Schrock’s defense at draft time, even at 2B, although the Nats played him at SS a good bit at Auburn.


    14 Jun 16 at 3:25 pm

  18. The site I found it on was MLB Daily Dish

    AJ Bogucki signed for slightly under slot.


    14 Jun 16 at 5:32 pm

  19. According to that link, Luzardo got $764K over slot to sign–clearly that was apparent plan by reaching down a bit for Kieboom and Dunning, who I gather will be under slot signees. If so, bravo for a good draft plan.

    Karl Kolchack

    14 Jun 16 at 5:50 pm

  20. Thanks Wally. Wow, that’s way over slot for Luzardo. And quickly (not a lot of haggling). And a lot for Bogucki given his lack of success. The difference between a Jr. and senior sign.

    That’s a lot of money to make up, so there must be other shoes to drop. Hopefully they saved quite a bit with Kieboom.


    14 Jun 16 at 7:23 pm

  21. Luzardo got early 2d round money. I expected it to be something like that. At least he didn’t try to get 1st round money. Trammell and Wentz got ridiculous overslot.


    14 Jun 16 at 7:50 pm

  22. I’ll guess that Dunning gives the bigger discount than Kieboom. College junior who was a swing man, not even a full starter, v. a high school with a scholarship to a major college.

    But either way, it does look like they are going to have the top guys under contract. So maybe the real question is whether they save enough to grab some 10+ rounders, like McFarland.


    14 Jun 16 at 8:42 pm

  23. If they are counting on savings from Dunning to use elsewhere, the signings may slow a bit since he can’t sign for a couple of weeks because of the college world series. They can sign the rest of picks 5-10, though, as all of them figure to be well under slot.


    15 Jun 16 at 5:17 am

  24. the MLBtraderumors site is totally outscooping BA’s draft database. Great link thanks. It even has sources for its figures and signing “proof.”

    Nuzardo at $764k over slot is … well that’s a lot. They’re going to have to save a ton of cash on the Dunning signing in order to make up for it.

    Todd Boss

    15 Jun 16 at 9:13 am

  25. There may also be some savings with Neuse. I doubt they’re giving him a million. Banks may want over-slot money, though. But the 9th and 10th rounders are probably $25K guys, as Kerian was last year. I’m sure they’ve got a plan.


    15 Jun 16 at 9:58 am

  26. I wonder about Banks too; if he’s a 1st round talent but slips to 4th b/c of a bad year, you’d think he would demand closer to 1st round cash or else he returns for his sr year.

    But… going back for sr year suddenly he has no leverage so he risks basically having teams dictate to him rather than the other way around what his bonus will be. I mean, it worked for Appel somehow but would it work for Banks? Maybe so. Maybe if you offered him end of 1st round money he signs. But then the Nats are really in a b ind; where the heck are they going to find all this cash?

    Todd Boss

    15 Jun 16 at 10:29 am

  27. FWIW, in browsing around to see if there is any news, I found that Banks has posted a farewell-to-A&M message on Twitter, so that sure sounds like he’s planning to sign to me. It’s possible that him getting something over slot is contingent on Dunning taking the discount, though, so they may have something tentative worked out that they have to keep on hold. There’s no way they’re giving him 1st-round money; they don’t have it. I would guess they’ll give him something like $800K.


    15 Jun 16 at 11:04 am

  28. That’s good news re: Banks. Your point that Dunning’s play in the CWS will delay more news is right, and I doubt we’ll see announcements on the rest until he is free to sign. But I have the sense that the terms are worked out with the major guys and that most, if not all, of the top 10 will sign.


    15 Jun 16 at 3:20 pm

  29. Great pickup, KW. Yes, twitter is the best scoop from the horse’s mouth. Players will tweet that they are on their way to Viera, etc.

    And best yet, Banks is listing himself as “Washington Nationals organization” and “former Texas a&M” player.

    I did not want to post this for far of who reads this, but I had the same worries as Todd. He could be excused were he to bet on a bounceback year.

    Again, with the first nine picks having leverage, if the Nats sign all, that has to reflect on their advance work about what it would take. I still feel there is no way they would have ponied up 764K over slot this soon to Luzardo unless they knew how their pie was divided already. Getting Banks is YUGE! Welcome aboard, son! Get on the field!


    16 Jun 16 at 12:57 am

  30. On signings, that’s why I try to find these kids’ twitter accounts. But its often difficult to get them, especially for generically named guys. here’s Nick Banks:
    . Already wearing a Nats hat.

    Todd Boss

    16 Jun 16 at 9:50 am

  31. top 10 pick twitter accounts that I could find so far:
    Dunning: ?
    Nuzardo: ?
    Johnson: ? (too common of a name to easily find)
    Noll and Bogucki: ?

    Todd Boss

    16 Jun 16 at 9:51 am

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