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 2018


Mason Denaburg is our 2018 first rounder. Photo via

Mason Denaburg is our 2018 first rounder. Photo via

Here’s a first look at our top 10 draft picks, or where we stand after day 2.

At the top of round 1, the first four picks went pretty much as expected by the major pundits: Mize, Bart, Bohm, Madrigal.  From there we saw surprises, big names drop and some real value for teams later on day one.

How about the Nats picks?

RoundOverallNamePositionCol/HSCollege or CmtmState
127Denaburg, MasonRHPHSFloridaFL
265Cate, TimLHPColl JrUconnCT
3101Schaller, ReidRHPColl SoVanderbiltTN
4131Irvin, JakeRHPColl JrOklahomaOK
5161Canning, GageOFColl JrArizona StateAZ
6191Karp, AndrewRHPColl SrFlorida StateFL
7221Day, ChandlerRHPColl JrVanderbiltTN
8251Cropley, TylerCColl SrIowaIA
9281Driskill, TannerRHPColl SrLamarTX
10311Shaddy, Carson2BColl SrU Arkansas FayettevilleAR

Pick by Pick:  I’ve included draft board rankings if they’re ranked on the main prospect ranking sites I like (see links at bottom for the sources);

  • 1st Round/#27 overall: Mason Denaburg, prep RHP from FL high school with Florida commit. (#29 ESPN/Law, #24 MLBpipeline, #16 Fangraphs, #69 BDR, #13 20/80).  Draft Announcement link.  Mid-1st round pick before a bicep tendinitis issue dropped him to the point where most every major draft pundit was predicting the Nats would grab him.   Under-18 Team USA member.   This pick is consistent with the behavior we saw when the team selected Lucas Giolito; high-value guy getting picked about 15 spots lower than he should have.  Look for an over-slot bonus here to buy him out of his Florida committment/make up for his falling on the boards.  I like this pick; his fastball is mid-90s and lively, his mechanics are clean and easy, and his curve breaks very hard.   A nice profile with some good video is at here.  A couple of the draft ranking boards really rated Denaburg, while others had him ranked about where he went.
  • 2nd Round/#65 overall: Tim Cate, LHP coll Jr from UConn. (#65 ESPN/Law, #62 MLBpipeline, #80 Fangraphs, #57 BDR, #79 20/80 ).  Draft announcement link.  pick I like: Cate missed time this year with an injury, which again cost him slots.  So the Nats get a guy perhaps a round early, tough to do in the second round.  I think this is a solid pick; he was on Team USA last summer at the same time Denaburg was on the under-18 squad.  The various rankings are all projecting him 2nd to 3rd round, the Nats picked him at #65 so that’s right in-line with projections.
  • 3rd Round/#101: Reid Schaller RHP Coll Soph from Vanderbilt (#71 ESPN/Law, #157 MLBPipeline); Vanderbilt reliever red-shirt freshman/sophomore who missed two whole years with TJ surgery … but sits mid 90s, hits 99 and pitched out of Vanderbilt’s bullpen this year.  36Ks in 26 innings, big arm but got hit this year.  Law is bullish on him and I wonder if he’s destined for the rotation or the pen.  As a red-shirt freshman I wonder if he’s signable: doe he want more time at school?  Of course, in today’s world, teams call ahead and basically ask a kid, “will you sign for $X?”  and if they say yes, they get picked.  This definitely isn’t a throw-away pick, but may be destined quickly for the bullpen.
  • 4th Round/#131: Jake Irvin, RHP Coll Jr. from Oklahoma (#76 ESPN/Law, #152 MLBPipeline): Oklahoma’s friday starter is huge (6’6″), sits in low 90s and had an excellent junior year.  No injury history, just a solid college guy with a high floor but low ceiling.
  • 5th Round/#161: Gage Canning OF (CF) Coll JR. from Arizona State (#106 MLBPipeline).  3-year starter with solid numbers at Arizona State, moved to CF this year from the corner.  Slashed .369/.426/.648 in the Pac-12 (a good but not SEC-level baseball conference).   Lots of Ks though; nearly one a game in college, which would be fine if it was accompanied by more homers.
  • 6th Round/#191: Andrew Karp, RHP Coll Sr From Florida State (NR).  Weekend starter for #7 CWS seeded Florida State with decent numbers on the year.  A College senior but I don’t think this is a dumped draft pick; perhaps he goes under-slot somewhat but he looks like a solid pick here.  Not ranked/rated anywhere but you’re not a weekend starter for a top-10 team unless you’re good.
  •  7th Round: #221: Chandler Day, RHP Coll Jr from Vanderbilt (NR).  Used kind of as a swing man by Vandy this year (he had 3 starts and 18 appearances), again with decent numbers.   Little else known; not ranked/discussed by the regular scouting circuits.
  • 8th Round/#251: Tyler Cropley, C Coll Sr from Iowa.  This one screams senior sign/bonus savings/make sure you get a catcher for your Short-A team.
  • 9th Round/#281: Tanner Driskill, RHP  Coll Sr from Lamar University in Texas.  Another low-leverage senior, but he was Lamar’s friday starter for most of the second half of this year.  I’ll take an Ace senior sign/9th rounder any day.
  • 10 Round/#311: Carson Shaddy, 2B Coll Sr from U Arkansas-Fayetteville.  Similar to Cropley, a senior sign middle infielder type for your Auburn 2018 squad.

First 10 rounds worth of picks breakdown:

  • 7 arms, 3 position player.perhaps
  • 9 college (0 juco), 1 high schooler.
  • At least 3 money-saving senior sign picks: their 8th, 9th and 10th rounders.
  • Heavy influence from major college programs: Florida, two from Vanderbilt, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Florida State.

Conclusion: I liked the first two picks.  There were some more “famous” names available/on the board at #27 that some may have preferred, but the Nats clearly rated Denaburg as a value pick and got good value on him.  I like the Tate pick; a team-USA guy in the second round who has good stuff.  I like the 3rd rounder for value; big arm, not a ton of mileage, and I like getting a big-time team’s friday starter in the 4th round; it reminds me of their A.J. Morris pick a few years back in the same position.  They also picked up a weekend starter for a top-10 ACC team and the friday-ace for a smaller Texas team.

What do you guys think of it?

Draft Links of Use

  1. Mlbpipeline’s Draft Tracker for 2018 for the Nats picks.
  2. All 10 rounds of slot bonus figures for 2018
  3. BA’s draft database with search options by team, state, etc.
  4. Perfect Game to get profiles on more obscure draftees.

Draft Rankings referred to within here:

10 Responses to 'First Look: Quick overview of Nats top 10 Draft picks for 2018'

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  1. Great stuff, Todd. You were made for this, and I appreciate it.

    Mark L

    5 Jun 18 at 7:43 pm

  2. This is a risky draft. The top 3 guys could be good, but each have big health risks. I like Denaburg quite a bit from the write ups and video, but he has to be healthy. I like Cate less than you, but if he can stay healthy and actually can hit 95, i’ll Happily change my mind. I know nothing of Schaller but saw your KLaw quote and that seems promising. Could be a quality high leverage pen guy. If, you know, he’s healthy.

    If they hit a home run on health, they could have 3-5 productive major leaguers. Alternatively, they could flame out.

    I really like Denaburg but once they took him, I think maybe I would have mixed in a higher floor college guy at #2, just to be safe, like Pilkington or Feltman. Or even a position guy like Pompey or Isbel.


    5 Jun 18 at 8:33 pm

  3. Oh yeah, Gage Canning is kind of a polarizing guy for scouts. I think the consensus is that he won’t make it, but I think it’s a great pick for the 5th round. The guy keeps performing, and with the swing adjustments that Long teaches, maybe the power shows up. I see decent potential for a Goodwin kind of career arc, which is a great result for the 5th round.


    5 Jun 18 at 8:36 pm

  4. Wally, I don’t know that the Nats would have had the $$$ to sign several of the guys you mentioned for the 2d because of the overslot they’ll have to pay Denaburg.

    I’ve said my piece about Kowar and Beer. I’m interested to see how much more cheaply they would have come they Denaburg, and if they would have given the Nats more flexibility in the 2d.

    The Nats’ first three picks are boom or bust, real lottery tickets. I don’t see a high ceiling for Cate. It will be interesting to see how much Denaburg actually pitches this year. I like the Irvin pick. He should move up quickly. His only real black mark this season was HRs allowed.

    On the last post, I noted the comparison of Canning to Swaggerty. Canning has less plate discipline but seemingly more gap power. He’s interesting for 5th round.


    5 Jun 18 at 8:50 pm

  5. Also, there was no one drafted in the first 10 rounds by any team who is better than Juan Soto. Just sayin’. The dude works ABs like a 10-year vet. He’s just barely 19. Seth Beer potentially could be as good a hitter as Soto, but not as good of an all-around player.


    5 Jun 18 at 8:56 pm

  6. I’m of two minds of how to evaluate what the Nats have done with this draft. One is to chide them for perhaps getting a little cute and trying to wire the system with their first three picks. But man, I don’t think this is a good draft overall — not the Nats, the whole draft. I just don’t see a lot of 20+ WAR players in this draft. The college players at the top of it are OK players who will probably be OK major leaguers, but are there any real stars? Does anyone think that Mize is the next Scherzer? Singer, the second-best college arm in the draft, slid all the way to #16. A big part of my fascination with Beer was/is that he’s one of the few on the board who stood out to me as at least having a chance to be an above-average talent at the plate. Yes, he may not have other skills, but would you rather have a guy with one above-average tool, or just five mediocre ones?

    The Nats passed on Kowar, Lynch, and Beer to take Denaburg, Pilkington and Pompey to take Cate, and Beck to take Schaller (although I’m not sure they would have had the money to sign Beck after paying Denaburg). Of the alternatives, Beer is the only one I think could be a real star, but there’s an extreme range of opinion on that subject. Also, the Nats do need pitching more than hitting at this point. What they passed on with Kowar or Lynch were pitchers who will probably progress faster than Denaburg.

    So the Nats took several gambles. Perhaps I would have preferred more gambles with better arm health histories. I’m also not sure they really addressed the need of arms who can move up quickly. Maybe Cate and Irvin can, but their ceilings may not be too high.

    Beyond the upper rounds, Canning and Karp in particular look like good gambles. Plate discipline will tell the whole story with Canning. The Nats have two guys who were excellent college hitters in Wiseman and Banks who haven’t found the necessary plate discipline to succeed as pros.


    6 Jun 18 at 9:52 am

  7. But . . . if they had drafted Kowar, Pilkington, and Beck, I’d have more confidence that they’ve gotten at least one MLB starter from among them than I do from Denaburg, Cate, and Schaller.


    6 Jun 18 at 10:07 am

  8. After looking at the body of work of Kowar, Pilkington, and Beck … none of them really had good seasons and all of them basically sucked in the CWS regional when the lights were brightest. It wasn’t just the Nats skipping on them … Kowar went from being the 15th ranked player on the MLBpipeline board to being drafted 33rd overall; that’s half a round slip in the first round! Beck’s numbers and velocity were down all year. Plinkington also slipped nearly a full round from his rankings. Clearly the industry in total bailed on these guys.

    Its one thing to be “famous” and be a big name that’s in all the press all year, another to back it up. Look at a guy like Kumar Rocker. Heading into the spring of 2018 he was a top-5 pick. MLBpipeline still ranked him #23 prospect despite a sub-par spring. He didn’t even get DRAFTED in the first 10 rounds. Probably because when he dropped out of the first he basically told teams “1st round money or i’m going to school” (he’s committed to Vanderbilt) and so that’s that.

    Todd Boss

    6 Jun 18 at 10:21 am

  9. We’ll see. As I said, I don’t blame them too much for the gambles because the supposed surer things don’t look so sure this year. I’m just not sure about three gambles on wounded arms.


    6 Jun 18 at 10:44 am

  10. Maybe their thought process is … hey, the TJ has already happened, so they won’t have it happen on their dime/time. And, FWIW Denaburg’s “injury” was a simple amount of tendinitis that sidelined him for a time, but he came back and scouting reports all had him back to normal by year’s end. I mean, shoot, I’ve had bicep tendinitis. Its certainly not nearly as bad as any sort of strain, tear, partial tear, ligament issue, shoulder issue, knee issue.

    Todd Boss

    6 Jun 18 at 11:08 am

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