As most Nats fans know by now, the team took a big risk and drafted prep RHP Lucas Giolito in the first round despite his having suffered a sprained Ulnar Collateral Ligament (that of Tommy John surgery fame) this spring. Most pundits have stated the obvious; this is a high risk, high reward pick for sure. Baseball America loves the pick, as did the notoriously prickly Keith Law.
The team left two rather big names on the board by making this pick, namely Chris Stratton and Devin Marrero. Marrero’s stock has dropped considerably this season after mashing his first two years in college, while Stratton’s stock has risen mightily and seemed to fit Mike Rizzo’s typical MO for drafting; big powerful college arms that are close to the majors.
Here’s the question; was this TOO much of a risk? Anthony Rendon fell to us in 2011 after being the consensus 1-1 pick in his draft class for nearly two years after suffering multiple injuries in college. And it didn’t take him but about a week of professional games before suffering yet another leg injury, one that (depending on who you ask) seems set to sideline him for the entirety of the 2012 pro season (with the off-chance of returning for the Arizona Fall League). Meanwhile the team took an even bigger gamble on Matthew Purke, a lefty starter with shoulder concerns in college that have continued into the pros (he was kept in extended spring training for nearly 2 months, having only recently made his pro debut in low-A, where he promptly got hammered). Small sample sizes, I know. But stats are stats.
Giolito, if healthy, was in the mix for 1-1. As was Purke. As was Rendon. All three fell because of injury concerns. So clearly these are top-end talents, each individually worth the risk. But all three within two draft classes?
There seem to be two common mantras in baseball drafting; You don’t draft for need, and Get the Best Player Available. Right now the Nats need hitting, both at the MLB level and throughout its farm system. Maybe the team didn’t like what it saw out of Marrero, or maybe the team is convinced that Giolito’s injury was nothing major and feels like they got a massive steal as the best player on the board at #16 overall. Fair enough; i’m certainly not privy to Rizzo’s interviews or Giolito’s medical records. But if none of these three guys pan out, the Nats are looking at a pretty gaping draft hole rising through its system within a few years.