Nationals Arm Race

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

First Look: Nats top 10 draftees from 2014 Rule-4 Draft

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Suarez is the Nats 2nd round pick.  Photo via 247sports.com

Suarez is the Nats 2nd round pick. Photo via 247sports.com

As we did last year, here’s a quick introduction to the Nats top 10 picks for 2014.

A quick glance on our high-end draftees from 2014 draft.  I’ll put in the rankings from several prospect ranking shops (Keith LawBaseball America, MLB.com and MinorLeagueBall).  overall player ranking after the player name where appropriate (though as we’ll see, Keith’s top 100 quickly runs out of names).  Here’s a link to the draft order, and here’s a link to MLB.com’s fantastic draft tracker database for reference.

As he did last year, NatsGM.com‘s Ryan Sullivan is live-blogging and does a great job of pulling up stats on each of our picks.  I depend on his reports as well as those from the four links above to give a quick overview of our draftees.

Note: I wrote most of this over the weekend as the guys were picked; we’re already hearing plenty of rumors about signings.  I havn’t updated this post with such intel but I’m sure its readily available from Ladson and Kilgore and the like.

1st round/#18 overallErick Fedde, UNLV RHP (Law #27/BA #24/MLB #33/MinorLeagueBall #70).  Most of the credible mock drafts had the Nats drafting Fedde here, and that’s exactly what happened.  In my quickie preview post, I thought Fedde would be an overdraft and hoped that either Tyler Beede or Brandon Finnegan would drop.  Well, Beede went 14th and Finnegan went 17th.  I liked Touki Toussant as well as a prep HS that may drop to the Nats, but he went 16th.   I’m not sure I agree with pundits who say that Fedde was a “top 10 talent” prior to his injury; I still think this is an overdraft on Fedde given the fact that he’s rehabbing a blown UCL.  Look at the placement of Fedde on the four prospect ranking shops; that’s an awful lot of trust being placed into the hands of the surgeon, the rehab process, and the recovery.  That being said, looking at the next several players picked, there wasn’t a name that really stood out as someone that I would have rather had who at the same time was a prototypical Mike Rizzo pick  Maybe Connor Gillaspie would have worked (he went #20).  Ryan Sullivan thinks we got a steal here; i’m not so sure.  I think the Nats were looking at their board while the Giants were picking at #14, and then had their next best three names get snatched out from under them, leaving them taking a gamble on Fedde.

On the player himself; Fedde is tall (6’4″) but *skinny* (listed at between 165 and 180), sits 91-93 and touched 95 with excellent movement.  Secondary pitches can flatten out because of his lower arm slot, but he’s listed with a decent slider and decent change.   ESPN thinks he projects a 65 fastball and a 60 slider but needs to work on his command.  Very preliminary ceiling/projection is as a mid-rotation starter.   The thought is that he can fill out his frame and add velocity, though he’s done neither in his three college years.

He’s a Scott Boras client, he was a HS teammate of Bryce Harper, and he’s rehabbing a torn UCL, so he fits in nicely with the Nats on several levels.  It was easy to see why the mock drafts were all over the Nats taking Fedde.  In reality, I’ll bet the war room was rather dejected watching the three a-forementioned pitchers drop off the board in the 4 preceding picks to #18.

2nd round/#57 overall: Andrew Suarez, LHP from U-Miami (Law out of top 100/BA #75/MLB #86/MinorLeagueBall #103).   A re-draft (he was picked in the 9th round out of HS but chose to go to school), he suffered a torn labrum early in his college career but reportedly picked up velocity this past season and held it through most of the year.   Law alludes to other medical issues that clearly had him down on Suarez (Law ranked him lowest of my 4 resources).  He spent the year as Miami’s saturday starter (aka, their #2 starter).  BA mentioned him in their draft preview specifically because of his fantastic control; he had just a 1.34 BB/9 rate despite throwing a low 90s fastball that can reach 95.  He pitched a shut-out in game 1 of the Coral Gables regional, a 7-hit, 10K, 0 walk outing that matched his career high; nice way to finish off your college career (Miami was elminated from CWS play before Suarez could throw again).   Scouting reports say he profiles as a 4th starter.  (Note: my fingers just automatically typed Luis Suarez, aka Liverpool and Uruguay’s striker.  Part of me is in World Cup mode already).

3rd round/#93 overallJakson Reetz, prep Catcher from Nebraska (#38/#62/#40/#36).   A prep catcher isn’t who you normally expect to see this high on the National’s draft results, but his pre-draft rankings show that he’s clearly a steal at the mid-3rd round.  The question is; is he signable here?  $567k is his bonus slot figure; he might be a tough sign unless the Nats have a pre-draft deal with Fedde to save some money for a guy like Reetz.   His pedigree is good: MVP of the PG all-american game, member of the same world champion U-18 team that #1 overall pick Brady Aiken was on.   In prep games he was showing 91 from the mound and reportedly has a great arm, but some scouting reports say he may struggle to stay behind the plate.  As pointed out by NatsGM.com’s Ryan SullivanBA did a “day in the life” piece on Reetz that is worth checking out; once you watch this you’ll really like Reetz.  Last note: Keith Law even likes the pick and says he’ll sign.

4th round/#124 overall: Robbie Dickie, juco RHP from Blinn college in Texas (na/210/179/173).  95-97 on the gun, led his team to the Juco World Series, but he may project as a reliever thanks to questionable mechanics.   Quite a pop-up guy, but an over draft based on the rankings in the major publications.  He’s committed to Texas State if he doesn’t sign, which isn’t exactly a baseball powerhouse, so is this a value/slot saving pick?

5th Round/ #154 overall: Drew Van Orden, a senior RHP from Duke (na/395/na/na).  Good numbers on the year as Duke’s Friday starter (6-5, 3.19 ERA, more than a k/inning).  He finished off his college career with a 5-hit complete game shutout over Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament, Duke’s only win in their post-season tournament.  I like his pedigree despite the fact that he’s a senior 5th round pick with zero leverage.  Who are the Nats saving all this money for?  Update: Van Orden quickly signed, terms undisclosed.

6th Round/#184 overall: Austen Williams, junior RHP from Texas State ( na/#276/na/na).  Nats clearly saw something in Williams that other draft pundits did not; even MinorLeagueBall (who ranked to 350) didn’t have him listed.  Texas State’s friday starter continues a long trend of the Nats plucking talent out of Texas.  Williams posted solid numbers as Texas State’s Friday starter (8-3, 3.65 era, good K/9 rates).  I’m sure he’ll take a bit more than slot to sign, but the Nats should have some pennies saved.

7th Round/#214 overall: Dale (D.K.) Kerry, a senior Center fielder from the U of Miami (na/#332/na/#133).  MLB’s scouting report on him says he’s a great athlete and he has a “4th outfielder” projection.  Sounds like the perfect senior 7th round draft pick to me (sarcasm).  Ryan Sullivan is more bullish on him than I.

8th Round/#244 overall: Jeff Gardner, senior corner OF from Louisville (na/498/na/na).  He may be a senior, but he’s also the clean-up hitter for a CWS-bound team and had great stats on the year (.321/.403/.538 with 9 homers).   Not a bad find for the 8th round.

9th Round/#274 overall: Austin Byler, junior 1B from Nevada (94/123/166/271).  Well, now we see why the Nats are saving their pennies; getting Byler here is a find.  He should have been taken in the 3rd or 4th round if you believe the pundits, and he may take an over-slot deal to buy him out of his senior year.  He’s got serious power (he led his conference in homers and is an offensive threat) and would be a great find if he signs.

10th Round/#304 overallMatthew Page, senior RF from Oklahoma Baptist (na/na/na/na).  A d-2 pick for a team that a) loves guys from the south west already and b) has shown itself more than willing to gamble on non D-I players.  I can’t imagine he’ll be expensive to sign.  He’s also the first player the Nats have picked that didn’t appear anywhere on any of the draft previews.

Summary: Through the first 10 rounds the Nats picked 5 pitchers and 5 hitters for good balance.  Of these 10 players selected, 9 are college.  So, in other words, this is exactly the type of draft we expect to see out of a Rizzo-run organization (with the possible exception of perhaps predicting a few more arms). 

Of these 10 draftees, I’d say that at least 5 are “expected under slot guys” (Dickie, Van Orden, Kerry, Gardner and Page).  You have to think the team may play some slot hardball with Fedde.   Suarez and Williams should sign for about slot.  That leaves two guys who may take over-slot deals to sign; the sole HS draftee in Reetz and the decently ranked Byler.  I’ll bet it works out and all 10 guys sign.


Some useful draft links for you:

15 Responses to 'First Look: Nats top 10 draftees from 2014 Rule-4 Draft'

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  1. Great stuff, Todd. The plethora of links is great.

    Mark L

    11 Jun 14 at 9:15 am

  2. Nice post. I had the same thoughts about all of the Nats targets disappearing in the last few picks before them (although I do think they are OK with the risk on Fedde, so they probably felt pretty good as the 14th came around with Beede, Finnegan, Toussaint and Fedde all still there).
    It’s good to hear the rumours that Reetz has signed, as I also thought he might be the toughest, so hope you are right that all will sign.
    The other interesting twist on the draft was the Nats strategy to use picks 34-39 on higher upside HS guys with college commitments. I have to wonder if maybe they think they can keep the top 10 guys 400-500K under slot and offer that money to each of those lower picks hoping to get one of them to bite.

    DaveB

    11 Jun 14 at 10:17 am

  3. agree, thanks for the informative post Todd.

    I had resigned myself to the Fedde pick, given how many commenters had picked him for us. Its fine, he kind of reminds me of AJ Cole at draft time only older. Maybe the time off from throwing will let him add 15 lbs of muscle. But I think the Suarez pick is what I found disappointing. His upside seems kind of ok, but taking a health risk on a shoulder seems, in the abstract, unwise in Rd 2. too many associations to Purke and Solis here for me. I know that each case is different and so it is a lazy and maybe stupid comp, but it is what came to my mind.

    That being said, the Nats draft has been getting some favorable press. Mostly a bunch of speculation, as you did, of some under slot deals early to sign Reetz/Bylar or some of the preps taken in rounds 30+. We’ll see, that could work out well.

    Wally

    11 Jun 14 at 10:20 am

  4. I’m coming more around to Fedde. He was more highly ranked prior to injury than I thought. I still think he goes for under-slot though. I like DaveB’s thoughts about the high-end HS draft picks in the later rounds… I honestly don’t know how the draft money works in the rounds above 10 offhand, just that its different from the money spent in the first 10 rounds.

    Great news that Reetz already signed; you have to think the Nats called him prior to picking him and offered him an over-slot deal and he agreed. That signing will really make this draft for the team.

    Todd Boss

    11 Jun 14 at 10:56 am

  5. Doesn’t your Draft Slot link say that post Round 10, the first $100k doesn’t count at all, but anything above that counts against your total draft pool?

    Where are you guys hearing these rumors of signings?

    Wally

    11 Jun 14 at 11:09 am

  6. I get most of my draft news from twitter or google. I search for the players individually or I google Nationals draft and change the time frame to the past 24 hours. That’s how I found out about HS RHP and 11th rounder Weston Davis signing.

    From the 11th round on, each pick is allotted a 100k maximum, but any amount that exceeds that 100k counts against the bonus pool. For example, if a 12th rounder gets $250,000 to sign, $150,000 of that counts for the bonus pool.

    Reetz has already acknowledged signing on his own twitter page, and most of the articles have his HS coach as a source.

    Lower profile guys can be found on the mlb transactions page, and they’ve also begun popping up on the Auburn Doubledays roster.

    Melissa

    11 Jun 14 at 11:23 am

  7. Good stuff Melissa. I’m on vaca this week and can’t track down this stuff in anything longer than like 5 minute increments :-)

    thanks for the clarification on the 11th round and up rules; The opportunity is there for some teams to pay 1st round money if they wanted to … maybe not the Nats though, unless they really saved their pennies.

    Todd Boss

    11 Jun 14 at 11:43 am

  8. Todd Boss

    11 Jun 14 at 11:54 am

  9. Fun read, nice post. I always have to remind myself that we really won’t have any idea which club drafted well until 3-5 years down the road. I remember reading someone describe the MLB draft as like Christmas … except you don’t get to open the packages and find out what you have for four years!

    John C.

    11 Jun 14 at 12:17 pm

  10. Yeah, you can dream on these guys for sure. Is Fedde a future #2 starter who comes back from injury like Jordan Zimmermann, or his he destined to be a washout? Same with Suarez, who had a shoulder injury (usually even harder to come back from).

    Todd Boss

    11 Jun 14 at 3:53 pm

  11. Obviously shoulder injuries are more scary than elbows these days, and Rizzo even mentioned that they would be less likely to take risks with shoulders before the draft (he seemed to be referring to the difference in results to date between Purke and Giolito/etc.). I’m curious, though, does 2 years of steadily improving results for Suarez but those concerns behind him? Or do shoulder injuries tend to recur after long periods like that?

    DaveB

    12 Jun 14 at 7:46 am

  12. I think Suarez’s concerns are mitigated by his recent success. It isn’t like (say) Cole Kimball who hurt his shoulder and never made it back.

    Todd Boss

    12 Jun 14 at 9:29 am

  13. Todd Boss

    13 Jun 14 at 4:00 pm

  14. One of the best considerations about the draft is that it marks a turning of the page, the introduction of the short season leagues, and soon the pushing up in the system of those who have been waiting for a test at a higher level.

    Of course, as a look back at the drafts demonstrates, the best prospects may emerge from rounds well beyond #1.

    I just checked over my list of top 50 prospects in the Nats system as of now, and that includes 32 that were not ranked at this point only one year ago. That factors in tremendous turnover from underperformers who flamed out after promotion, and the bevy of injuries. But it also includes people who, like Wilmer Difo, we never were even considering at this time last year.

    It is a further reminder that what makes minor league watching so interesting is when a talent finally ignites. Three of my top ten weren’t on the radar at this time last year, including Voth.

    forensicane

    20 Jun 14 at 4:21 pm

  15. The best prospects may not emerge from the upper rounds … but they often do. Look no further than the makeup of our various rotations level by level.

    MLB: 1st rounder (Strasburg), 1st rounder (Gonzalez), 2nd rounder (Zimmermann), 7th (Fister), 25th (Roark). Of course, Detwiler was projected to be in this group, meaning 4/5ths of our MLB rotation were 1st or 2nd rounders.

    AAA: 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, and 16th. An outlier since we know AAA to be the “spare parts” league these days. 3 of these 5 current starters were drafted and developed elsewhere. And if our guys (Hill 6th and Jordan 9th) work out, its found gold.

    AA: I’ll go with what AA “should” be: Solis 2nd rounder, Purke 3rd rounder but paid like a top of the 1st round, Cole 4th rounder but (again) paid like the top of the 1st round, then an IFA in Rivero and a 7th rounder in Dupra.

    High-a: doesn’t really support my theory; the highest round picks are a 4th (Turnbull) and a 5th (voth). But…

    Low-A: 1st, 2nd, 4th, an IFA right now after the promotion of a 5th.

    Todd Boss

    21 Jun 14 at 7:50 am

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