With all the news about Bryce Harper and his many bags of money, I was inspired to research the history of Nationals first round draft picks. Like so many things Nationals-related, that history is dark and frightening, though there are a few successes-as far as drafting John Patterson counts as a success. So here they are, the three worst and best Nationals first-round picks of all time.
3. Pete Incaviglia: Incaviglia is not only the focus of one of the best chapters in "Baseball Between the Numbers" but he was also apparently the greatest college player of all time-he still holds the college records for most career home runs and home runs in a season. Incaviglia wanted to go straight to the Majors, something the Montreal Expos would not let him do. The Expos were out-muscled by Incaviglia and were forced to trade him for two forgettable players, Jim Anderson and Bob Serba. Incaviglia got his wish and then went on to have six 20+ homer seasons.
2. Condredge Holloway: Holloway not only refused to sign when the Expos picked him fourth overall in 1971, thanks to the laws of his home state of Alabama he was too young to even legally sign a contract. Holloway did go on to become the first black quarterback in SEC history. Unlike more recent first-round-refuser Aaron Crow, Holloway did not eventually go on to play in the Majors-he became a star in the Canadian Football League and a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame instead.
1. Josh Girdley: Though Girdley is part of a recent line of Nationals picks that got fat contracts and never played in the Majors-Justin Wayne, Josh McKinley, Josh Karp, maybe one day soon Clint Everts, and hopefully never Bryce Harper-he stands out because of how many quality players were picked after him: Carl Crawford, Justin Morneau, Albert Pujols, Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, and others. Hindsight is 20-20, but even back there was some uncertainty that Girdley was a questionable pick.
3. John Patterson: Featuring great stuff and worrying mechanics (Speaking of Stephen Strasburg, the young pitcher has already provided more WAR than Chad Cordero did in his Nationals career making Strasburg the second best Nationals first round pitching pick ever.), Patterson had a fantastic season for the Nationals in 2005. That season alone, in which Patterson contributed a 3.9 WAR, would have given Patterson his spot as the best Nationals first-round draft pick pitcher ever, which is good because in the other three years he played for the team he only played 34 games before retiring due to injury problems. Also, Stephen Strasburg is on pace for about 3.9 WAR this year.
2. Ryan Zimmerman: Though he may one day be the best Nationals first-round pick ever, Zimmerman is only in second place for now. He is, however, one of the best third basemen in the league, and he is leading the Majors in WAR this season. The Nationals have got Zimmerman locked up until 2013.
1. Tim Wallach: The "poor man's Brooks Robinson" in the words of Bill James, Wallach made up for his offense (0.320 wOBA) with great defense, giving him a very good 40.6 WAR for his 17 year career, 13 with the Expos. Also, the best Nationals first round pick ever.Editors Note: Stephen Strasburg, too soon to call.