After dropping two out of three to the Cincinnati Reds at home, the Washington (16-42) Nationals will make the trip south to kick off interleague play and face the Tampa Bay Rays (31-31).
The Rays can offer something to the Nationals that few teams can, a blueprint.
When the Nationals finish this year with the worst record in baseball, which they are overwhelmingly likely to do, they will have done so two years in a row. The only reward for that is the first overall pick in the draft for a second season in a row.
The only other team to do that in MLB history is the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006 and 2007.
In 2008 the Rays were in the World Series.
So what changed for the Rays from 2007 to 2008? The Rays had excellent young pitching talent that had finally arrived, they made some gutsy moves including trading top prospect Delmon Young.
On top of player personnel moves the Rays hired Joe Madden and made the all-important commitment to defense.
Sound like a good blueprint? Seems to me it could work just fine for our ball club.
While the Rays had dominant success in 2008, they have had a little trouble getting off the ground in 2009. Last year’s ace, Scott Kazmir, struggled early and then hit the DL. Closer Troy Pericval has an ERA over 6, and stars like B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell are struggling to keep their batting average above .250.
There is reason to believe for Rays fans however.
Sluggers Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist are setting a solid pace while Carl Crawford is having the best hitting season of his life. 2007’s number one pick David Price has joined the club and in four starts has a 2.37 ERA and 26 strikeouts in only 19 innings.
The Rays will look to get their line up started against three Nationals rookie starting pitchers.
Pitching Match Ups
Criag Stammen (0-2, 6.45) vs. Matt Garza (4-4, 3.55)
Stammen goes for his first win of the season, and of his career, tonight in Florida. While Stammen’s stuff has looked solid, it hasn’t been consistent, often allowing him to make mistakes which lead to big innings. This would be a great time for him to break out.
Matt Garza came to Tampa Bay in the Delmon Young trade as a fizzled pitching prospect that never really figured it out. Now, at 25, it seems he has finally grasped the game mentally in order to utilize his great physical assets. He has now risen himself to one of the better starting pitchers in the American League, and likely this teams Ace.
Jordan Zimmermanm (2-3, 5.71) vs. Andy Sonnastine (4-6, 7.00)
Zimmermann missed his last start due to Elbow soreness. A scary sign to say the lease for the Nationals, especially after the Shawn Hill saga. Zimmermann claims to be fine however, as he looks to continue to work on consistency and cutting down on mistakes which produce runs.
Sonnastine has been by far the worst pitcher for the Rays his year. He is a contact style pitchers who can be effective when batters are missing, but not when they’re squaring up on the ball. May inevitably lose his starting spot once all starting pitchers are healthy.
Ross Detwiler (0-3, 5.06) vs. James Shields (5-5, 3.36)
Detwiler continues to show great talent and little consistency, as most of the Nationals rookie pitchers do. He was able to get through five innings against the Reds this week with allowing only three runs and five hits. He needs to focus on not walking batters and not making mistakes up in the zone.
James Shields is another pitcher for the Rays who may be one of the better starting pitchers in the American League but not necessarily this teams ace. He has been very good the last three years, however, finishing each year with under a 4.00 ERA.no comments
Second Round Jeff Kobernus-UC Berkeley
With the first pick in the second round, the Washington Nationals selected an athletic utility infielder, Jeff Kobernus from California University.
At six foot two, 195 pounds, Kobernus has a long lean body with very fluid movement on the field.
Kobernus was used a primarily a second baseman in college, though he played all over the infield. With his height he is not your prototypical second baseman, but that has not stopped players like Chase Utley from playing there. He has the athleticism and the range to someday convert to shortstop if that is the direction the Nationals chose to take, however it is unlikely.
Kobernus has a very quick bat. He batted .341 for the Bears in 2009, his junior season. He also hit 14 doubles, 8 homers, and stole 20 bases. In his career at Cal he batted .324.
Scouts project Kobernus to develop into a Major League number-two hitter. While they think he only projects to have average power once he develops, scouts think that he is likely to someday be a starting second baseman in the MLB.
Opinion: The Nationals need middle infield help, especially in the future. Anderson Hernandez isn’t more than a current fix to that problem. Kobernus has a chance to be a solid major leaguer in the next several years in the mold of an Adam Kennedy. The Nats filled a needed hole here, just like they did with their second overall pick. Kobernus goes along with the evident strategy for the Nats yesterday, draft players who can help, soon.
Third Round Trevor Holder- Georgia
With their fourth overall pick the Nationals surprised many by drafting Trevor Holder, a senior from Georgia University.
In 15 games started this year Hoder went 7-5 with a 4.48ERA. in 92 IP Holder struck out only 72 and walked 30.
Opponents batted .260 against him last season.
Holder has a low 90’s fastball to combine with average off-speed stuff.
While he faced solid competition in the SEC, Holder’s stats leave much to be desired. He was expected to be drafted in about the 10th round.
Opinion: This pick made little sense, so I’m going to put faith in Mike Rizzo that he knows something now one else does. Holder never had a ERA below 4.00 his entire career at Georgia, and doesn’t seem to have major league stuff.
4th Rd. Anthony Morris, RHP, Kansas St.
5th Rd.Miguel Pena, RHP, La Joya HS
6th Rd. Michael Taylor, SS, Westminster Academy HS
7th Rd. Andrew Weaver, RHP, Georgia
8th Rd. Roberto Perez, SS, Dorado Academy HS
Many predicted it, but few saw it coming until just before the draft. With the 10th overall, and their second pick in the draft, the Washington Nationals took right handed pitcher Drew Storen.
Storen is a rare draft-eligible sophomore out of Stanford who has been used almost exclusively as a reliever.
His freshman year he pitched in 31 games, posted a 3.51 ERA and struck out 50 in 56.1 innings pitched.
This his sophomore year, he appeared in 28 games earning a 7-1 record as a reliever. The righty had a 3.90 ERA on his way to seven saves and 66 strikeouts in 42.2 innings pitched.
Storen is considered extremely polished as a sophomore and very close to major league ready. His fastball is constantly in the low to mid 90’s and has decent life. It’s strong sinking motion induces lots of ground balls and forces batters to miss. His biggest problem he will have to correct however is that his fastball from time to time misses his spot, and when it misses it misses high which in college turns into hits and in the majors will turn into homers.
He also employs a changeup and a power slider, which serve to keep hitters off balance. His slider keeps batters eye’s guessing and helps improve his strikeout rate.
While no one questions his polish, or the fact that Storen was the best closer in the draft, many question his ability to get much better. Among scouts there is some serious question as to whether or not he has the stuff to be a MLB closer.
Some in fact, including Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Golstein say that this may have been the biggest overdraft of the first round. He believes the only way the Nationals could save face is if he becomes a starter.
The truth is the Nationals did draft him way above where he was projected. Many believed Storen would get picked up in the compensation or the second round of the draft. Did the Nationals get something they needed? Yes they got bullpen help. Could he possibly help the club this year? Yes he is very polished. Was he easy to sign? Yes he already signed today.
The bottom line is with Storen the Nats knew what they were doing when they drafted him and they got what they wanted. Time will only tell if he’s as talented as the Nationals hope, or as talented as the scouts project.no comments
Speculation that the Nationals number 10 pick Drew Storen was a signability pick was confirmed as the right handed reliever signed with the club today.
Many believed Storen would sign quickly, as he is close to Major League ready, was drafted about his projected talent, and the Nationals are in desperate need of bullpen help.
The official announcement will be released later today.
A review of the Drew Storen as a pick is forthcoming.no comments
It was destiny. There were few who suggested the Nats may pass on Strasburg but they mostly were trying to add suspense to the biggest no-brainer since Lebron James went first overall to the Cleveland Cav’s in 2003.
The Nationals selected the six foot five righty out of San Diego State and in doing so may have marked a historic day, and perhaps a turning point in Washington Nationals history.
Strasburg comes to Washington after one of the most successful college career’s in history.
As a freshman Strasburg closed for San Diego State. In 25 games he recorded a 2.43 ERA with seven saves. In 37 innings he struck out 47 and walked only 15. This stellar performance from a relatively unknown, low-recruited talent peaked interest, and earned him the number one prospect rating from the New England Collegiate League.
His sophomore year he converted to a starter. In 13 starts he went 8-3 with a miniscule 1.57 ERA. In 97 innings he struck out 133 and walked an impeccable 16 batters. This performance earned him a spot both on the collegiate USA baseball team and the Olympic USA baseball team.
By the time his junior season surfaced he was far and away the top prospect in baseball, just three years after having gone undrafted out of high school. As a junior he went 11-0 with a 1.24 ERA. Strasburg struck out 164 batters in only 87 innings while surrendering only 17 walks.
But while his numbers are superior, what blows scouts away more are his abilities.
Strasburg fastball is blazing, often registering between 97-102 MPH throughout the game. What is so devastating about his fastball however isn’t that it is one of the fastest ever, but that it has movement, lots of it. Scouts always say that for every inch a baseball moves it may as well be going another five miles per hour faster because of the amount of time it takes for the batter to adjust. This is the same reason Mariano Rivera’s 92 MPH fastball is so unhittable.
Strasburg also had the best curve in the draft. Dropping to 82 MPH his curve has huge slurve like movement that will not only keep hitters off balance but also whiffing at it’s deceptive motion.
He throws it from the same arm slot as his fastball and his low 90’s slider, which makes predicting what pitch is coming nearly impossible.
Strasburg also has in his arsenal a Major League ready change up that can be delivered in the high 70’s. It is, however, rarely seen as Strasburg’s primary pitches have been so dominant in college, he hasn’t needed to use it since the Olympics.
For the Nationals winning the most hyped prospect in history is both a blessing and a curse. Strasburg will have unprecedented demands in contract negotiations.
The Nationals can not afford to let Stasburg go unsigned however, he is the future of this team and the MLB.
Is he a guarantee? No, but scouts say baring injuries he is the closest thing to a lock prospect in the history of the game. Expect to see a lot of this guy in 2010.no comments
Draft day was intense, we tried to cover it the best we could. Later today will be our review of each pick taken yesterday, as well as updates on who the Nationals are taking today.
Thanks to all of you who followed the draft with The Nats Blog!
ESPN's Buster Olney gives his take on what's next for Stephen Strasburg (ESPN)
Mike Rizzo talks about the first two picks in the draft (Nationals Journal)
An in depth look at each pick in the first round (Baseball America)
A look at the best players still available on day two (Baseball America Blog)
Oh, the Nationals actually played yesterday too (Final)
UPDATED 11:30 DRAFT DAY
With pick number 81 the Nats make an odd move and select Trevor Holder, RHP, GA
Holder was a projected 10th round pick with a career ERA, and a senior ERA of over 4 runs a game.
Updated 9:37 DRAFT DAY
With their second round pick the Nationals took Jeff Kobernus from the University of California.
Kobernus is not a prototypical second basemen as he is six foot two inches tall. This year for Cal he batted .341 with eight homers in 53 games. He stole 20 bases in 24 attempts. More in the write up tonight on this young talent.
UPDATED 7:45 DRAFT DAY
Chad Jenkins, a player the nationals were looking at heavily, gets picked by Toronto. A little later than some may have thought. Might he stay another year?
UPDATED 7:23 DRAFT DAY
Mixed reviews about Storen on the Baseball Prospectus Round Table.
Kevin Goldstein thought it was a major overdraft, and that he can't be a closer, but that they may 'look smart' if they make him a starter.
Bryan Smith said he loves his sinker which he would rank as a 65 of the scouting scale. He also thinks he should be made a starter in 2010.
UPDATED 7:07 DRAFT DAY
Picked 9th by the Nationals in 2008, refused to sign, now drafted through 12th in 2009.
Aaron Crow, didn't get $4 million from the Nationals, wont get it from the Royals.
UPDATED 6:59 DRAFT DAY
With the much anticipated 10th pick, the Nationals take Drew Storen. More to come later.
UPDATED 6:54 DRAFT DAY
Nationals on the clock for pick 10. Strasburg on the phone with MLB Network. Exciting 3 minutes coming up.
The Nats pretty much have their pick of whoever they want, a lot of potential top 10 talent haven't been taken yet.
UPDATED 6:43 DRAFT DAY
Minor taken by the Braves, phew, from what I heard I wanted him nowhere near the Nationals.
Best players on the board that the Nats might take:
Aaron Crow (yeah...right)
UPDATED 6:34 DRAFT DAY
The Baltimore Orioles take Matt Hobgood with the 5th overall pick. No mock drafts had him going in the top 10.
He is a high school pitcher who did not report to demand a high signing bonus. Comparables are Brad Penny and Joba Chamberlin.
UPDATED 6:29 DRAFT DAY
The Pirates take Tony Sanchez (Did Selig say Jorge Sanchez?)
This was a draft day surprise but we've known about it for about an hour. It has a big impact because the two players who were projected to be taken in this slot early on were Grant Green and Aaron Crow.
Our brothers to the north, the Orioles, are on the clock.
UPDATED 6:16 DRAFT DAY:
Stephen Strasburg is now a potential member of the Washington Nationals.
UPDATED 6:11 DRAFT DAY:
The guys over on the MLB Draft Round Table at Baseball Prospectus are all ripping on Mike Minor, a potential number 10 pick for the Nationals. Kevin Goldstein even went as far to say that he needed to add some velocity to be considered a low 90's pitcher.
The Nationals are on the clock.
UPDATED 6:07 DRAFT DAY:
The reason for Aaron Crow's expected fall down the draft board is his expected demand $4 million, the number he refused to bend on last year that caused the Nationals not to sign him.
If he gets picked below the 10th pick its doubtful anyone will give him that kind of money.
UPDATED 5:50 PM DRAFT DAY:
Fantasy CPR just published their final mock draft. It too projects the Nationals to take Drew Storen from Stanford.
Note: All recent mock drafts have Grant Green falling to at least the 10th pick for the Washington Nationals to consider, should the Nats take the talented shortstop?
The MLB announced today that the deadline to sign draft picks has been moved from August 15th at midnight to August 17th at midnight.
Two more days to sign Strasburg!
Also, Aaron Crow's draft status continues to plummet on draft day. Not clear if there are any specific reasons why, but he is now also out of the Baseball America top 11.
If the Nationals really wanted to, he would be available for them to take again.
Baseball Prospectus Unfiltered has reported that Atlanta is looking to take Mike Minor with the 7th pick, meaning he wont be on the board for the Nats as they predicted.
Alex White however may still be available for the Nats with the 10th pick if Atlanta goes with Minor.