The PLAN is primarily a PR gimmick to convince fans that they should stay interested even while the team keeps losing. But it's also a real strategy for building a winner (as cheaply as possible), mainly though the scouting and drafting, occasionally trading, and only signing free agents when you're on the verge of contention to put you over the top. There's a particular emphasis on developing pitching, which is certainly the most valuable commodity in baseball.
All this sounds pretty good to me. But of course success depends on the ability to draft well, and Bowden has for 16 years been a horrifyingly bad drafter.
I'm a strong believer that in order to evaluate a draft, you need to wait at least 3-4 years to see how it pans out. Some people will say I'm cherry-picking, because there have been some pretty glowing press about the Nationals' recent drafts, especially the 2007 draft, which Baseball America ranked the best in baseball. But there you go, I just acknowledged that there's been a lot of hype about the 2007 draft. We'll see.
But if you look at Bowden's overall draft results with the benefit of time, the results are shockingly bad.
--1st round: Pat Watkins (195 career AB)
--Best pick(s) overall: Paul Bako, Scott Sullivan
--1st round: C.J. Nitkowski (career 18-32, 5.37)
--Best pick(s) overall: Aaron Boone
--1st round: Brett Tomko (career: 94-94 4.60)
--Best pick(s) overall: Tomko, Jason LaRue, Ray King, Rob Mackowiak (wait a minute...)
--1st round: John Oliver (never made the show)
--Best pick(s) overall: Buddy Carlyle (9-10 5.96)
--1st round: Brandon Larson (291 career AB)
--Best pick(s) overall: Scott Williamson (career: 28-28 3.36)
--1st round: Austin Kearns!
--Best pick(s) overall: Adam Dunn! B.J. Ryan! (wow! JimBo struck it rich that year! Too bad he traded Ryan for a 2-month rental of Juan Guzman for a team that went nowhere)
--1st round: Scott Dunn (never made the show)
--Best pick(s) overall: Ben Broussard
--1st round: David Espinoza (never made the show)
--Best pick(s) overall: Oy vey. Dustin Moseley I guess (career: 6-5, 5.36)
--1st round: Jeremy Sowers (8-10, 4.80)
--Best pick(s) overall: well, Sowers is the only one who's made the majors, so...
--1st round: Christopher Gruler (hasn't made the show)
--Best pick(s) overall: Joey Votto, Chris Denorfia
So there you have it. NOT a pretty picture. I only looked at the June drafts, not the supplementals, etc., but based on that quick review, he's drafted a total of 2 all-stars (Dunn, who made it once only, and Ryan, who as noted was traded for next to nothing), certainly no one even approaching Hall of Fame status, and maybe 5-6 position players who panned out as starters in the bigs for any extended period of time. Maybe Votto will join the list of all-stars someday.
But most damning (if you're looking for credentials to implement "the Plan") is that he's drafted exactly 2 pitchers who posted winning records in more than 20 decisions career--Scott Sullivan (40-28, 3.98) and John Riedling (17-13, 4.41). Yikes!
Now I realize that drafting is an inexact science, especially in baseball, and ESPECIALLY with pitchers, but if this is all you were able to do in over 600 picks and 10 years...