Monday, June 6, 2011

Nationals Charmed Life in the Draft

In 2008, the Nationals were the worst team in baseball, and their reward was Stephen Strasburg, probably the best college pitching prospect ever. In 2009, the Nationals repeated as the worst team in the league, and wound up with Bryce Harper, considered by many to be the best power-hitting prospect ever.

In both drafts, the Nationals got to pick a consensus #1 overall pick--both can't-miss, once-in-a-generation type talents.

This year, the Nationals drafted #6 overall, and wouldn't you know it, there really wasn't any consensus #1 pick. There was a group of exactly six picks clustered at the top, and any one of them could have easily been the top pick.

As you know by now, the Nationals ended up getting Anthony Rendon, the third baseman from Rice who just a few short weeks ago was considered the top overall prospect in the draft. He's a big-time hitter and excellent fielder, drawing comparisons to David Wright, Evan Longoria, and, yes, Ryan Zimmerman. Even as of today, few predicted Rendon would slip all the way to the Nationals.

Now, there are some things we don't know about Rendon's health. He suffered a shoulder injury and has had a disappointing college season. But on the other hand, college bats tend to be the safest of all possible bets in the draft, and Rendon is closer to helping the Nationals than anyone else in the whole draft.

Some are wondering about where Rendon fits. Can he play second with Zimmerman at third? A cynic would say that Rendon is probably Zimmerman's replacement after he leaves in free agency in a couple years. If not, maybe he can play second base or first base or becomes trade bait.

At this point it doesn't matter. The important point is that for the third year in a row, the Nationals got absolute max value with their top pick. It's a historic streak that may, finally, help make the Nationals a winning team.

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