Bonus draft coverage
Draft notes as we wait for Northwest 557 to Minneapolis. In an ideal world, all this would have been posted earlier, but I had that silly game to cover, and it even involved a statement by the manager, the second time he's done that.
But enough about the meaningless, actual major leaguers. You want draft information? Let's go.
Round 1, pick 6: LHP Ross Detwiler
The Missouri State lefty was the Nationals' first pick at No. 6, and a cursory survey in the clubhouse afterward revealed that it was a popular choice. Not that the players know who this kid is, but they like the idea that the Nationals chose a college starting pitcher. (Read: Help. Help soon.)
Detwiler is 6-4 and 175 or 185 pounds, depending on who you believe. He said yesterday he's tried eating five or six meals a day to keep weight on, and it hasn't worked.
The Nationals' take on the slender build?
"I didn't want to add any weight to Ron Guidry or Satchell Paige," GM Jim Bowden said. "I really don't understand that. ... He's a sturdy guy. He takes the ball. We're not concerned with it more than any other pitcher."
And, just to throw another name at you, here's player development guru Bob Boone: "I had the opportunity to catch a pretty good left-hander who had a similar frame." That would be one Steve Carlton, who, if I recall correctly, was OK.
Just to recap: Detwiler was, in the first seven minutes after he was drafted, referred to in the same breath as Ron Guidry, Satchell Paige, and Steve Carlton. The next great skinny pitcher.
Delivery: He appears to have action across his body, which would normally be a red flag. But scouting director Dana Brown dismissed it. This guy studies pitchers for a living, something I do not, so I'll take him at his word. Brown said Detwiler gets through his delivery and is able to deliver the ball to the lower part of the strike zone down-and-in to right-handed hitters, down-and-away from left-handers (which is the opposite side of his pitching arm). They talked about it, and they're not concerned about it.
Signing him: The kid's committed to signing. He said so yesterday. I'll try to work on this angle more in coming days. I'd expect it to happen, though Bowden said yesterday, "This is never an easy process when you're stop six in the country." (He may have forgotten when he picked a kid named Ryan Zimmerman fourth in the country in 2005 and had him signed five minutes after the draft.)
Supplemental Round, pick 31 - LHP Josh Smoker
They were giddy to get this kid, who Baseball America had ranked 16th overall in its pre-draft issue (which admittedly comes out a bit early to keep up with late rises and falls. Here's a cut-and-paste from their draft preview on him. (He went to Calhoun High in Georgia.):
"It was apparent Smoker was bound for success when, as a freshman in 2004, he set a school strikeout record with 126 in 62 innings. He broke the record in 2005, when he amassed 137 in 75 innings, helping his team win Georgia's 2-A championship. He has been a mainstay on the wood bat and showcase tour for years, and has a portfolio as deep as any in the draft, including college players. [Barry's aside: Basically means that scouts have been exposed to him because he plays in a bunch of all-star tournaments, etc., and the Nationals said they'd been tracking the kid since last summer.] He'll warm up with six pitches and uses them all in games, though his 91-92 mph fastball, 74-76 mph curve and low- to mid-80s split-finger fastball are his bread and butter. He also flashes a changeup and slider. When he stays over the rubber and doesn't attempt to overthrow, he shows above-average command of all his stuff. He'll run his fastball in on right-handers, snap his curve for a swing-and-miss pitch and lean on his splitter for strikeouts, as it at times can be unhittable. He pitches with fervor and guile, endearing himself to teammates and scouts alike. Smoker isn't expected to get much bigger, but he's athletic and durable, profiling as a No. 2 or 3 starter. He could go as high as No. 14 to Atlanta."
Now, some of the Nationals' top officials aren't crazy about taking high school pitchers. As Bob Boone told me in spring training, "They break. They just do." Look at Colton Willems, the kid they took 20th overall last year. He's been nothing but hurt and hasn't even gotten out of Viera. But this kid appears to be worth the risk.
"We are extremely, extremely excited that Josh was able to get down to us in our spot," Bowden said. "Tremendous makeup. ... Dominant stuff. We never saw him lose a game. ... This was a special guy that we did not think would get down to 31."
Dana Brown: "Josh Smoker, he has really good stuff. He pitches 89-93, occasionally touches 94. ... He was one of the best pitchers this year at driving the ball to the bottom of the strike zone. He can really throw low strikes, which, as you all know, is very important if you're going to pitch at the big-league level. He's a quality third starter, with a chance to be a No. 2."
Chuck LaMar, special assistant to the GM and national cross-checker: "This kid is what the Washington Nationals are all about."
Jeff Zona, national cross-checker: "The Washington Nationals have done an outstanding job tracking this player. This started last year in the showcases in June. ... We were on this kid right at the start at the spring. As you can see, all the big what I call 'heavy-hitters' all saw him, and they all saw him early."
Bowden: "Pitching, pitching, pitching."
(Aside: I like how part of draft day is taking an 18-year-old kid and saying, "He's a No. 3 starter, maybe a No. 2." I mean, how the heck do you know? He could be a middle reliever. (Of course, these guys do this for a living, so maybe they really do know.))
I talked to a guy named Matt Remsberg who works for RISE Magazine, a high school sports publication, yesterday. He said Smoker definitely could have gone in the middle of the first round. He said there was a tad of a question as to whether his stats from high school were just rung up against inferior competition (he played in a small division), but he competed well in the all-star showcases.
He's committed to Clemson. Nationals will have to pay him.
Supplemental Round, pick 49 - OF Michael Burgess
Which GM would be likely to take a kid whose Baseball America scouting report reads like this?:
"With huge raw power, inconsistent performance and the legacy of Hillsborough High (the alma mater of Gary Sheffield, Dwight Gooden and Elijah Dukes, among other big leaguers) as a backdrop, Burgess ahs become one of this draft's most debated prospects. He was a third-team All-American after batting .512 with 12 home runs as a junior, and the power translated with a wood bat last summer. Although his bat speed, strength and leveraged swing remain, Burgess' approach and set-up at the plate have puzzled scouts this spring, and he hasn't made consistent hard contact. He seems to lack focus, perhaps due in part to constant solicitation from hopeful advisers and receiving hitting lessons from former Georgia Tech star Ty Griffin and big leaguer Derek Bell. Late in the season, his timing was better and he showed glimpses of the 40-homer-hitting right fielder he could become. He's an average defender with a plus arm and below-average speed. Burgess could slip into the supplemental round, but the team that weighs his history over his senior year could pop him in the first round."
Jim Bowden, step right up! (Baseball America had Burgess ranked 30th.)
Remsberg, the high school expert, said the guy tinkered with himself mechanically and maybe being a potential top-10 pick got into his head. His senior season was so bad that in the Nationals' press release about the choice, they had his sophomore and junior season stats, but didn't include the ones from his senior year. Ridiculous, really. So they had some explaining to do, and the explaining amounts to this: They put in their work, and they think they got a steal.
"We've done a lot of homework on Michael Burgess," VP of baseball operations Mike Rizzo said.
So what happened to him?
Brown: "He started messing with himself mechanically, and his swing got a little longer. ... That caused him to slide. ... We feel comfortable we can get him back to where he was."
Bob Boone worked with him during a pre-draft workout. "We saw that he had aptitude to make adjustments," Brown said.
Rizzo: "This guy has got as much up-side as anybody in the draft, and I say that very seriously. This guy was a top five, eight player coming into the year. ... He's going to work his butt off. ... He's got a little 'I-told-you-so' in him because he dropped, and we like that."
Round 2, pick 67 - RHP Jordan Zimmermann
Let's clear up one thing: There's no relation. (All the Nationals' releases on the guy had him as Zimmerman, not Zimmermann, which would ahve cleared up problems with relationships to current players.)
Again, we bow down to Baseball America, who had him 97th overall:
"Zimmermann jumped up prospect lists last summer when he led the Northwoods League in ERA (1.01) and strikeouts (92 in 80 innings) and ranked as the circuit's top prospect. Scouts haven't had an easy time following him this spring, however. Zimmermann broke his jaw in two places when he was struck by a batted ball while pitching live batting practice during an offseason workout. He missed three games and lost 10 pounds, and having wisdom teeth pulled during the season didn't help him regain his strength. Bad early-season weather also made it difficult to keep him on a regular schedule. Zimmermann's stuff was improving as the season went on, and he was consistently working in the low 90s and showing a quality slider as Wisconsin-Stevens Point entered the NCAA Division III playoffs. He also throws a changeup with promising action and uses a loopy curveball as a fourth pitch. Zimmermann regularly touched 93-95 in the Northwoods League, and scouts expect him to show that velocity more often as he adds more strength to his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame. He could go as high as the second round, but the third round is more likely."
Notes from the Nationals on this kid (with bonus 'n' now added):
"Zimmermann, 21, was selected as a Second-Team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) for the second straight year. He went 10-0 with two saves and a 2.08 ERA in 13 games (nine starts) as a junior in 2007 for the Division III school. He posted 90 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 78.0 innings of work, and finished season by tossing 19.2 straight scoreless innings. He allowed just three hits with 26 strikeouts in those 19.2 innings. Zimmermann was also a First-Team All-Midwest Region selection, and was named the region's Pitcher of the Year by the ABCA. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder tossed a one-hit shutout against Emory (GA) in the opening round of the Division III. He went on to win World Series Most Outstanding Player honors."
Rizzo: "He's a polished, college right-handed pitches. He's got four pitches, three above-average. ... He's a big competitor from a cold-weather state. ... He's a tough kid."
Rizzo saw him on film in a big snow storm. Brown saw him pitch with his jaw wired together: "Just to tell you how tough he is, and he was still driving the ball down in the strike zone. If you can imagine pitching when your jaw's wired, he's that type of competitor."
Round 2, pick 70 - Infielder Jacob Smolinski:
Baseball America had him ranked 160th. Did the Nationals take a flyer on a kid from Boylan Catholic High in Rockford, Ill.? BA: "Plus arm-strength and power bat fit third base profile, if he can defend there."
He played shortstop in high school.
Rizzo: "I don't foresee him staying at shortstop. He doesn't have the foot speed, or the foot quickness to stay at shortstop. But this guy swings the bat. If we dream on him a little bit ... he swings the bat a lot like David Wright did in high school. Same type of short, compact stroke. He's got loft and backspin to the ball. We're going to have to find a position with him."
BA's full scouting report:
"A number of third basemen made strong impressions at the Area Code Games last summer. ... Smolinski has maintained his status as the best position-player prospect in Illinois. He stands out most for his feel for hitting and for the strength in his 6-foot, 195-pound build. He's also a good athlete - he doubles as Boylan Catholic's quarterback ... -- and has good arm strength. While scouts agree that he'll be a star at Clemson if he attends college, they aren't as sold on his pro future. Some believe he's maxed out physically already and will become a below-average runner as he fills out, limiting his defensive options. Currently a shortstop, Smolinski will have to move to third base or an outfield corner. Some clubs are intrigued with the idea of making him a catcher, where his arm and leadership skills would work to his advantage. His signability is uncertain, so he may not be drafted as high as his talent would warrant."
OK, I want to get you stuff on Steven Souza, the third round pick, but I'm going to miss my flight. I'll check in from Minneapolis. Hope this holds you most of the day.
(As of 12:49 p.m. EST, I'm on the ground. Going to lunch with my dad, who lives here, and will have some more draft analysis from the baseball paradise that is the Metrodome later on this afternoon.)
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