A lot has been made lately of Mike Rizzo’s drafting ability and the Nats player development (or lack thereof). I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the top 3 picks in each of Rizzo’s drafts dating back to 2009, when he took over as GM of the team. The verdict is still out on his drafts from 2019-2022, but from 2009-2018, there were some mixed results to say the least.
1st Round (1st overall): Stephen Strasburg
1st Round (10th overall): Drew Storen
2nd Round (50th overall): Jeff Kobernus
3rd Round (81st overall): Trevor Holder
Other Notables: Michael A. Taylor (6th Round)
Strasburg was a no-brainer here and Storen was productive enough, although taking a closer at the top of the first round is debatable. Kobernus and Holder were busts, but Rizzo found a solid player later in the draft in Michael A. Taylor.
1st Round (1st overall): Bryce Harper
2nd Round (51st overall): Sammy Solis
3rd Round (83rd overall): Rick Hague
Other Notables: AJ Cole (4th Round), Matt Grace (8th Round), Aaron Barrett (9th Round), Robbie Ray (12th Round)
Again, Bryce Harper was a no-no brainer here. This might’ve been Rizzo’s best draft outside of the first round though, which is saying something. Outside of Bryce and Ray, the rest of these guys were role players. This draft turned out 6 Major Leaguers including a two-time MVP and a Cy Young award winner. Not bad at all.
1st Round (6th overall): Anthony Rendon
1st Round (23rd overall): Alex Meyer
1st Round (34th overall): Brian Goodwin
3rd Round (96th overall): Matt Purke
Other Notables: None
Well, at least he hit on Rendon? Rendon was a consensus top-3 pick in the 2011 draft until injury concerns dropped him to the Nats at #6. Aside from Rendon, there wasn’t much to like in this draft. Goodwin was an ok player and Meyer was used to bring in Denard Span.
1st Round (16th overall): Lucas Giolito
2nd Round (80th overall): Tony Renda
3rd Round (111th overall): Brett Mooneyham
Other Notables: None
Here’s where things start to get really ugly. Giolito has turned into a great pitcher, but he was traded for Adam Eaton in 2016 and really developed into the pitcher that he is now while he was in Chicago. There were no other useful picks to come from this draft.
1st Round: No pick
2nd Round (68th overall): Jake Johansen
3rd Round (105th overall): Drew Ward
Other Notables: Nick Pivetta (4th Round), Austin Voth (5th Round)
The Nats gave up their first round pick to sign Rafael Soriano and then proceeded to punt their second and third round picks. The Nats found Pivetta in the 4th round and Voth in the 5th round but neither were able to become productive Major Leaguers until they left the organization. Both pitchers have near elite spin rates on their curveballs, but the Nats were shockingly unable to transform that into success on the mound.
1st Round (18th overall): Erick Fedde
2nd Round (57th overall): Andrew Suarez (didn’t sign)
3rd Round (93rd overall): Jackson Reetz
Other Notables: None
This is another comical draft. If you want to look at the glass half full, then at least the Nats got Fedde. He’s a serviceable back of the rotation starter, but he really doesn’t have any business in a rotation for a contender. Suarez didn’t sign, so the Nats took a bath on that pick and then proceeded to use the comp pick on Andrew Stevenson in 2015.
1st Round: No pick
2nd Round (58th overall): Andrew Stevenson
2nd Round (69th overall): Blake Perkins
3rd Round (103rd overall): Rhett Wiseman
Other Notables: Taylor Hearn (5th Round), Koda Glover (8th Round)
The Nats didn’t have a first round pick after signing Max Scherzer. That turned out to be well worth the first round pick. The rest of this draft again left a lot to be desired. Stevenson is a AAAA type outfielder. Hearn was traded to Pittsburgh to bring in Mark Melancon. Glover was a solid reliever but injuries led to a shortened career.
1st Round (28th overall): Carter Kieboom
1st Round (29th overall): Dane Dunning
2nd Round (58th overall): Sheldon Neuse
3rd Round (94th overall): Jesus Luzardo
Other Notables: Tres Barrera (6th Round)
On the plus side, 7 of the Nats top 8 picks in this draft have made an appearance in the Major Leagues. The down side would be that none of them have turned into everyday players. On top of that, Dunning, Neuse and Luzardo made their debuts for other teams (although Neuse and Luzardo were packaged to bring in Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson). This was actually one of Rizzo’s better drafts over the past decade, which isn’t great.
1st Round (25th overall): Seth Romero
2nd Round (65th overall): Wil Crowe
3rd Round (103rd overall): Nick Raquet
Other Notables: Jackson Tetreault (7th Round)
This draft was a flat out disaster. Romero spent more time talking with the police than he has on the mound. Crowe has turned into a serviceable pitcher for the Pirates after being traded there in the Josh Bell trade. Tetreault could give the Nats some rotation depth, but overall, this draft was a bust.
1st Round (27th overall): Mason Denaburg
2nd Round (65th overall): Tim Cate
3rd Round (101st overall): Reid Schaller
Other Notables: Jake Irvin (4th Round), Evan Lee (15th Round)
Ok, I said the 2018 draft was a flat out disaster, but this one isn’t much better. Denaburg’s career has been derailed by injuries so far and he’s still stuck in A-ball. Irvin had Tommy John surgery but is now in Harrisburg and has put together a fairly good season. Evan Lee made his Major League debut this year and might have a future in the bullpen.
1st Round (17th overall): Jackson Rutledge
2nd Round: No pick
3rd Round (94th overall): Drew Mendoza
Other Notables: Matt Cronin (4th Round), Jake Alu (24th Round)
Rutledge has looked a lot better of late, but for a while this was shaping up as Rizzo’s worst draft since taking over in 2009. It still might be, but it all depends on Rutledge. Cronin should be in the Nats bullpen before the season ends. The question is whether he can develop into a back-end of the bullpen arm or not like the Nats imagined. Alu has a shot at becoming a utility guy at the Major League level, or maybe even an everyday player for the rebuilding Nats.
1st Round (22nd overall): Cade Cavalli
2nd Round (55th overall): Cole Henry
2nd Round (71st overall): Sammy Infante
3rd Round (94th overall): Holden Powell
Other Notables: Mitchell Parker (5th Round)
This is where it starts to get a lot tougher to evaluate. These guys were just drafted two years ago and there wasn’t even a minor league season in 2020. Cavalli looks to have a real chance at being a top of the rotation starter. As I’ve said before, I’m high on Henry but it all depends on whether or not he can stay healthy. Powell should be able to turn into a reliable bullpen arm, and it’s possible Parker turns into a dominant reliever if he can keep his walks under control.
1st Round (11th overall): Brady House
2nd Round (47th overall): Daylin Lile
3rd Round (82nd overall): Brandon Boissiere
Other Notables: Too early to tell, but as of now TJ White (5th Round), Will Frizzell (8th Round)
Brady House was widely considered a top-8 pick heading into the draft last year and he fell a bit to the Nats. He’s missed the majority of the year with a back injury, but hopefully he will hit the ground running and make up for lost time next season. Lile has missed the entire 2022 season with Tommy John surgery. He’ll also need to hit the ground running next year. TJ White and Will Frizzell have looked like two of the best picks in the Nats 2021 class so far.
1st Round (5th overall): Elijah Green
2nd Round (45th overall): Jake Bennett
3rd Round (84th overall): Trey Lipscomb
Other Notables: Way too early to tell
It’s way too early to be able to make any kind of judgment on this draft class. The hope is that the 2020-2022 draft classes produce enough talent to get the Nats back to where they were from 2012-2019. Only time will tell.
The general takeaway here is that the Nats have been absolutely awful at drafting talent outside of the first round. Their drafts from 2013-2015 and then again in 2017-2018 produced almost no Major League talent. It’s nearly impossible to compete for an extended period of time when that happens. Somehow the Nats were able to compete from 2012-2019, but no wonder the farm system was ranked dead last in the league prior to last year’s sell off. I don’t think anybody is expecting the Nats to all of a sudden turn into the Dodgers when it comes to developing talent, but any improvement over what they’ve done since Rizzo took over would be nice.