The 2006 MLB Draft has come and gone, concluding with the 529th round selection of junior college utility infielder Slappy McPigtickler by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 15,869th overall pick, or some such foolishness. For a sports fan raised on the over-the-top pageantry of the NFL Draft, or even the quirkiness of the NBA Draft (Ooh, a lottery... how very Shirley Jackson!) Major League Baseball's amateur selection process leaves something to be desired.
First of all, nobody has ever heard of these guys. OK, some people follow high school and college baseball, but some people keep showing up on Dateline undercover specials too, that doesn't mean the rest of us should do it. Second, more than half these guys won't even sign with the club that selected them. Instead they'll A) go to college; B) hold out for more money; or C) embark on an exciting career as a junior pecan twirler at the Stuckey's down by the interstate. Third, even if they do sign on the dotted line they'll promptly disappear to places like Viera or Savannah or Vermont, and the only time we'll hear about them is when they blow out an elbow or take indecent liberties with the bullpen coach's mistress.
Nevertheless, the draft is a time for renewed optimism and dreaming big dreams. If you're inclined to do that, the Natosphere offers many fine draft recaps. First and foremost, Nationals Farm Authority has excellent posts here and here. Prefer less analysis and more snark? Consider CapPun or the Extinguished Senators. Blog snob? Try the Federalist. (He's nationally syndicated, you know.) Want to know BallWonk's take? Tough.
If you insist on hanging around, we'll be taking a 1-year anniversary look at the Nationals 2005 draft class. Trust me, it'll knock the optimism right out of you. Last year the Nats lost their 2nd and 3rd round draft picks as compensation for signing Cristian Guzman and Vinny Castilla ('nuff said.) So after making Ryan Zimmerman the fourth overall pick the Nats brain trust had time for an extended happy hour until the 4th round. Here's a look at the Nats Top 8 draft picks, encompassing rounds 1-10 of last year's draft.
1. Ryan Zimmerman - 3B, Washington Nationals
Okay, we all agree this one worked out. Dutch is the real deal, and barring accident, illness or freak injury a staple at the hot corner for the next decade. Job well done.
4. Justin Maxwell - OF, Savannah Sand Gnats
Remember Alex Escobar? Meet his physiological twin. Maxwell had first-round talent, but a series of freak injuries cost him the better part of two years in college. Currently on the DL after batting a less than robust .163/.293/.347 for Low Class-A Savannah.
5. Ryan Delaughter - OF, GCL Nationals
A power prospect high school outfielder, the 19-year old is currently with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals in extended Spring Training. Chris Marerro, this is your immediate future.
6. Marco Estrada - SP, Vermont Lake Monsters
This 22-year old RHP started six games for Vermont in 2005, going 1-3 with a 5.08 ERA, but gave up less than 1 hit per inning and posted an encouraging 37/16 K/BB ratio. He'll start 2006 with the Lake Monsters.
7. Michael Daniel - OF, Savannah Sand Gnats
21-year old UNC product is currently batting .193/.301/.306 in his second season of pro ball. Posted a .260 average with Vermont in 2005.
8. Jack Spradlin - RP, Savannah Sand Gnats
Lefty reliever has appeared in 17 games for the Sand Gnats, with a 4.70 ERA, and a 29/13 K/BB ratio. Played college ball at Southern Cal.
9. John Michael Howell - 1B, Savannah Sand Gnats
Currently competing with Justin Maxwell for DL space, hitting .190/.252/.257 in Savannah. A converted college outfielder, Howell hit .363 with 3 HRs in 29 games for Vermont in 2005.
10. Dee Brown - OF, Savannah Sand Gnats
College teammate of John Michael Howell. Following up his productive .284, 8 HR, 32 RBI season in 2005 with a .258/.308/.382 start this year in Savannah. At age 23 he's old for this level.
So what does all this prove? Nothing really. All of these guys are still young and talented enough to be impact players at the major league level. Or they could all be out of baseball next spring. It's impossible to tell. And these are predominantly college players, theoretically much more developed and polished than high schoolers. Just something to keep in mind.