August 14, 2010

Beyond Bryce

UPDATE: Anyone care to translate this sentence into English for me?

Mike Rizzo: "I seem confident that we should sign the guys that we want to sign out of the draft."

At this rate we're going to need a Rosetta Stone to decipher all the Stan and Rizzo-speak coming out of Nationals Park in the next 48 hours. However, two questions come immediately to mind:

1. Doesn't telling people you seem confident suggest that you are not confident?

2. Who are the guys that they drafted that they don't want to sign?


It's deja vu all over again. With less than 60 hours to go, the Nationals are still on the clock to sign the number 1 overall pick in the June amateur draft. And just like last year, despite having more than two months to negotiate, the deal won't get done until T-minus 30 seconds before the deadline. That's the nature of the process, and unlike Stan Kasten, I'm disinclined to get all angsty about it.

I'm guessing Bryce Harper ends up as the highest paid amateur position player in draft history, raking in a few dollars more than Mark Teixeira got just on principle and to salve Scott Boras's ego. Harper will sign because between a deep 2011 draft class, a new collective bargaining agreement that could completely revamp the draft, and the ever-present risk of injury if he returns to play junior college ball, there's too much risk in waiting another year. But signing Harper won't be enough to consider the Nationals' 2010 draft a success.

Beyond Harper are three pitchers. San Diego State left-hander Sammy Solis (2nd round pick) and high schoolers A.J. Cole (4th round) and Robbie Ray (12th round). These three are the real keys to victory. Harper + Solis = a good draft. Harper, Solis and Cole; a great draft. All four? It's hard to call that anything other than the best draft of 2010.

Three years ago the Nationals were in a similar situation. August 2007 saw the Nats come to terms with three talented left-handed pitchers. First rounders Ross Detwiler and Josh Smoker and 6th rounder Jack McGeary. Here's what we wrote at the time:
Pitchers in particular are a tricky bunch. If 3 years we'll probably be lucky if one of our top 3 lefties profiles as a front-of-the-rotation starter. Maybe Detwiler will never be better than a lefty set-up guy. Maybe Smoker's arm will fall off. Maybe two years at Stanford will kindle an unrealized passion for Buddhism and McGeary will move to Tibet and moonlight as a sherpa with a 92 MPH fastball. It's much, much too soon to say. But that's why you need so many talented youngsters, and why you need to take them whenever you find them.
Still sounds about right. And the same is true of Solis, Cole and Ray. That's why the Nats need to do what it takes to bring them into the fold on Monday night. Solis is probably the surest bet to sign. We also know that Ray was in town for a meeting with the coaches and front office. If the team is serious about continuing to rebuild the farm system, none of these guys will be packing for college on Tuesday morning.

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