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The Nationals 2%

2011 September 10
by Major League Draft Services

In his national bestseller, The Extra 2%, Jonah Keri argues that Stuart Sternberg , Matthew Silverman, and Andrew Friedman did much more than acquire top draft picks year after year to ignite the Tampa Bay Rays from worst to first; but the selections of B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, David Price, and several others certainly did not hurt. With talented young players finally in the system, the new front office successfully revolutionized the franchise and turned their club into an American League Champion.

Round

Overall Pick

Player

Position

School

1

6

Anthony Rendon

3B

Rice University

1

23

Alex Meyer

RHP

Kentucky University

1s

34

Brian Goodwin

OF

Miami Dade Junior College

3

96

Matt Purke

LHP

Texas Christian University

Similar to the Rays in the A.L. East, the Washington Nationals are stuck in a division dominated by the Philadelphia Phillies. They are in the midst of losing season after season, with the only hope resting in the future of young prospects. Products of those miserable years have included highly touted draft picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, and on August 15th of this year the Washington Nationals took one more step in emulating the Rays’ success by signing top draft choices Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin, and Matthew Purke. Rendon adds to the mix of elite prospects currently held by the Nationals making the future in Washington as bright as the Tampa sun.

Rendon was arguably the best overall player in the draft but the Scott Boras client fell to 6th overall due to injury concerns. The 3rd baseman from Rice University was undoubtedly the best college bat and the Nationals believe he will be making a big league impact in a few short years. In terms of the draft, Rendon compares best to Pedro Alvarez – the 2nd overall selection made by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008. Alvarez was drafted after his junior year at Vanderbilt University where he played 3rd base and dominated college pitching. Alvarez made his MLB debut 1.73 years after signing and should continue to develop into an MLB All-Star. The Nationals are hoping Rendon can do the same.

While Rendon adds to the early 1st round selections that have sufficed due to losing seasons, the Nats still had 2 picks remaining in the 1st and 1st-supplemental round. With their 23rd overall selection, the Nats again acquired huge upside in Alex Meyer, the 6’9” right-handed pitcher out of the University of Kentucky. Meyer’s arsenal was worthy of a top-10 pick, but control issues have caused him to struggle throughout his NCAA career. From 2004-2007, 5 college pitchers standing 6’7” or greater have been drafted in the 1st round. They include Jeff Niemann, Jered Weaver, Mike Pelfrey, Greg Reynolds, and Andrew Brackman. With the exception of Brackman (who will reach the Majors), all have pitched in the big leagues averaging just over 1.5 years to make their debut. If Meyer can harness his control, he certainly projects to pitch for the Nationals in the Major Leagues and drafting him 23rd overall was a blessing for the franchise.

At 34th overall, Goodwin is another excellent signing for the club. After playing for UNC his freshman year, Goodwin was suspended by the school and ultimately played the season for Miami Dade Junior College. Last summer, Goodwin was ranked as the 6th best prospect in the Cape League by Baseball America but fell in the draft due to make-up questions. Despite falling out of the 1st round, Goodwin inked a $3 million bonus, the 2nd largest amount for a JC player behind Bryce Harper. Goodwin’s projectability has few comparables. Other than Harper, only 5 JC players have signed for $1 million or more out of the amateur draft, but no players beside Harper and Goodwin have signed for more than $2 million. These players include Nick Markakis (7th-Orioles), Andy LaRoche (1,171th – Dodgers), Avery Morris (26th – Dodgers), and Lonnie Chisenhall (29th – Indians). There’s no real indication of which of these players Goodwin is most comparable to, making his unpredictable future is certainly something to keep tabs on.

The most interesting deal negotiated with the Nationals was reached with 3rd round draft selection Matthew Purke. In 2009, Purke was drafted by the Texas Rangers 14th overall and offered $6 million. He signed with the Club only to see his contract nullified by the Commissioner’s office due to a shaky financial situation in Arlington. Purke dominated his freshman season, but was only able to throw 52.2 innings this past year due to arm injuries. Despite elite potential, Purke fell in the draft due to health concerns but the Nationals had no fear drafting him in the 3rd round. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Purke had a lot to gain by heading back to TCU for his junior season and re-entering the draft with a healthy arm. But the Nationals were not worried, making him the 1st player to receive a Major League contract having been drafted outside of the 1st round. The unprecedented move was just another display of the Nationals’ willingness to control the hottest prospects in the game.

The Nationals hope that these players will develop into the Longoria, Price, Upton, and Crawford type players that helped the Rays become A.L. Champs. Rendon, Meyer, Goodwin, and Purke represent just the top 4 picks in one year of multiple losing seasons, so the Nationals have a large talent pool to select from. With Strasburg already proving himself as an elite MLB pitcher, and Bryce Harper developing into the phenom that he is, the Nationals 2011 draft class might be enough to put the Nationals in the playoffs in just a few short years.

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