As the MLB draft has churned into the latter rounds, the Nationals have continued choosing with their first pick in mind. Past the third round, the Nationals have taken under-the-radar players and college seniors, players who will likely sign cheaply and conserve funds from the Nationals’ $4.4 million allotment to spend on No. 16 overall pick Lucas Giolito.
Mike Rizzo believes he has assembled the best scouting staff in baseball. He is surely not the only general manager who would say that about his own staff. But he implicitly trusts his scouts to uncover unheralded players that will sign on the cheap and still have a chance to make the major leagues.
As such, the Nationals still believe in their later picks. Samford senior outfielder/catcher Brandon Miller led Division I with 22 home runs. Nationasl VP Roy Clark called Clemson junior Spencer Kieboom “the best defensive college catcher in the country,” even if Kieboom is not ranked among Baseball America’s top 500 prospects.
Here’s a quick rundown of the Nationals’ draft past the first round. Picks are listed with the round and overall pick:
2, 80: Tony Renda, Cal 2B, Jr.: Renda is 5 feet 8, but has a compact, aggressive swing. Scouting director Kris Kline said he has “the quickest bat in the draft.”
3, 111: Brett Mooneyham, Stanford LHP, Jr.: The 6-5 right-hander is represented by Scott Boras. He has a reputation as a hard worker who needs to improve consistency.
4, 144: Brandon Miller, Samford OF, Sr.: Miller only caught one game all year long, but he may profile as a catcher. His power would make him an intriguing bat from behind the plate.
5, 174: Spencer Kieboom, Clemson C, Jr.: The Nationals value him for his ability to catch and throw, but his bat needs a lot of work.
6, 204: Hayden Jennings, Evangel Christian Academy (La.) OF, H.S.: He may have the speed to play center field.
7, 234: Robert Benincasa, Florida State RHP, Jr.: Benincasa has outstanding stats as a reliever at FSU and saved 15 games this year. The 216th-ranked prospect in the draft, according to Baseball America.
8, 264: Stephen Perez, Miami SS, Jr.: Perez is a flashy infielder.
9, 294: Derek Self, Louisville RHP, Sr.: A 6-3 sinkerballer who’s an attractive choice for his signability. He also throws a cutter.
10, 324: Craig Manuel, Rice C, Sr.: Another signability pick, and yet another catcher.
11, 354: Brian Rauh, Chapman RHP, Jr.: Rauh may project as a reliever, but the Nationals have had good luck with Division III right-handers before (see Jordan Zimmermann.)
12, 384: Carlos Lopez, Wake Forest 3B, Sr.: He hit 10 homers and slugged .527 while making only six errors in his senior season.
13, 414: Elliott Waterman, San Francisco LHP, Jr.: Waterman served as USF’s closer and has a funky deliver and a huge frame – 6-5, 230 pounds.
14, 444: Jordan Poole, Chipola Junior College, RF, Soph.: He hit seven homers in 150 at-bats this year with a .425 on-base percentage.
15, 474: Brandon Smith, Woodbridge (Calif.) OF, H.S.: At 6-3, Smith has a solid frame and he may be fast enough to play center field. His high school team uses the Curly W as its logo.