The Nationals will pick 16th in the first round of the MLB draft tonight, their latest selection since baseball returned to Washington. It will still be an important pick, the absolute centerpiece of their 2012 draft, because they do not pick again until the 80th overall choice.
Who will the Nationals take? I get the sense the Nationals would be delighted to end up with either Andrew Heaney or Michael Wacha, two college pitchers, if they're available. Here’s a rundown of which players the Nationals could grab with their first pick:
Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M: A classic Mike Rizzo first-round pitcher – tall (6-6), hard-throwing (his fastball touches 96 miles per hour) and coming from college.
Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State: The cousin of Nationals’ first baseman Chris Marrero is widely considered the second-best middle infielder available. He’s fast and has great range, and when the Nationals pick he may be the Best Scott Boras Client Available. (Baseball Prospectus’s mock draft has the Nationals taking Marrero.)
David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain High (Ala.): Dahl, who worked out for the Nationals, has above-average power for a potential center fielder, but some have questioned his effort level.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State: The best left-handed college pitcher in the draft is a strikeout machine (10.65 per nine) with advanced offspeed pitches. He could be the first starter to reach the majors from this draft.
Richie Shaffer, 3B, Clemson: One of the top power hitters in the draft -- and maybe the best college hitter, period -- slugged .600 this season against the best competition in college baseball. (Baseball America has the Nationals taking Shaffer in its mock draft.)
Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke: The Nationals see him as a starter, but the pitcher, who draws comparisons to Tom Gordon because his stature (5-9) and biting slider, may be advanced enough to reach the majors as a reliever this fall.
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake High (Calif.): This is more of a name to know, just in case, than a good possibility. Giolito is the biggest wild card in the draft and certainly a longshot for the Nationals. A power pitcher who may have been the No. 1 overall pick if not for an elbow injury, his asking price remains astronomical – probably too high even if the Nationals offered every dime of their $4.4 million bonus spending cap. But they are at least keeping tabs on his asking price and if he gives any signs he’d be willing to sign rather than honor his commitment to UCLA.
If the Nationals roll the dice on Giolito, it would give them a player considered at least at some point to be the potential first overall pick for the fourth straight year. Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are obvious, and Anthony Rendon could have been 1-1 if not for his shoulder injury.
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