By the time the Washington Nationals made their first-round draft picks in 2009 and 2010, we were already well-acquainted with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, respectively, as the entire baseball world knew months in advance that each would be the Nationals’ pick with the No. 1 overall selections. The announcements of the actual picks felt more like coronations than news.
This year, though, there is still a bit of mystery surrounding the Nationals’ first-round pick. When the draft gets underway tonight at 7, the Nationals will be holding the sixth overall pick (the same pick they used in 2007 to select Ross Detwiler). And while the safe money is on the team selecting Kansas high school outfielder Bubba Starling, the board may be shifting even as we speak.
ESPN.com draft guru Keith Law posted a new mock draft (subscription required) this morning that had Danny Hultzen, a highly regarded lefty from the University of Virginia, falling to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the No. 7 overall spot. Law still had the Nationals taking Starling at No. 6. (The most recent Baseball America mock draft, posted on Friday -- which might as well be the Stone Age, given the speed at which the 24-hour news cycle operates these days -- had Hultzen going No. 1 overall to the Pirates.)
[UPDATE, 12:53 p.m.: Baseball America’s Jim Callis just posted his final mock draft, and he has the Nationals taking Hultzen, with Starling falling to the Cubs at No. 9.]
Law’s latest mock draft raises this intriguing question: If Hultzen indeed slips past the first five overall picks, could the Nationals really pass up a chance to take a polished collegiate pitcher – and a lefty, at that – with strong local ties (Hultzen played at St. Albans before heading to Virginia)?
And another question: How would signability play into the equation? Starling, a Scott Boras advisee, would appear to have extraordinary leverage, having been offered a scholarship to play quarterback for Nebraska, while Hultzen would appear to have much less, being a college junior.
Either way, it’s a nice change of pace to have some actual drama and mystery to carry us through to draft night.