The same process played out inside the Nationals’ draft room, round after round. They identified the player they wanted to choose, and called him with a dollar amount. That would be his signing bonus.
“If it was a ‘no,’ we passed,” scouting director Kris Kline said. “If they were hesitant at all, we passed. You just have to.”
The new collectively bargained draft rules forced the Nationals to be financially mindful, especially after taking highly regarded – and surely expensive – Lucas Giolito with their top choice, No. 16 overall. They can only spend roughly $4.4 million on their top 10 picks without receiving a severe punishment.
And so the Nationals focused on players they knew they could sign, and they already are. The Nationals have already agreed to terms with Cal second baseman Tony Renda, Samford outfielder Brandon Miller and Clemson catcher Spencer Kieboom – their second, fourth and fifth picks.
The Nationals have also agreed to terms with several college seniors taken in later rounds, and Kline said they expect to sign third-round pick Brett Mooneyham, a left-handed pitcher from Stanford who is advised by Scott Boras, “relatively quickly.”
“We had to do our due diligence with signability with everybody with the new system in place, because you have limitations,” Kline said. “There’s certain guys that were requiring too much money.”
In a departure from previous seasons, the Nationals introduced a third draft board into their war room. Next to their overall board and one broken down by position, they also had one devoted solely to the likelihood of a player signing. They worked phones to talk to players and advisers.
The Nationals still drafted players they believe will make an impact. In Mooneyham, whom the Nationals also drafted on a flier last year in the 38th round, they took a 6-foot-5, 230-pound lefty who Kline said throws his fastball 97 miles per hour with an above-average changeup.
“Wait until you guys see how athletic this kid is,” Kline said. “It’s unbelievable. He shags fly balls on days he’s not pitching. It looks like he could play center field.”
Mooneyham has “fringy” command of his pitches, Kline said, and sometimes can struggle to keep his velocity consistent. But Kline said Nationals coaches can help improve his control.
“I think worst-case scenario, you have a Matt Thornton-type bullpen guy who can blow it out with an out pitch,” Kline said. “This is an exciting kid to have in our system, no question.”
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