The Nationals will seemingly stay out of the high-profile action in the MLB draft, which is moving full-steam ahead. The Nationals’ first choice will not come until No. 68 overall because they lost their first round pick when they signed closer Rafael Soriano, the implications of which James Wagner explained today.
The Nationals, though, have a way of inserting themselves into the upper reaches of the draft. With that in mind, there is one name to know: Sean Manaea, a high-ceiling, high-risk left-handed starting pitcher from Indiana State.
If Maenea is available when the Nationals pick, “we’d have to consider taking him,” one Nationals official said.
Maenea broke out in the Cape Cod League last summer and entered the spring as a potential first overall pick. Then he twisted his ankle in March, and in May he left a start in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament with shoulder stiffness, a more serious red flag.
The Nationals, though, have a penchant for drafting pitchers with an injury risk. Maenea fits the mold. He is also advised by Scott Boras, who has said he trusts Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo with the development of his clients. The Nationals have negotiated high-priced draft deals with Boras for Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin and Alex Meyer since 2009.
Given their history, the Nationals may be the team that gambles on Maenea. The Nationals were supposed stay above the fray last year, too, and then they made a splash by taking Lucas Giolitio with the 16th overall pick. Giolito had dropped due to a combination of injury concerns (he eventually underwent Tommy John surgery, which he is currently rehabbing from) and a high asking price to sign. In 2011, they nabbed Matt Purke at No. 96 overall after team after team balked at his history of shoulder issues and signing bonus demands.
There are other complications that could convince the Nationals to pass. The Nationals can only spend $2.737 million on their first 10 draft picks without incurring financial penalties, the lowest of any team in baseball. Maenea may return to school, taking the chance he could receive a larger signing bonus in next year’s draft.
The rest of the Nationals’ draft would be hamstrung, too, by the high price to sign Maenea. The Nationals would have to be creative, perhaps drafting more college seniors, who typically accept lesser signing bonuses because they lack the leverage of returning to school.
Even with his injuries, he struck out 93 batters in 73 1/3 innings with a 1.47 ERA. In the Cape Cod League, his fastball hit 98 miles per hour.