Wednesday, the Nationals chose Baker in the 27th round of the draft, probably not high enough for him to choose professional ball over school, but high enough that it hardly feels like a throwaway pick. The Nationals have chosen players within their extended organizational family before, often in the final three rounds of the draft. But the Nationals took the 5-foot-11 shortstop/outfielder in the 27th round. The Braves chose his father in the 26th round in 1967.
“There were four or five organizations that were going to take him higher. Some in the first 10 rounds, some in the subsequent rounds,” Dusty Baker said after Wednesday’s game, “but after talking with him and his mom, then he decided that he was going to go to college and get drafted a little much higher because his upside and potential is big-time.”
Baker said most teams liked Darren as an outfielder because of his speed, though the Nationals drafted him as a shortstop, his first position. Even so, the elder Baker said his son is all but certainly headed to Cal, where he will be eligible for the draft three seasons from now.
“It’s flattering that he was chosen,” Baker said. “And it wasn’t a favor.”
Baker was one of a few memorable names the Nationals drafted Wednesday. A few rounds earlier, they selected a right-handed pitcher out of the University of Pennsylvania named Jake Cousins — cousin to Kirk.
Another familiar name — Boone — popped up on the Nationals’ list of draftees in the 38th round. The Nationals selected San Diego area shortstop Jake Boone — great grandson of Ray Boone, grandson of Nationals’ vice president of player development, Bob Boone, and son of Bret Boone. The youngest Boone is committed to Princeton, where he will be a freshman next season.
For those well-acquainted with all the pre-draft literature, the Nationals drafted another familiar name in the 15th round — Bryce Montes de Oca, a 6-7 righty out of Missouri. De Oca pitched in the Cape Cod League last summer, one of the elite summer leagues in the country, and hovered on the Baseball America Top 200 this season. De Oca had Tommy John surgery, then nerve transposition surgery on his pitching elbow, which is part of the reason he fell. He pitched to a 4.28 ERA and 4-5 record at Missouri this season, the only one in which he was not hobbled by injuries. As with most large-framed hurlers like him, control can be an issue.
After spending the first 10 rounds stockpiling pitching, the Nationals reverted to their best-available approach on Day 3, grabbing position players throughout the day, including Baker. They took Kansas State first baseman Jake Scudder, Cal State Fullerton starting shortstop Tim Richards and Stanford catcher Alex Dunlap. As they have in years past, the Nationals also stocked up on college outfielders, including Texas A&M outfielder Nick Choruby, Wake Forest outfielder Jonathan Pryor and Baylor outfielder Kameron Esthay, among others.
By day’s end, the Nationals had added 11 pitchers, three catchers, seven outfielders and eight infielders to their draft haul. Combined with Monday and Tuesday’s pitching pile-up, the Nationals drafted 20 pitchers, four catchers, seven outfielders, and nine infielders. Their professed goal was to add pitching depth. They did that, and took care of their own in the process, a typical Nationals draft, all around.