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For MLB draft, Nats do their homework

Jun 3, 2014, 10:01 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

The Washington Nationals will have to wait 17 picks before they are on the clock at No. 18 in this Thursday’s draft, but just about all of the hard work has already been done. Forget just going back to last year’s draft, scouting prospects for the Nationals is a process years in the making.

General manager Mike Rizzo gave some insight into that inexact science over the weekend, sharing some of the methods the Nationals and other teams around baseball employ to put together a scouting report.

As you can imagine, it’s quite extensive.

“We better know everything about that player,” Rizzo said. “We’ve seen these guys for a number of years. The area scouts are the anchor of our scouting department. They know the ins and outs of every player in their territory. We have the health histories, the psychological testing, and a myriad of other checkpoints before we consider taking a player.”

Medical records and psychological testing? You bet. They even go to the players’ high schools to dig deep into their past.

“The area scouts get the information any avenue that they can get it,” he said. “They go through the process of getting the medicals and doing background checks. They are always investigating. They will go to high school guidance counselors to high school teachers to find out about the player. There’s a lot of digging and a lot of groundwork that goes into the draft.”

The area scouts the Nationals employ comb the United States for major league talent. All year long they are driving from stadium to stadium, flying from city to city, all in search for the next big thing. After all, over 1,200 baseball players get drafted each year, depending on compensatory picks. There are 40 rounds and the Nationals have to have a player in mind each time their pick comes on the board.

“There’s a specific calendar,” Rizzo explained. “We have all of our area scouts come in individually for face-to-face meetings. We get their take on what their area is and then they’ll go out to see the conference tournaments and then the college regionals and all the high school showcases, right towards the end of the draft, to get a final health check on where the guys are.”

Rizzo came up as a scout through the Chicago White Sox organization and was later in charge of scouting with the Arizona Diamondbacks. His father, Phil, was a scout for the Angels. It’s in Rizzo’s blood, and he still enjoys evaluating talent.

Rizzo, in fact, still goes on scouting trips. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes Rizzo will go out on the road to give a final stamp on a certain player. Usually it’s with guys who are near the top of the team’s draft board, ones that assistant GM and vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline has singled out.

“The parts where I actually get out to look at some high school players, some college players, is enjoyable to me. It brings back a lot of good memories for me,” Rizzo said.

“We sneak out below the radar. I go out and see a specific amount of players that Kris Kline wants me to see. It’s a kind of tiebreaker, if you will, on specific players. Mostly the upper echelon guys we are considering in the first couple of rounds. It’s an active time.”

Rizzo and the Nationals front office have put in endless amounts of time evaluating the current MLB draft class. But though it’s years in the making, things obviously start ramping up as the first day nears.

Last week the Nationals began officially transitioning into draft mode. They had evaluators come in to meet with top front office executives as they form their draft board.

“We’ve had our crosscheckers, our scouting directors, in here this last week. We’ve ramped up starting to get the board together. We’ve been in there countless hours this past week. Hopefully by Thursday we’ll have our Ts crossed and our Is dotted, and be ready to pull the trigger when our time comes.”

The 2014 MLB Draft begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday with the first two rounds taking place on the first night. The Houston Astros hold the No. 1 overall selection for the third consecutive year.

  1. natsjackinfl - Jun 3, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    My favorite thing in baseball not involving a game itself. Love following the entire draft all the way to the conclusion on Saturday.

    • joemktg - Jun 3, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      “We better know everything about that player,” Rizzo said. “We’ve seen these guys for a number of years….”

      If you’re making a splash as a HS freshman(!), you’re on the radar not only for the MLB, but the major D1 programs (we’re starting to see 2017s commit to SEC schools). And down in your neck of the woods natsjack (albeit on the other coast in Ft. Myers), PerfectGame is rolling out the top HS sophs next week and top HS juniors right afterwards.

      MLB and D1 start so early. Not as bad as AAU basketball, but damn close.

  2. Hiram Hover - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    So any guesses as to whom the Nats will take, and/or where their greatest needs are?

    Keith Law, in his mock draft, has them taking UNLV pitcher Erik Fredde, who just had Tommy John.

    Baseball America says the Nats want bats and has them taking Fresno high school SS Jacob Gatewood.

  3. Eugene in Oregon - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    And lest anyone think that 17th is too late in the draft to get any decent players, the 2007 draft generated the following second-round picks (which is really the third round because of the supplemental first round):

    #67 – Jordan Zimmerman
    #76 – Michael (now Giancarlo) Stanton
    #78 – Freddie Freeman
    #79 – Zach Cozart
    #81 – Eric Sogard

    • Doc - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      Thanks Eugene!

      As good as scouting is, it can’t perfectly guess development.

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 3, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      Last Sunday I kept saying to myself “26th rounder.” That’s when the Rangers took Tanner Roark. And there he was, going pitch for pitch against Yu Darvish.

      You never know.

      This year’s Tanner Roark appears to be Taylor Hill, who has come into his own this year, at Syracuse. He is now pitching the best baseball of his MiL career, and at the highest level of the minors, to boot:

      http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?pos=P&sid=t552&t=p_pbp&pid=592398

      And then there was Matt Purke, a Nats’ high draft pick (2nd round, as I recall) who spent years in rehab, seemed to be all the way back this year, and is now scheduled for TJ surgery. By the time he is fully recovered, he will be out of options, and Rizzo will have to send him through waivers to keep him in the minors, or else add him to the Nats ML roster. Purke has probably run out the string without ever having pitched one full season in the minors.

      You never know.

      You could add Mike Trout to your list of big time players drafted lower than 17, as well. Trout lasted all the way to the 25th pick in the 1st round, and many thought that was a stretch. The Angel’s scout who touted Trout played with Mike’s dad, and knew the kid from way back.

      You never know. But in that case, there was one guy who really did.

      • natsguy - Jun 3, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        Because of his issues he will be given a 4th option. Read Nats Prospects site. However, Purke is a real long shot. The draft is a crap shoot.

  4. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    Wow, it’s uncannily similar to “Trouble With The Curve” — if, by similar, you mean “completely different.”

  5. Doc - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    Scouting is one of the Nats’ best operational skills. Rizzo was probably right to dislike “Moneyball” because of the superficial manner in which it treated the scouting profession.

    Not sure about access to ‘school psychological testing’ on the part of scouts. That stuff is both proprietary and confidential—maybe they sneak in at night with a flashlight!

  6. NatsLady - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    If you want to read a funny article about scouting, try this.

    http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/77476210/major-league-baseball-draft-how-to-impress-scouts#!T2VG1

    • Doc - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      Thanks NL.

      I watched Hayhurst on Keith Olberman’s MSNBC show a few years back.

      Seems that of all the professional sports,baseball produces the more writers, and most of them are, like Hayhurst, quite good.

      Nats have a budding writer, and potentially good MLB pitcher, in Ryan Tatausko.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 3, 2014 at 1:59 PM

      Enjoyed it! Thanks.

  7. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    So for you kids at home, be nice to your English teachers–they’ll be talking to the scouts.

  8. David Proctor - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    The Phillies, refusing to get younger, just signed Jason Marquis. I think he’s still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

    • Dave - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:28 PM

      Wow. Just in the nick of time. (For the Nats.)

  9. NatsLady - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    Saw that about Marquis. Also, Cliff Lee’s elbow still hurts, he hasn’t started his throwing program.

    Here is the Injury Daze and Philly Series preview. Stats oriented, as usual.

  10. adcwonk - Jun 3, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    Mike Piazza was drafted 62nd round in 1988, and that was sort of as a favor because his father knew LaSorda.

    You never know!

  11. mlblogsnatsfan - Jun 3, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    It’s funny that Law and Walter Football each of the Nats selecting an already injured pitcher with a high ceiling.
    Jeff Hoffman is my guess.
    Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
    Hoffman has the Nationals written all over him. Two years ago, they gambled on Lucas Giolito, which worked out well. Like Giolito, Hoffman is a special arm talent who will slide because of injury concerns. If Hoffman didn’t have the injury concerns, he’d be a top-10 lock and could be in the top four.
    http://walterfootball.com/mlbdraft2014_1.php

  12. Section 222 - Jun 3, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    Any word on who gets sent down/DFA’d to make room for Zim?

    • NatsLady - Jun 3, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      Haven’t seen anything on Twitter or the transaction lists.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 3, 2014 at 1:59 PM

      Ty Mo seems like the most redundant player, no?

      • jd - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:15 PM

        I’ll be surprised if it’s not TyMo. The other option is Dobbs I guess.

      • Section 222 - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:28 PM

        That’s my prediction too. Dobbs has hit well enough to make it tough to cut him loose. Does the fact that he originally signed a minor league deal make it possible to send him down now, or does his seniority mean that they’d have to send him through waivers?

      • RPrecupjr - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        I think it has to be Tyler. Dobbs is you lefty masher and Hairston is your righty masher. You send TyMo down to get consistent ABs until September or (please no) someone gets hurt.

    • tcostant - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:52 PM

      It is Moore:

  13. David Proctor - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Larry Bowa, the Phils bench coach, went on the radio and ripped the team a new one. Said that the team is playing like a bunch of minor leaguers, the starters aren’t going deep enough into games, Dominic Brown has been awful apart from 5 weeks last year and that their last homestand was one of the worst he’s ever seen.

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/06/03/larry-bowa-on-the-phillies-current-play-its-not-big-league-baseball/

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:12 PM

      Always an effective tactic.

    • chaz11963 - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:12 PM

      Wow… I wonder how Sandberg and the front office feel about him ripping the team in public like this. The Phillies look like they are bringing some baggage into DC with them.

      • Doc - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:46 PM

        That’s just Bow being Bow.

        Gotta love his candor, even if it gets him fired.

        Hey he helped Desi with a few things in the field—maybe he can work with Walters???

  14. David Proctor - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Nats announce Zim is activated and will play LF tonight.

    • David Proctor - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:32 PM

      Moore sent down

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:44 PM

        Which makes sense. Greg Dobbs would seem to be safe at least until Bryce Harper returns.

      • alexva6 - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:55 PM

        As long as Souza keeps up with what he’s doing I really can’t see them bringing Moore back this time.

  15. Eugene in Oregon - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    Did folks see the speculation — labelled that; not a rumor — in MLBTR about Ben Zobrist?

  16. Hiram Hover - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    Zimm inserted at #5 in the lineup, everybody else moved down. Espi and Desi, the free swinging duo, stay together.

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NL EAST STANDINGS

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ATLANTA 54 46 2.0
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