2020 MLB Draft Recap: Washington Nationals
By Jacob Boes
We borrowed some of our FanSided folks covering the NL East to gain some perspective on how the defending World Series Champs did in the 2020 MLB Draft
The MLB Draft offers one of the more rare opportunities in the game where each organization can get better on the same day. Of course, their respective improvement to their system and to their future success will vary on where they pick in the draft, the strategy they deploy with their bonus pool dollars, and the players clubs ultimately add to the fold.
The Nats have done an excellent job in the draft in the first round alone; adding players like Ryan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Drew Storen, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Lucas Giolito, and Carter Kieboom among others upon their return to DC in 2005. In 2020, the Nats would pick toward the end of the first round at 22nd overall and would go on to have six picks in total to add to their system.
We talked with co-site expert Max Rayman over at districtondeck.com to get his thoughts regarding the incoming talent in Washington:
"Overall, this class is full of pitchers with upside that will help replenish a farm system that was ranked 29th by ESPN. Highlighted by first-round pick Cade Cavalli, the Nats draft class was very pitcher heavy. They took four pitchers and two position players. Cavalli has plenty of upside, but his career has been marred by injuries. If he can shed his injury history, then Cade can turn out to be a steal. He started his college career with Oklahoma as a first baseman, before solely focusing on pitching during his sophomore year. Before his jr. season was cut short due to the coronavirus, Cavalli was 1-2, with a 4.18 ERA, and 37 strikeouts in 23.2 innings. While those numbers don’t jump off the page, Cavalli was showing improvement, especially with his control. In his junior year, he only walked five batters in 23.2 innings, compared to his 35 walks in 60.1 innings during his sophomore year.Another player to keep an eye on is the team’s second-round pick, Cole Henry. Here is what I wrote about Henry on draft night.“In his two years at LSU, Henry went 6-3, with a 3.03 ERA, and 95 strikeouts in 77.1 innings. This past season, the righty went 2-1, with a 1.89 ERA, and 23 strikeouts in 19 innings. At the end of his freshman year, he took over as LSU’s ace. He missed time in the past with elbow soreness, so that’s something to keep an eye on. He has a fastball that ranges from 92-96 and on MLB Pipeline’s 20-80 attribute ranking, his heater was given a 60.”The Nats were able to draft one of the top relievers in the 2020 class in Holden Powell. Powell was a closer at UCLA and out of Washington’s 2020 draft class, he will probably move through the system the fastest. Over his three years at UCLA, Powell recorded 25 saves, which is second-most in school history. He also won the 2020 Stopper of the Year award, which is handed out to the best college reliever.One pick that was very controversial amongst the fan base was Oklahoma catcher Brady Lindsly in the fourth round. He told reporters after the draft that he was shocked that he was drafted. Some of the fans thought this was a wasted pick. In truth, Mike Rizzo knew what he was doing. This was an underslot in order to sign some of our other picks. Lindsly also briefly caught for the teams first-round pick, Cavalli."
I am glad it sounds like DC is happy with their haul; but I must admit, I am a bit skeptical. This draft feels like the Tigers’ drafts of old. Cavalli does have the upside of a front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, but the walks and lack of command at times bring a reliever risk to his profile (sound familiar?). I actually liked the Cole Henry pick, but again, a very Detroit-like pick. Don’t believe me? The Tigers actually drafted Henry in the 38th round in 2018 as a high school prospect.
Holden Powell was drafted as a reliever out of UCLA; which generally is not a strategy that I subscribe to. As a general rule of thumb, most successful MLB relievers are failed starting pitchers; so drafting a prospect that is already a reliever not only limits the ceiling of the prospect, but it also assumes risk. The Tigers have shown the propensity to deploy such a strategy as well; drafting names like Bryan Garcia and Mark Ecker over the last few years; both college relievers that attended southern schools.
I am also not a big fan of drafting a certain prospect just to save money for other prospects. I understand that the bonus pool is what it is and is undoubtedly part of the strategy for the draft, and hopefully it will pay off with the pair of high school prospects they selected, but I am generally in favor of taking the best player the team feels they are likely to sign and let the rest sort itself out. But Brady Lindsly saying he was surprised to be drafted at all speaks to how this may have been a reach from the start; and we all know the Tigers’ history as it pertains to reaches.
Best wishes to the Nats on their title-defending campaign, whenever that may be; and the talent they have added via the 2020 MLB Draft. Be sure to follow District on Deck on Twitter @DistrictOnDeck and special thanks to Max for his thoughts; follow him on Twitter @MaxRayman1.