The Nationals find themselves in a unique position. They’re the first club ever to have two of the first 10 picks in the same draft, the result of finishing with the worst record in baseball in 2008 (giving them the No. 1 overall choice) and also failing to sign No. 9 overall selection Aaron Crow (landing them the No. 10 pick as compensation).
When we posted our initial first-round projections last week, we projected that Washington would spend what it takes to sign überprospect Stephen Strasburg with the top choice and then look to save money at No. 10. Our forecast was that the Nationals would take Kennesaw State righthander Chad Jenkins.
Afterward, acting Washington general manager Mike Rizzo contacted Baseball America to say that talent would be the only consideration for that latter pick, which won’t be protected by compensation a second time.
"We do not have to take a signability pick," Rizzo said. "We’re going to take the best guy. We’re going to have 10 names up there on the board, and we’ll take one we like."
Strasburg reportedly is seeking a $50 million major league contract and is expected to at least shatter Mark Prior’s record for guarantee money given to a draftee ($10.5 million from the Cubs in 2001). Last year’s No. 10 choice, Jason Castro, received a $2.07 million bonus from the Astros.
Rizzo did acknowledge that if the player the Nationals liked at No. 10 wasn’t considered a consensus top-10 talent, they could use that leverage to cut a deal below MLB’s bonus recommendation. But he reiterated that ability and not signability would drive the decision as to whom to select.
"We do see this draft as one where the guy we take with the No. 10 pick might be No. 25 on someone else’s board," Rizzo said. "But if we take, say, Chad Jenkins or [California outfielder] Brett Jackson or whoever, it’s because we think he’s the 10th-best guy in the draft."
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