Nationals Organization Report
Money To Spend
WASHINGTON--The Nationals' new owners have yet to take over the club, but their fingerprint is on the team's draft list, which begins with six high school players taken in the first four rounds.
With the Lerner family about to seize control of the team and co-owner Stan Kasten to serve as team president, Washington went with a long-range view. It took soon-to-be corner outfielder Chris Marrero 15th overall and righthander Colton Willems 22nd. In the second round, the Nationals selected righthander Sean Black and right fielder Stephen Englund.
"This was a very different experience for a lot of us in the room because we haven't been a big market team before," general manager Jim Bowden said at RFK Stadium, only a few feet from the team's "war room" for the draft. "Philosophically, this was the first time we were allowed to take the best player on the board regardless--and we did that. We also philosophically made the decision to make the best picks we could for long-term benefit of the Nationals rather than the short-term benefit of the Nationals.
"We had two goals in mind in this draft: number one, starting pitching that has tremendous upside with the chance to be number one and two starters in the big leagues; and impact bats in the middle of the lineup that can hit 30 and have a chance to drive in 100. We feel with our first five picks that each player has a chance to do one of those two things."
Marrero was hitting .410 with 11 home runs, 33 RBI and 23 runs before the Florida 4-A state final, a game in which he homered and helped Monsignor Pace of Miami to a victory. He was ranked as the No. 2 prep prospect in the preseason, but was hampered somewhat by a slightly pulled hamstring during his senior year.
A University of Miami signee, Marrero said, "My preference is to play pro ball right away, get started as soon as I can and make it to the major leagues in two or three years."
Marrero also said he had no problems making the move from his high school position of third base--where the Nationals have 2005 first-round pick Ryan Zimmerman in the big leagues--to either left or right field.
Bob Boone, senior director of player personnel, said he joined scouting director Dana Brown to see Marrero play twice. Brown already had scouted Marrero, and Boone was quickly won over.
"He performed really good, and we called Jim to tell him we just saw an outstanding player--but we don't think there's any chance he's going to come to us," Boone said.
After taking Marrero, whose arm and power hitting may be his best two tools, the Nationals went with a power arm in Willems, who went 7-1, 0.62 in 53 innings for John Carroll Catholic of Fort Pierce, Fla. Scouting director Dana Brown said Willems throws 93-97 mph with good command and an above-average slider. Willems has signed with Florida but said he expects to sign quickly and maybe take college courses online.
Black, from Lenape High in Mount Laurel, N.J., throws a 90-95 mph fastball with a good curve, according to Brown. Englund, who played shortstop at Bellevue (Wash.) High, is expected to move to right field.
"We're fortunate to go after some high-ceiling players and get these high school kids," scouting director Dana Brown said. "We're thrilled about it."
Bowden said he reported to departing team president Tony Tavares throughout the draft process and that Major League Baseball ran the draft. Still, it will be new management's task to live with the results, good or bad.
"Both Stan and the Lerners have made it very clear they don't make baseball decisions, but they had input as far as philosophy and as far as direction," Bowden said.CAPITAL GAINS
• The 70th overall pick came from the Angels, who signed Type B free agent Hector Carrasco. That pick was temporarily a first-rounder for the Nationals, but the Angels' signing of Type A Jeff Weaver to conclude the free agency period gave the No. 26 pick to the Dodgers. The 22nd pick was compensation for losing righthander Esteban Loaiza to the Athletics.
• Marrero's brother, Christian, has signed as a draft-and-follow with the White Sox. He was Chicago's 22nd-round pick last year as an outfielder out of Broward (Fla.) Community College. "My brother's a good outfielder and he could teach me some stuff," said Chris Marrero, who said he played outfield in middle school and early in his high school career. "I think I'll be fine out there."
• In the third and fourth rounds, the club took shortstop Stephen King from Winter Park (Fla.) High and lefthander Glenn Gibson from Center Moriches (N.Y.) High. Gibson is the son of former major league lefthander Paul Gibson, who pitched for the Tigers, Mets and Yankees.