Image credit: Jackson Rutledge (Photo by Tom DiPace)
Unlike the NBA or NFL drafts, MLB teams do not draft for immediate need. There’s good reason for that, as even the most MLB-ready draft prospects usually take two seasons to get fully established in the majors. But as we ready for the 2020 MLB draft, it is useful to look at where teams are deep and where they are thin at the MLB and minor league level.
Also of note:
2019 RECORD: 93-69
STATE OF THE SYSTEM: The defending champions built their World Series team on the backs of homegrown talents Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Juan Soto, Ryan Zimmerman and Victor Robles and used other top homegrown prospects (i.e. Lucas Giolito and Jesus Luzardo) to land key players in trades (Adam Eaton and Sean Doolittle). The combination of graduations and trades has left the Nationals’ system extraordinarily thin, but for all the right reasons.
BEST DRAFT PICK OF THE DECADE: 3B Anthony Rendon (first round, 2011). The Nationals drafted Bryce Harper, Rendon and Giolito with consecutive top picks to open the decade, a run that helped set the franchise up for a decade of dominance. Rendon was the constant through all of it. He quickly emerged as one of baseball’s best third basemen, finished top 10 in MVP voting three times and led the Nationals to their first World Series title in 2019 with a series of clutch, late-inning hits.
WORST DRAFT PICK OF THE DECADE: Seth Romero (first round, 2017). The Nationals ignored the warning signs about Romero and drafted him 25th overall despite the fact he was suspended twice and eventually kicked off his college team. His violations included failing a drug test, missing curfew and fighting with a teammate. His behavior continued in pro ball and the Nationals sent him home from 2018 spring training for violating team rules. He had Tommy John later that year and missed all of the 2019 season.
DEEPEST POSITION(S): Shortstop. The Nationals top two prospects—Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia—are both shortstops. Some opposing evaluators have gone so far as to say Kieboom and Garcia are the only two position player prospects worth noting in the entire Nationals system.
WEAKEST POSITION(S): Outfield. Kieboom may move to third base and Garcia may move to second base, taking care of the Nationals’ needs at those positions. The recent graduations of Robles and Soto have left the Nationals’ remaining outfield prospect crop extraordinarily weak, but again, it’s not much of an issue given the success of the aforementioned standouts.
DRAFT TRENDS: The Nationals have drafted a pitcher with their top pick three years in a row. They’ve also selected a pitcher with their top pick in six of the last eight years.
2020 BONUS POOL RANK: 20th