Washington Nationals 2009 MLB Draft in Review: Few Stars, But Lots of Depth
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By the time the 2009 baseball amateur draft finally came to an end, the Washington Nationals had added 50 players to their minor league system.
But really, other than the first two—Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen—the other 48 were either minor league "inventory" or relative unknowns who would probably slip into the anonymity of the low minor leagues, likely never to be heard from again.
A player’s first couple years can be very telling regarding his hopes of making it to the major leagues.
Let’s take a look at the "lower 48" and see how they have done in their first two professional seasons:
Second Round: Jeff Kobernus (2B), Cal Berkeley
His first year, 2009, wasn’t particularly impressive for the 21-year-old, as he hit just .220/.273/.244 in 41 at-bats for Class A Vermont.
He improved last season, however, batting .279/.316/.346 with 21 stolen bases in 312 at-bats. He committed just 12 errors and showed excellent range.
But with Danny Espinosa and Stephen Lombardozzi ahead of him in the organization, I doubt we’ll see much of Kobernus at the major league level.
His father was a minor league player in the 1980s.
Kobernus batted .341-8-17 his junior year before being drafted by the Nationals.
Third Round: Trevor Holder (RHP), University of Georgia
Playing for Class A Vermont, Hagerstown and Potomac, Holder was 4-3, 6.97 in 11 starts in 2009. However, he was 2-0, 3.55 for Hagerstown before being promoted to Potomac, where he was clearly in over his head, going 2-3, 9.26 in six starts.
He again split time at Hagerstown and Potomac last season and pitched very well, starting 26 games and winning seven with a fine 3.64 ERA.
He struck out 6.8 batters per nine innings while walking an incredibly low 1.9.
Holder was thought to be a sure first-round pick in the 2008 June draft, but shoulder tendinitis caused his stock to drop.
General manager Mike Rizzo believes that Holder will one day be a middle-of-the-rotation starter for Washington.
Fourth Round: A.J. Morris (RHP), Kansas State University
Though Morris went 0-4 in 10 starts with the Gulf Coast Nationals and Low A Hagerstown in 2009, he had a very impressive 3.38 ERA, allowing 9.3 hits, 1.7 walks and 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
He started 2010 with the Gulf Coast Nationals, but was promoted to Potomac after four games, finishing the season with a record of 5-3, 3.88, allowing 8.4 hits and 3.4 walks per nine innings while striking out 7.6.
Morris was the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year in 2009, going 14-1, 2.09 with 100 strikeouts. He has a 92-mph fastball and a “plus” slider.
Fifth Round: Miguel Pena (LHP), La Joya High School, Texas
Pena didn’t sign with the Nationals, opting to play for San Jacinto Junior College instead. He was drafted last season by the Padres in the 13th round, but has yet to play a professional game.
Sixth Round: Michael Taylor (SS), Westminster Academy, Florida
Taylor had planned to attend the University of North Florida, but was swayed by the Nationals' offer of a six-figure contract. He signed just a few days after the draft.
In 141 at-bats over two seasons, Taylor has batted just .199 with a .276 on-base percentage and a .885 fielding percentage.
Seventh Round: Andrew (Dean) Weaver (RHP), University of Georgia
A teammate of Trevor Holder, Weaver split his first season between the Gulf Coast Nationals and Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League. In 10 games, he was 0-1, 3.55 with two saves, allowing 9.9 hits, 2.8 walks and 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
Weaver pitched for Class A Hagerstown last year, going 1-3 with a 3.04 ERA, saving 16 games in 20 chances. He struck out 6.4 batters per nine innings.
Weaver was the closer for the Georgia Bull Dogs, saving 10 games while going 4-2, 3.60 in 29 games.
Eighth Round: Roberto Perez (SS), Dorado Academy, Puerto Rico
Perez signed in late August and played in just 11 games in the Gulf Coast League, hitting just .167/.211/.167 in 36 at-bats.
He returned to the GCL Nationals in 2010, and the 19-year-old thrived, batting .310/.392/.416 in 113 at-bats. His .952 fielding percent was good considering the level of play.
Perez is the nephew of former big league shortstop Dickie Thon.
Ninth Round: Taylor Jordan (RHP), Brevard Community College, Florida
Jordan started six games for the Gulf Coast Nationals in 2009, going 2-0, 3.63. He allowed just 6.5 hits and 2.3 walks per nine innings while striking out 8.6.
He split time between Class A Vermont and Hagerstown last year, going 2-4 with a 5.37 ERA. However, his 2.8 walks and 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings are intriguing.
10th Round: Paul Applebee (LHP), Cal State Riverside
Applebee played his first season for the GCL Nationals and Vermont, going 0-2, 3.24 while allowing just 8.4 hits and 1.1 walks per nine innings, striking out 7.5.
He was promoted to Class A Hagerstown in 2010 and went 6-6, 4.10 for the Suns, allowing 9.9 hits and 1.0 walks per nine innings while striking out 5.6.
If he keeps his walk rate to around one per nine innings, he’ll make it to the major leagues at some point.
11th Round: Justin Bloxom (LF), Kansas State University
Bloxom, a teammate of A.J. Morris at Kansas State, had a difficult first year, going .228/.346/.303 with 68 strikeouts in just 228 at-bats.
However, he became a full-time player in 2010, batting .309/.355/.476 with 11 homers and 70 RBI to go along with 10 stolen bases for Hagerstown.
12th Round: Nathan Karns (RHP), Texas Tech University
Karns signed just before the deadline in 2009 and has yet to play for the Nationals. I can’t find any information about why he has yet to appear.
13th Round: Patrick Lehman (RHP), George Washington University
Lehman was outstanding for Vermont and Low A Hagerstown, going 4.2, 1.97, allowing 6.5 hits, 0.3 walks and 4.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
Wait, 0.3 walks per nine innings? Wow.
In 59.1 innings, Lehman walked two batters.
Playing mostly for Class A Carolina last year, Lehman went 5-4 with a 4.53 ERA. Although his ERA jumped a bit, his control remained superb, allowing just 2.6 walks per nine innings while striking out 9.1.
14th Round: Naoya Washiya (RF), College of the Desert, California
Washiya went .246-0-14 for the Gulf Coast Nationals with a .331 on-base percent and a .314 slugging mark. He was released and signed in 2010 with a Japanese minor league team, the Ishikawa Million Stars.
15th Round: Corey Davis (1B), Coffee High School, Georgia
I can’t find any information about Davis. I don’t think he signed.
Among the remaining 35 rounds, many picks didn’t sign and those who did had a kind of first year you’d expect from a late-round draft pick. However, there were some exceptions:
16th Round: Sean Nicol (SS/2B), University of San Diego
Over the past two seasons, Nicol has batted .265/.362/.330, reaching Potomac late last season.
21st Round: Mitchell Clegg (LHP), University of Massachusetts Amherst
Clegg was very impressive for the Vermont Lake Monsters in 2009. In 10 starts, he went 2-4, 2.20, allowing 8.8 hits, with 2.0 walks per nine innings while striking out 4.7.
Last season, Clegg played for the GCL Nationals and Class A Hagerstown, combining to go 9-4, 3.20 and allowing just 2.1 walks per nine innings.
Those are good numbers for even a third- or fourth-round pick. Perhaps the Nationals found a sleeper in Clegg.
22nd Round: Daniel Rosenbaum (LHP), Xavier University, Ohio
Rosenbaum’s 2009 stats need to be taken with a grain of salt because he was a 21-year-old pitching against 18-year-old kids in the Gulf Coast League.
That said, he went 4-1, 1.95, allowing 7.1 hits and 2.2 walks per nine innings. He struck out 9.2 per nine innings as well.
But he pitched against players his own age last season, pitching for Class A Hagerstown and Potomac, combining to go 5-7, but with a sparkling 2.25 ERA.
He walked just 2.6 batters per nine innings while striking out 7.2.
I think Rosenbaum is the real deal.
29th Round: Evan Bronson (LHP), Trinity University
Bronson was a closer for Vermont of the New York-Penn League, going 3-0, 0.55 with four saves in 2009. He allowed just 5.1 hits and 0.5 walks per nine innings while striking out 6.9
He became a starter last year, going 8-9 and a 4.36 ERA with Potomac and Hagerstown. He walked just 1.5 batters per nine innings.
30th Round: Rob Wort (RHP), Jefferson Junior College
After a very “blah” 3-3, 3.91 2009 season for the GCL Nationals, Wort excelled as a closer for Hagerstown and Potomac, going 6-0, 1.92 with eight saves.
He walked 3.0 batters per nine innings, but doubled his strikeout rate to 11.1.
38th Round: Chris Manno (LHP), Duke University
He first played in 2010 as a 21-year-old in the Gulf Coast League. However, he went 1-1 with a 2.50 ERA and struck out 14.5 batters per nine innings. Anyone with that many strikeouts needs to be watched.
It’s very difficult to predict future greatness based on just two seasons, but the Nationals’ 2009 draft seems to be well stocked with pitchers, but bereft of any standout position players.
The offensive players averaged .237 in their first year, though most of them improved in 2010.
The pitchers' ERAs were 6.97, 3.38, 3.55, 3.63, 3.24, 1.97, 7.20, 2.20, 1.95, 3.51, 4.15, 4.35, 0.55, 3.91, 3.44 and 3.95.
It has been the policy of the Nationals, under both former general manager Jim Bowden and current GM Mike Rizzo, to draft pitchers over position players so that one day—hopefully—the team would have enough depth to stock the big club and trade the excess for hitters.
Bowden has often said (and Rizzo agrees) that it's easy to draft a bat but no one ever has enough pitching.
Other than the first two players, I doubt there are any more real stars among this group, but if pitchers like Daniel Rosenbaum, Trevor Holder and Mitch Clegg continue at their current pace, the team will indeed have enough pitching talent to trade for major league bats.
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