Nats stick with pitching at top of Draft
Washington takes Missouri St. lefty Detwiler with No. 6 pick
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals decided to go with pitching with the sixth overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, selecting Missouri State left-hander Ross Detwiler.
It marks the fifth time in six years that the Nationals/Expos have taken a pitcher in the first round. Clint Everts, Chad Cordero and Bill Bray were taken in 2002, '03 and '04, respectively, while Colton Willems was a first-round selection last year.
"I'm really excited about being picked by the Nationals," Detwiler said. "I think it's going to be the best fit for me. I can't wait to go out and play for them. They have a bunch of good position players. They are young. They have a good core to the team. I think what they really need is a few good pitchers, and I think I can really work into that pretty well."
About 30 minutes before taking Detwiler, the Nationals received a surprise when the Royals made infielder Mike Moustakas the second overall pick. Moustakas was general manager Jim Bowden's top choice, and Moustakas would have been Washington's top pick had he been available. Moustakas and catcher Josh Vitters were considered the best hitters on the Nationals' Draft board.
While he didn't reveal what the strategy was, assistant general manager Bob Boone was surprised that Moustakas went as high as he did.
"I was hoping [he would be in sixth pick range]," Boone said. "Him, [Matt] Wieters and Vitters separated themselves as hitters."
On the pitching end, David Price, who was drafted by the Devil Rays, and Detwiler were considered the top pitchers by the Nationals. Rick Porcello was another top pitching prospect, but Washington never considered selecting him because he was asking for too much money.
With Price, Wieters and Vitters off the board, the Nationals felt that Detwiler was their best option.
|6||Detwiler, Ross||Missouri St. U||LHP|
|31||Smoker, Joshua||Calhoun HS||LHP|
|49||Burgess, Michael||Hillsborough HS||RF|
|67||Zimmermann, Jordan||U Wisconsin Stevens Point||RHP|
|70||Smolinski, Jabob||Boylan Catholic HS||SS|
|100||Souza, Steven||Cascade HS||SS|
|130||Norris, Derek||Goddard HS||C|
|160||Meyers, Bradley||Loyola Marymount U||RHP|
Detwiler, 21, is a power pitcher. He has a plus-fastball, curveball and changeup, and he can command both sides of the plate. His fastball is clocked between 90-95 mph. Detwiler was dominant this past season, posting a 2.22 ERA in 14 appearances, while striking out 110 batters in 89 innings for Missouri State.
"There is always a risk with pitchers more so than position players, but if you are going to take a risk, take it on a left-hander that has a frame and that throws 95 [mph]," Bowden said. "We think we picked the right guy, given all those circumstances, where we selected."
The Nationals' front office took notice of Detwiler in 2006. He earned All-Missouri Valley Conference Honorable Mention accolades after going 7-4 with a 2.81 ERA in 14 starts. Detwiler later earned All-MVC Tournament Team honors.
Following the 2006 campaign, Detwiler pitched for Falmouth of the Cape Cod League. He allowed just two runs with 14 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings over two starts.
Detwiler also pitched for Team USA last summer, going 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in five games (two starts) to help the club win the International University Sports Federation tournament title in Havana, Cuba. He had 20 strikeouts in 18 innings for Team USA.
But what impressed the Nationals is the way Detwiler handled the elements this season. On April 14, he pitched in 35-degree weather with the wind blowing hard. He gave up one run in seven innings, while striking out 10.
"The only thing I could think of is, 'This is an October-type pitcher,'" said Dana Brown, Washington's director of amateur scouting. "With his stuff, I'm excited that he is a competitor. He goes after hitters. He doesn't give in. He will throw all three of his pitches at any time in the count."
Said Detwiler about that game: "I really couldn't get a feel for anything, because my hand was so numb, but I just battled through it. I've shown that I can throw in cold weather. That's a positive about going to Washington."
In the last five years, the Nationals have not hesitated to pick plenty of college players because -- as their history has shown -- they have been able to get to the big leagues quicker (see Ryan Zimmerman and Cordero).
"This is a pitcher who could get here as early as 2008, if not '09," Bowden said. "Detwiler and David Price and Daniel Moskos are the three closest pitchers in the Major Leagues in this Draft. All three of them are solid guys and signable. They were at the top of our board."
Washington has to sign Detwiler first. He is represented by Jeff Barry, who works closely with agents Casey Close and Brodie Van Wagenen. Close and Van Wagenen represent Nationals third baseman Zimmerman and outfielder Justin Maxwell. Negotiations will start sometime next week, according to Detwiler.
Bowden said he doesn't foresee Detwiler being a tough sign. The Nationals have until Aug. 15 to get a deal done. If they don't sign him by that time, the Nationals will get a 6B pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
"I don't think this will be a difficult sign," Bowden said. "We have a very strong relationship with that group. We will all work hard to get a signing that is fair for everybody."
The other picks:
Josh Smoker, LHP, 39th pick
He was projected to be picked in the middle of the first round, but he ended up being a sandwich pick, thanks to Alfonso Soriano signing with the Cubs. The Nationals believe that Smoker could be in the top of the rotation someday. His fastball is clocked between 89-94 mph and he has a power breaking ball. Brown said Smoker can keep the ball down on a consistent basis.
Michael Burgess, OF, 49th pick
Burgess was another sandwich pick given to the Nats because Jose Guillen signed with Mariners. Burgess fell on the Draft board because he "slumped" his senior year at Hillsborough High School. He hit three .338 with two home runs in 25 games. During his junior year, Burgess had a .511 batting average with 12 home runs. The Nationals felt he was too homer happy and got mechanically messed up with the bat. During the pre-Draft workouts on Saturday, Boone spent time in the cage with Burgess trying to help him shorten his swing.
Jordan Zimmerman, RHP, 67th pick
Another extra pick because of the Soriano signing, Zimmerman (no relation to Ryan) has an above-average fastball, changeup and curveball. What impressed the Nationals was that he once pitched with a broken jaw, which was wired together.
Jacob Smolinski, SS, 70th pick
The Nats are expecting Smolinski to be a power hitter in the future, but he likely won't stay at shortstop. Assistant general manager Mike Rizzo said Smolinski doesn't have good enough footwork to play the position. The Nationals have yet to decide what position he will play.
Steven Sousa, SS, 100th pick
Sousa was discovered by former area supervisor Doug McMillan, who passed away a few weeks ago. The Nationals compare his bat to Scott Rolen or Tim Wallach. Sousa is 6-foot-4 and weighs 190 pounds, but he is expected to develop even more physically in the future.
Derek Norris, C, 130th pick
Brown said that Norris has good catching skills and has a good hitting stroke. Brown believes he will be a power hitter.
Bradley Meyers, RHP, 160th pick
Meyers is considered a potential No. 4 starter. His fastball has been clocked between 90-93 mph, and his slider is in the high 80s.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.