6/7/2013 9:27 P.M. ET
Virginia native Joyce goes to Nats in ninth
By Tom Schad / MLB.com
The Nationals used the 286th pick (ninth round) of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday to select Jake Joyce, a right-handed pitcher from Virginia Tech.
Joyce is a native Virginian who just completed his senior season in Blacksburg. In 30 relief appearances for the Hokies, he went 7-1 with a 4.16 ERA and three saves. Joyce was a jack-of-all-trades in the Virginia Tech bullpen and acted as a middle reliever, setup man and, if needed, closer.
"He's from Collinsville, Va., and I was close friends with his parents when I lived in Martinsville, Va.," Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel Roy Clark said, "so I've been tracking him for a long time."
Joyce graduated from high school early to go to Virginia Tech. He had ERAs above 5.00 in each of his first two seasons with the Hokies, but improved his mechanics as a junior and was the most frequently used reliever on the team.
Joyce throws a 95-mph fastball, but considers his slider to be his best pitch.
Nationals begin Day 2 by taking infielder Ward
After using their only pick on the first day of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft on a pitcher, the Nationals opened Day 2 on Friday by selecting high-school infielder Drew Ward with their third-round pick, No. 105 overall.
Originally a member of the 2014 graduating class, Ward made the decision last fall to speed up the process and graduate one year early from Leedey (Okla.) High School. After fulfilling a series of requirements, he was declared Draft-eligible in March.
"He would normally be going into his senior year," Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel Roy Clark said. "We started scouting him last summer. Big, strong, physical left-handed hitter."
Ward played shortstop in high school, but profiles as a third baseman at the next level, according to Nationals crosschecker Jimmy Gonzales. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound prospect has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Oklahoma.
"He's going to outgrow his body," Clark said. "He's a big guy."
Ward's hometown, Leedey, Okla., has fewer than 500 residents, and his high school competed in Class B, the smallest division in Oklahoma. As a result, the 18-year-old has typically been one of the best players in every high school game that he has played.
As a freshman, Ward reportedly batted .717 during the fall baseball season, and .578 during the spring. He also set a then-state record by being walked a combined 88 times during both campaigns.
If Ward does not sign with the Nationals, he would continue a family tradition at Oklahoma. His father, Gregg, grandfather, Bob, and uncle, Mark, all played baseball for the Sooners, and his mother, Susan, competed in track and field.
Washington tabs righty Pivetta at No. 136
With their fourth-round selection in the First-Year Player Draft, No. 136 overall, the Nationals on Friday picked right-handed pitcher Nicholas Pivetta of New Mexico Junior College.
A British Columbia native, Pivetta went 9-2 with a 3.36 ERA in 13 starts last season, and was among the best junior college pitching prospects in the Draft. In his first year at New Mexico JUCO, Pivetta made 12 starts and finished with a 4-1 record and 4.83 ERA.
Pivetta also was a member of the Canadian Junior National Team (U-18) from 2009-12. He has reportedly signed a letter of intent to transfer to the University of New Mexico in September.
"He throws up to 95 mph, good projection guy," Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel Roy Clark said. "We feel real good about him."
At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Pivetta has an ideal pitcher's frame. The righty also has the stuff to back it up, including a fastball that reaches the high-90s in relief appearances, but mostly sits in the low-90s during starts. Pivetta also throws a solid curveball, which could be an above-average pitch in the future, and an inconsistent changeup.
Nationals crosschecker Mark Baca praised Pivetta's smooth delivery and aggressive approach. The 20-year-old could be a starter if he develops his changeup. Otherwise, he projects as a late-inning power arm out of the Nationals' bullpen.
Nats take Washington pitcher Voth to cap fifth round
The Nationals used the 166th pick of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday to select Austin Voth, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Washington.
As a junior last season, Voth finished second in the Pac-12 in strikeouts behind only Stanford's Mark Appel, who was the No. 1 overall selection by the Astros on Thursday. Voth's 98 strikeouts were also the seventh most in school history. He went 7-6 with a 2.99 ERA in 15 starts for the Huskies last year, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors.
"He throws up to 95 mph and he's a strike-thrower," Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel Roy Clark said.
Since going undrafted out of Kentwood High School (Wash.), Voth has gained 25 pounds and improved his performance during each year in the Huskies' rotation. He relies on his fastball, which sits in the low-to-mid-90s, but his command of the pitch helps compensate for its lack of life. Voth also throws a slider and changeup.
He has a methodical delivery to the plate, but repeats it well and has good arm action. At 6-foot-1, 209 pounds, Voth is built like an innings-eater. But he could also eventually see himself in the Nationals' bullpen.
Third baseman Gunter goes to Nats in sixth
With the 196th pick in the First-Year Player Draft on Friday, the Nationals selected third baseman Cody Gunter of Grayson County College in Denison, Texas.
Gunter was a solid prospect coming out of Flower Mound High School (Texas), but he didn't sign with the Marlins after he was selected in the 19th round of the 2012 Draft. He opted for junior college instead of a four-year school so he would be Draft-eligible again this year.
Gunter played third base and was the closer for Grayson Community College and has skills in both areas. He batted .321 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs, while allowing just one earned run in 15 innings on the mound. He bats left-handed and throws right-handed.
"Early in the year, he was used as a closer and he'd come in throwing 93-94 [mph], but he's going to be a third baseman," Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel Roy Clark said. "Again, strong power bat kind of guy."
Gunter has an advanced approach at the plate and enough strength to generate good power. He also drew 57 walks last season, twice as many as any other player on his team. His plus arm gives him an advantage both at third base and on the pitching mound, where he has a low-90s fastball and solid slider.
Nats grab Delaware slugger Yezzo in seventh
The Nationals continued Day 2 of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday by selecting first baseman James Yezzo, a junior at the University of Delaware, in the seventh round, No. 226 overall.
Yezzo was named the 2013 Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Player of the Year after what Delaware head coach Jim Sherman called "one of the greatest single seasons in the last 20 years of Delaware baseball." Yezzo hit .410 with 28 doubles, 13 home runs and 64 RBIs in 55 games. He was also named a Louisville Slugger First-Team All-American.
"He's got tremendous power. Very polished," Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel Roy Clark said. "He's going to stay at first base. He had a great year, make no mistake."
The 6-foot, 200-pound slugger led the CAA in six statistical categories, including hits (96), total bases (167) and slugging percentage (.714). He helped lead the Blue Hens to a 33-23 record and a berth in the CAA Tournament.
Yezzo is the first Blue Hen to be selected in the first 10 rounds of the Draft since 2008.
Nationals use eighth-round pick on lefty Napoli
With their eighth-round selection in the First-Year Player Draft, No. 256 overall, the Nationals on Friday picked left-handed pitcher David Napoli of Tulane University.
Napoli was 13-9 with a 3.64 ERA in four years at Tulane. As a senior, he had a 3.00 ERA in 66 innings and held opposing hitters to a .176 batting average. He battled a forearm injury during the season, but picked up a win in his last collegiate game against Houston on May 25.
Napoli was a 2012 Second Team All-Conference USA selection as a junior. He is a bit undersized at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, and could profile as a reliever.
Nationals draft slick-fielding Middleton in 10th
With their last selection on Day 2 of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday, the Nationals took a second player from Tulane University, shortstop Brennan Middleton, in the 10th round, 316th overall.
Middleton, a Baton Rouge, La., native, batted .295 with eight doubles and 13 RBIs for the Green Wave as a senior last season. He stole nine bases, scored 35 runs and had a .372 on-base percentage. He committed just six errors in 56 games at shortstop.
"He just gobbles up everything," Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel Roy Clark said. "And he hit close to .300 in his career."
Middleton was a four-year starter at Tulane and has experience playing second base and third base in addition to shortstop.
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.