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Nats in Unfamiliar Draft Position

by David Elfin
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Memories: Steven Strasburg, the overall first pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, is presented with his jersey by Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (R) after being introduced at Nationals Park August 21, 2009. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Memories: Steven Strasburg, the overall first pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, is presented with his jersey by Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (R) after being introduced at Nationals Park August 21, 2009. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Like the Washington Redskins, who didn’t have a first-round pick in April because of the previous year’s trade for the second overall selection that became franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Nats won’t be choosing in the first round of tomorrow’s major league draft.

Washington forfeited the 29th pick by signing closer Rafael Soriano away from New York in January – as if the filthy rich Yankees needed anyone else to finish off games with Hall of Fame lock Mariano Rivera back from the injury that ruined his 2012 season.

Of course, the 29th selection isn’t customary territory for the Nats, who chose 2012 National League Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper first overall in 2010, a year after picking All-Star righthander Stephen Strasburg in that spot. Harper and Strasburg were critical in lifting Washington to baseball’s best record in 2012, hence the pick at the bottom of the first round.

Ryan Zimmerman, a mainstay at third base for eight years, was the fourth overall selection in 2005, Washington’s first draft after moving from Montreal. First baseman Chris Marrero, the 15th overall pick in 2006, played in 31 games for the Nats in 2011 and is currently at Class AAA Syracuse. So was Anthony Rendon, the sixth overall choice in 2011, who was recalled for the second time this season yesterday and could be Washington’s new second baseman.

Ross Detwiler, Washington’s No. 5 starter when healthy, was the sixth overall selection in 2007. Aaron Crow, another right hander from Missouri, declined to sign with the Nats who chose him ninth overall in 2008. He re-entered the draft the following year and is now with Kansas City. Reliever Drew Storen, who was Washington’s closer in 2011 before an elbow injury and the signing of Soriano changed his role, was chosen nine picks after Strasburg in 2009.

Strasburg, Harper, Zimmerman, Detwiler and Storen represent a pretty serious haul from six years worth of first-round selections. Shortstop Ian Desmond, currently sidelined second baseman Danny Espinosa, utilityman Steve Lombardozzi, backup outfielder Tyler Moore, 2013 ace Jordan Zimmermann and long reliever Craig Stammen were all also drafted by the organization. That’s nearly half the roster.

So while the Nats have been a major disappointment this season, Mike Rizzo, the assistant general manager for the 2007-10 drafts and the GM since, has built the ballclub the proper way. Soriano, first baseman Adam LaRoche, outfielders Denard Span and Jayson Werth and No. 4 starter Dan Haren are Washington’s only high-profile free agent signings. All-Star lefthander Gio Gonzalez and catchers Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki arrived via trades.

The Nats picked 6-foot-6 right hander Lucas Giolito 16th overall last June. He’s currently recovering from Tommy John surgery that helped save the careers of Strasburg and Zimmermann, the 67th selection in 2007. That’s just one spot higher than the Nats’ first choice tomorrow night. So who knows? Maybe Rizzo and his scouts will find another gem in that ballpark who’ll be wearing a curly W in Washington soon enough.

David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin

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