Nats hope 2008 Draft as key as '07

Nats hope 2008 Draft as key as '07

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals had a reason to be happy about the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. They not only had extra picks, but the Draft replenished their farm system in just a few months.

During the offseason, for example, Baseball America ranked the Nationals' farm system the ninth best in baseball. The previous year, the Nationals ranked last. Will this year's Draft help the Nationals even further? No one knows for sure.

The Nationals will draft ninth in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. MLB.com will carry every pick, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively at MLB.com, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo.

Several of the top amateur prospects are expected in attendance in Orlando for Day 1 of the Draft, and each of the 30 Major League clubs will be represented by front-office executives and baseball luminaries. Fans are welcome to attend Day 1 of the Draft, and admission to The Milk House is free with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis.

Day 2 will get under way at 11:30 a.m. and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com.

Here's a glance at what the Nationals have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
The team will go without extra Draft picks for the first time since 2005, but that will not stop the Nationals from taking the best players. The team has scouts traveling all over the country, trying to decide which players fit best with the club. One thing is almost certain, the team will not take high school right-handed pitchers high in the Draft -- it is considered a weak class this year.

The scoop
"I can't believe there is a better scouting department in the game. I'm not saying that to pat ourselves on the back, I'm saying it because it really is true." -- general manager Jim Bowden

First-round buzz
The Nationals could go in any direction. Bowden loves to draft for power bats, but Dana Brown, the team's amateur scouting director, loves to draft pitching, while assistant general manager Mike Rizzo, who is in charge of the Draft, goes for the best player available.

In their mock Draft, Baseball America has the team taking pitcher Tanner Scheppers. Mayo's initial mock Draft has the Nationals picking South Carolina first baseman Justin Smoak.

Shopping list
The Nationals are short on hitters and loaded with pitchers. From the offensive end, Michael Burgess, Mike Daniel, Chris Marrero and Justin Maxwell are the only hitters who could make an impact on the Major League side soon. But the shortage of bats does not mean the team will select nothing but hitters. The team still wants to add more pitching to the organization.

Trend watch
In five out of the last six years, the Nationals/Expos have selected a pitcher in the first round. Whether a pitcher is selected remains to be seen. The Nationals no longer have to draft a player who is signable, so look for them to go after the best player in the Draft and spend a lot more money.

Recent top picks
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who was drafted in 2005, is considered one of the best defensive third basemen in the Major Leagues and has the potential to an awesome hitter. In his first full season in the big leagues, Zimmerman drove in over 100 runs.

Right-hander Colten Willems and Marrero were drafted in the first round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, and both are struggling this year. Willems has a 4.40 ERA in six starts for Class A Hagerstown. The good news is that he has allowed just eight walks in 30 2/3 innings. Marrero is with Class A Potomac and is hitting .219 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in his first 35 games.

Left-hander Ross Detwiler, who was the team's first round pick last year, got off to a slow start, but he now has a 4.45 ERA in seven starts with Potomac.

Rising fast
There are a lot of pitchers who are rising fast in the organization, but right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, a second round pick in the '07 Draft, gets the most recognition. He started the season at Potomac and was dominating, going 3-1 with a 1.65 ERA. He was recently promoted to Double-A Harrisburg and has a 2.92 ERA in two starts. Don't be surprised if he is in the big leagues by late August.

Cinderella story
Right-hander Adam Carr was selected in the 18th round of the 2006 Draft, but he is moving up fast in the organization. He is currently playing for Class A Potomac and has 16 strikeouts in 14 innings.

In The Show
The 2005 Draft features three guys who made it to the Major Leagues. It took Zimmerman two-plus months to reach the big leagues after being drafted.

Maxwell and left-hander John Lannan made to the Majors last year and impressed the team's brass. Lannan is now in the team's starting rotation, while Maxwell is honing his skills for Double-A Harrisburg.

Detwiler made one appearances and didn't allow a run in one inning.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.