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Nats add arm to farm with Mizzou righty

Nats add arm to farm with Mizzou righty

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals decided to go with pitching with the ninth overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, selecting right-hander Aaron Crow of the University of Missouri.

It marked the sixth time in seven years that the Nationals/Expos took a pitcher in the first round, as Crow joined hurlers Clint Everts (2002), Chad Cordero ('03), Bill Bray ('04), Colten Willems ('06) and Ross Detwiler ('07) as first-round picks by the franchise.

"I'm excited," Crow said on a conference call. "They put a lot of emphasis on pitching. That means I'm going to get a lot of instructions to figure out some stuff and hopefully get a lot better."

The Nationals consider Crow a potential top-of-the-rotation pitcher with competitiveness that resembles that of former big leaguer David Cone. If he signs soon enough, Crow most likely would start at Class A Potomac. The organization believes Crow is on the fast track to the Majors.

Crow is being advised by agent J.D. Smart, but Crow wouldn't tip his hand as far as signing with the Nationals goes.

"That's probably one of the things I shouldn't be talking about," Crow said.

The Nationals were able to get a pitcher like Crow because most of the teams ahead of them in the Draft selected position players. Left-hander Brian Matusz was the only pitcher drafted ahead of Crow, who has a fastball that is clocked between 92-97 mph. He has a plus slider and changeup.

General manager Jim Bowden said it was a unanimous decision from members of his "think tank," as he called it, that they select Crow. It helped that they saw Crow pitch a shutout against Ole Miss in the NCAA Regionals on May 30. Crow threw 122 pitches in the game.

"What really stood out was his composure on the mound," Bowden said. "This guy just competes. ... He could put his pitches where he wanted to at any time in that game from Pitch 1 to Pitch 100. He is just a winner out there."

Crow called the matchup against Ole Miss one of his best-pitched games, but acknowledged his control wasn't perfect.

"The fact that it was in a regional and in the postseason made it really special," Crow said. "Throughout the whole year, it was the third- or fourth-best-pitched game. I had five walks in that game. That's something that could be improved on."

Nationals' top five selections
Pick
POS
Name
School
9.RHPAaron CrowU of Missouri
55.LFDestin HoodSt Pauls Episcopal HS (Ala.)
87.SSDaniel EspinosaCal St Long Beach
121.LHPGraham HicksGeorge Jenkins HS (Fla.)
151.CAdrian NietoAmerican Heritage Sch. (Fla.)
Complete Nationals Draft results >

Crow, 21, went 13-0 with a 2.35 ERA in 15 starts this season en route to being named a Golden Spikes Award finalist, the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and a Louisville Slugger first-team All-American. He had four shutouts and struck out 127 batters with just 38 walks in 107 1/3 innings.

His school-record 13 wins led all NCAA pitchers, and his 127 strikeouts were sixth most in the nation. Crow was a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy and the Roger Clemens Award this season, and at one point, he worked 43 consecutive scoreless innings, the fourth-longest streak in NCAA history.

In his three seasons at Mizzou, Crow compiled a 23-8 record with a 3.27 ERA in 52 games (46 starts).

Washington began watching Crow a couple of years ago when he was playing in the Cape Cod League. There are some concerns about his mechanics, but the Nationals don't seem to be too worried.

"We saw the pitcher as a gifted physical athlete," said Nationals assistant general manager Mile Rizzo. "The more athletic you are, the more you can handle the little waggle he has behind his back.

"With stop-action pictures, frame by frame, we saw that the arm gets to the power position perfectly on time. He showed such a propensity to throw strikes and pound the lower part of the strike zone that we felt it was a nominal risk due to his size and athleticism."

The Nationals also selected Mamie "Peanut" Johnson in the special Negro League Draft. Johnson won 33 games from 1953-55 for the Indianapolis Clowns. Nicknamed "Peanut" because of her size (5-foot-4, 120 pounds), the right-hander threw as hard as many male pitchers.

Here is a look at the Nationals' other Day 1 selections in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft:

Round 2: Destin Hood, OF, St. Paul's Episcopal (Ala.) High School
He signed a letter of intent to play football for the University of Alabama, but the Nationals are convinced they can sign him. They believe he can become a power-hitting outfielder in the mold of Torii Hunter. Hood worked out on June 1 and opened everybody's eyes with the bat.

Round 3: Daniel Espinosa, SS, Long Beach State
The switch-hitter comes from the same school that produced Bobby Crosby and Troy Tulowitzki. A slick-fielding shortstop, Espinosa hit .309 with four home runs and 37 RBIs and had a .392 on-base percentage. Espinosa is a better hitter from the right side of the plate.

Round 4: Graham Hicks, LHP, George Jenkins (Fla.) High School
The 6-foot-5 left-hander had a solid high school career. He dominated his competition as a senior, going 8-1 with a 0.24 ERA. He also struck out 81 batters in 59 innings. He has three plus pitches -- a fastball, curveball and changeup.

Round 5: Adrian Nieto, C, American Heritage (Fla.) High School
The Nationals thought he was worth drafting even though he has some right elbow issues. He's a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate. He hit .372 with five home runs and 38 RBIs.

Round 6: Paul Demny, RHP, Blinn College
Demny, 18, has a mid-90s fastball. He went 2-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 14 games. He recorded 53 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings this season as a freshman.

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

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