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Nationals pleased with Draft outcome

Nationals pleased with Draft outcome

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals wanted impact players in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, and scouting director Dana Brown and assistant general manager Mike Rizzo think they've got them. Following the Nationals' two-day performance at the Draft, the brain trust met with reporters just after the event's conclusion on Friday, and it seemed quite happy about the results.

Following up on its top six selections on Thursday -- which saw the Nationals take college hurler Aaron Crow ninth overall and high school left fielder Destin Hood in the second round -- Washington grabbed 44 more players to round out its 2008 Draft. In total, the Nationals took 21 pitchers, four catchers, 11 infielders and 14 outfielders.

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All along, the Nationals said they would employ a strategy of taking the best player available in the Draft. Rizzo said the team felt good about its haul.

"We feel like we had a very strong, effective Draft that should give us a lot of inventory and depth throughout the organization," Rizzo said.

Last year, the Nationals signed their first 20 selections in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, the only team in the Majors with that much success in signability. That, in turn, left the Nats' 2007 Draft class being hailed as tops across the league. When asked about similar prospects this year, Brown cast an optimistic attitude toward signing at least the Nationals' top 11 picks.

"In terms of impact players, I'm looking at it going down to hopefully the top 11," Brown said.

The Nationals' farm system currently boasts a lot of promising young pitching, a facet Brown and Rizzo think they've added depth to this year. But they were also pleased with their haul of position players, and they were high on a few outfielders. Brown raved about Hood and Marcus Jones, an 11th-round selection and D.C. native who went to high school in Bethesda, Md.

"Those two guys, you talk about a potential everyday center fielder and an everyday left fielder, so we're excited about both of those guys," Brown said, also mentioning ninth-round pick John Higley as a possible power-hitting right fielder down the line. Brown later singled out Jones again for his athleticism, adding that the North Carolina State University product could become an impact Major Leaguer down the line if he can "turn the corner" offensively.

The Draft had some local flavor to it as well, as Washington took four players who played prep baseball in the D.C. area. In addition to Jones, shortstop Stephen Lombardozzi (Columbia, Md.), left-hander Ronald Silverstein (Brookville, Md.) and third baseman Ronnie Labrie (Vinton, Va.) all got tabbed by the Nationals' Draft team on Friday.

Lombardozzi is also the son of former Major Leaguer Steve Lombardozzi, who had 20 home runs and 107 RBIs over six seasons.

Jones fits himself into another category within the Draft class as well -- he's been drafted by the Nationals before. Taken out of high school in 2005, Jones is one of three players selected by the Nationals in previous years. Catcher Dan Killian was taken in the 32nd round last year and the seventh round this year after he spent one year at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich.

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 >
But perhaps the most intriguing redraft is Tyler Moore, a first baseman out of Mississippi State University. This will be Moore's third go-round with the Nationals after being picked in the 41st round of the 2005 Draft and the 33rd round of the '06 Draft.

Brown said the Nationals have wanted to convert Moore into a catcher, something he's resisted to in the past. However, Brown said that he thinks Moore will be willing to accept the position change this time around. He said Moore will make the switch to catcher, and he said that assistant general manager Bob Boone -- himself a former catcher -- has worked with Moore and likes what he's seen.

"If I had to choose a pick that we got a little lower, I think this kid's got a good chance," Brown said. "He's got a good makeup, and we're really excited about him."

The Nationals drafted at least one Hall of Famer on Friday. His name is Blake Stouffer, and if you've never heard of him, it's because he's not in Cooperstown, N.Y.'s professional wing. Stouffer, a second baseman out of Texas A&M University, is in the Little League Hall of Fame.

Addressing one other need, Rizzo said the Nationals looked for good offensive prospects to accompany their stellar pitching depth already present in the Minor League system. He said he believes they did just that over the past two days.

"Our expectation is to flood our Minor League system with potential impact bats," Rizzo said, "and we think we've taken a really good step along the way to do that with this year's Draft."

Zachary Osterman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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