Rizzo: Nats not necessarily focused on pitching in draft

In each of the last five years, the Nationals have owned a top-10 pick in the First-Year Player Draft.

In 2009 and 2010, they held the top overall selection, and everyone and their mother knew that Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper would be the Nats’ picks in those two respective drafts.

This year, there’s much less certainty when it comes to what the Nats might do with their first-round selection. Holding the No. 16 pick, general manager Mike Rizzo and the Nats will rank their top 16 prospects, see how things in front of them play out and then trust their board and select the highest-rated guy remaining.

Until they’re on the clock, however, all the Nats can do is wait.

“It’s a lot less clear (this year) in the type of player we are going to get,” Rizzo said. “Picking in the middle of the pack, you put together a list and the next guy on the top of the list is the guy you’re going to take. It’s hard to plan, but ... we have done all the backgrounds and all the work on about 1,100 players in the draft. We are going to rank them one-to-100 and we are going to take the best player available, like we always do.”

That phrase - best player available - is one that you often hear in football. I personally heard it a ton while covering the Baltimore Ravens over the last four years - an organization that excels in the draft process and almost never drafts for a specific positional need, instead selecting the player that’s rated highest on their board regardless of position.

Over the last three years, the Nats have been fairly balanced when it comes to drafting pitchers and position players, with a slight edge going to hurlers. Fifty-two percent of the Nats’ 152 picks in that three-year window have been pitchers.

Washington gave up three of its top pitching prospects this winter in the trade to acquire Gio Gonzalez, which has led some to question whether the Nats will lean more towards pitching in this draft, in an effort to stockpile more the arms in the organization. But Rizzo says that’s not going to be the case.

rizzo sunglasses sidebar.jpg“We’re going to go best player available. We’re not going to lean either way,” Rizzo said. “We need to build a base, and we need depth, and if an impact-type player is available at a position you have great depth at, you still have to take that player because thing change quickly here. The players you’re drafting aren’t immediately going to help you on the major league level.

“You need to create depth, and the best way to create depth is with guys that you feel give you the best chance to have an impact player. We’re going to draft with that in mind - best guy available, best impact possibility available.”

There have been a number of players linked to the Nats at No. 16, with Duke right-hander Marcus Stroman, Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero, Clemson third baseman/first baseman Richie Shaffer and Oak Mountain HS (Ala.) outfielder David Dahl drawing much of the buzz.

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