Another look at the Nationals’ aggressive drafts

We’re back at work on the blog after a couple days off for Thanksgiving; hope you all had a safe and enjoyable holiday. We’ll be gearing up for the Winter Meetings next week - highlighted by a live video chat with’s Byron Kerr and Pete Kerzel on Tuesday at noon - but for now, we’re going to take a quick look at a trend that’s developed with the Nationals’ best prospects.

Baseball America is releasing its annual list of the top 10 prospects in each organization this month, and the Nationals’ top 10 rankings came out earlier this month. Bryce Harper, of course, tops that list, and Anthony Rendon (the No. 6 pick in this year’s draft) is one spot behind him. Seven of the 10 players on the list have been picked in the last two drafts, and all seven of those players signed hours before the deadline for teams to lock up their picks.

And all seven of them got bonuses or deals well over their slot recommendations.

That’s an important point because of the changes that the new collective bargaining agreement will bring to the draft; teams will face severe penalties if they give draft picks contracts over the recommendations for each slot. If a team were to overpay by more than five percent, for example, it would lose its first-round pick the next season. Essentially, teams will have to decide if a player is worth as much as two picks - and agents will have to figure out if they can legitimately ask for big enough contracts for teams to penalize themselves.

The answer to the second question is probably no, which means a team’s ability to stockpile talent with large sums of cash will be diminished. It’s no secret the Nationals have benefited from big spending in the last three draft, dating to when they gave Stephen Strasburg $15.1 million in 2009. In the future, though, they might have to go in a different direction, figuring out if they can take a player lower in the draft than they otherwise would. In that situation, though, they could risk the player going back to school, and they wouldn’t have as much money to persuade him not to return.

As we discussed last week, good scouts will continue to be good scouts, and teams that draft well will continue to find talent with the new system. But it’s striking to look at the impressive pipeline the Nationals are building, and just how they managed to do it.