2016 MLB Draft: Nats take three solid prospects on day one
The Nats lost 3-1 on Thursday evening, but it was still a productive night, as they added three solid prospects to the organization on Day 1 of the MLB draft. The addition of Daniel Murphy and the subtraction of Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann left the Nationals with back-to-back picks at #28 and #29, as well as pick #58.
The Nats had never had the #28 overall pick prior to the 2016 draft. The best #28 picks in history have been legendary closer Lee Smith (1975), underrated 90’s catcher Charles Johnson (1992), Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus (2005), current National Ben Revere (2007), current GCL Nationals manager and famed puncher of A.J. Pierzinski’s face Michael Barrett (1995), and Pirates stud Gerrit Cole (2008, but he didn’t sign, lolyankees).
Last night, the Nats took SS Carter Kieboom out of Walton HS (GA) at #28 overall. If you follow Nats prospects, you’ll undoubtedly recognize the last name, as he’s the younger brother of catching prospect Spencer Kieboom. Depending on who you ask, Kieboom is either a future SS or 3B. The dream (and the current Nats’ plan) is that he sticks at SS, because his solid all-around batting profile would put him way ahead of most other shortstops in the league. Kieboom’s hit for contact and hit for power tools both profile in the 50-55 potential range, and he’s also demonstrated solid plate discipline for a high schooler. The trade-off is defense, as he has good instincts but average range for a SS; his above average arm would play perfectly well at 3B. Fun fact (per Baseball America): Kieboom pitched ambidextrously earlier in his high school career.
· Committed to Clemson
· Will stick at SS for now, but could move to 3B
· Chance for above average contact, power, plate discipline
· No stand-out 70+ grade tools
· Best-case comps: Rich Aurilia, Jay Bell, Travis Fryman (3B/SS types who hit in the .270/.340/.440 range with solid 3B defense)
The Nats had never picked #29 overall, either. The class of #29 overall picks in history has been impressive, led by Hall of Famer George Brett (1971), two-time Cy Young runner up Adam Wainwright (2000), solid starter Bill Swift (1983), original version of Adam Dunn – Dave Kingman (1967), Giants baseball player Joe Panik (2011), and Rangers top prospect Lewis Brinson (2012).
With their first ever 29th overall selection, the Nats grabbed RHP Dane Dunning from the University of Florida. In his three-season career at Florida, Dunning has put together impressive strikeout numbers (9.6 career K/9, 10.27 K/9 this season) and has seen his BB/9 rate go down each season (4.71 BB/9 in 2014, 3.43 BB/9 in 2015, 1.45 BB/9 this year). His bread-and-butter pitch is his sinking fastball, as it sits in the 92-94 range and has touched 96. His change-up and slider both look like plus pitches at times and like pitches he should stop throwing at times, but the Nats’ hope is that they can develop both into solid offerings, allowing him to stay in the rotation. I like his K/BB trends and think that he’s got a nice and heavy fastball that will work in the rotation or the bullpen, and it really all depends on whether he can turn his change and slider into average or better secondary options.
· Will stick at SP for now, but could move to the bullpen
· Above average sinking fastball, touches 96 mph out of the bullpen
· Change-up and Slider both have potential, but need work
· Encouraging K/BB trends
· Control is good, command is getting there
· Best-case comps: Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, Justin Masterson (all primarily 2-pitch starters)
The Nats chose Andrew Stevenson at #58 overall last year. The slot has historically produced pretty good results, including Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn (1981), steroid king Jason Giambi (1992), three-time all-star closer Rick Aguilera (1983), stud starting pitchers Tyson Ross (2008) and Vincent Velasquez (2010), and Barves baseball player Jace Peterson (2011).
The Nats grabbed University of Oklahoma SS Sheldon Neuse with their second round pick, #58 overall. While he played SS in college, Neuse will be a 3B at the pro level. He really blossomed his senior year, hitting .369/.465/.646 with 10 HR, 12 steals, and an almost even 39 BB/43 K in 241 PA. His overall numbers are equally impressive, with a .313/.390/.525 career batting line in 773 PA, hitting 23 HR, stealing 29 bases, walking 90 times and striking out 120. He did struggle in the Cape Cod league last summer, hitting just .221/.283/.375 with 13 BB and 38 K in 36 games. Neuse excelled on the mound, which could be a back-up plan if his bat does not develop as the Nats hope. He threw 29 innings over three college seasons, tallying 7 saves with a 0.95 career WHIP, 2.54 BB/9, 8.31 K/9 and 3.27 K/BB ratio (and in 2014 and 2015 summer leagues, he threw a combined 15 and 2/3 innings, allowing 2 unearned runs and 5 BB with 25 K). Personally, I wish he came up as a catcher, because that arm and bat would look good behind the plate. Simply put, Neuse is your prototypical “baseball player”, with a good all-around batting profile, solid defensive instincts and a fairly high floor as a solid bat.
· Strictly a 3B or corner OF at the pro level, can’t stick at SS
· Mature batting profile, solid contact, power, discipline and even a little speed
· Very good arm, and could pitch if his bat does not develop as hoped
· Best-case comps: Justin Turner, Brett Lawrie, David Freese (athletic 3B who can hit for average and streaky power)