Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nats sign 4 more picks

Three Nats draft picks have signed on the dotted line in the last few days: Connor Rowe, Rick Hughes and Russell Moldenhauer. I figure three is enough for another draft pick update; if you missed the first batch, here are parts one and two, plus an extended look at undrafted FA signing Mike Gallo.

OF Connor Rowe (21st round-University of Texas)

Andy Seiler (6/17/10): "Even though his ceiling is as a fifth outfielder, his range in center field is good, and I like his chances of reaching the Majors with good makeup and a great work ethic"

Seiler (4/30/10): "Rowe does have some pro tools that he must leverage to have a good pro career as a fifth outfielder. At the plate, Rowe doesn't really profile to be a starter at the next level, as he fails to work the count and strikes out too much, and he doesn't have any power projection to speak of. However, he's a plus runner, and that's the style of hitting he takes on, slapping the ball gap to gap. Where Rowe shines is on defense. A true center fielder, he has plus range and an average arm, and he profiles to be able to play anywhere in the outfield with ease. Scouts know what Rowe's strengths and weaknesses are, and while they aren't high on his offensive ability, they see good value in his defensive assets, and he should be a fairly early pick because of it."

John Sickels (3/17/10): "He caught my eye with a good measure of speed and athleticism. Needs to improve his strike zone judgment, but he has some pop in his bat. It will be interesting to see if he can boost his hitting numbers which are unimpressive right now. 10th round target at this point but perhaps the hitting will improve."

Burnt Orange Nation FanShot written by 40AS (6/20/10): "The Nats have scored 1 run in 20 innings this weekend against the White Sox, so Rowe will fit right in."

Rowe is an interesting pick. Like Seiler and Sickels point out, his 2010 stats indicate that he's not much of a hitter (.237/.274/.361) (although his 2009 stats could argue otherwise, at .277/.330/.456). Guys like Rowe remind us that baseball is not just about hitting and pitching. Rowe's fielding ability and speed can get him to the big leagues, even if his bat does not improve much. Even if his ceiling is just as a 5th outfielder, the likelihood of reaching that ceiling is not bad. One other note-Seiler did not expect him to sign, so this is a win for Rizzo and the boys.

DH (?) Russell Moldenhauer (24th round-University of Texas)

Seiler (6/17/10): "Moldenhauer was a third round pick back in 2006 to the Angels, and he didn't sign. That was clearly a horrible decision in hindsight, as he's now finished his senior year without much success, and he doesn't have any tools that say he can be even a bench bat in the Majors. He'll be signing shortly, as Texas' season just ended over the weekend"

Burnt Orange Nation comment written by 40AS (6/15/10): "Moldy gave up 4th round money as a senior in high school to come to Texas. He destroyed his knee his sophomore year and it took a full year to work back up to full strength. He tied the NCAA record for homers in a CWS. He came back and (along with Tant) was one of two hitters to be feared consistently all season. I’m glad the Nationals took him too (24th round), and I can’t think of many more players I’ll be rooting harder for to succeed at the next level."

First of all, I'm already a huge fan of "Moldy" just for his nickname. As 40AS pointed out, his knee surgery slowed him down, which could be one of the reasons he's a fungi without a position. I generally trust Seiler's judgment, but I'm a bit curious as to why he thinks Moldy isn't even a future ML bench bat. He's got great plate discipline (85 BB and 93 K in his college career) and decent power (9 HR in 2010). He was a 3rd rounder in '06, so obviously he had tools that scouts liked then, and it appears his bat didn't disappear. Maybe it's just the fact that he's a DH without a high batting ceiling, but a few years of health and Moldy could work himself back into a fielding role.

OF Rick Hughes (29th round-College of Marin)

Seiler (6/17/10): "Hughes is another big-bodied player, but he has enough athleticism to stick in a corner outfield spot. I had him as a possible late-round pick, so this isn't a bad pick, and he's currently considering committing to a four year school, which should happen fairly soon. "

There's not a whole lot I could find about Hughes, including from his own college's web site. Even when I found stuff on him from high school, it was about pitching a no-hitter rather than anything hitting or fielding-related, which he's being drafted for. All I can find on him from Marin is that he hit .355/.452/.540 with 3 HR in 34 games, with 25 BB and 23 K.

It appears that Hughes played in the same area as other Nats signed draft pick Christian Meza, so one San Francisco Bay-area scout seems to have the ear of Mike Rizzo.

OF Wander Nunez (36th round-Western Oklahoma State)

Seiler (6/17/10): "Nunez was teammates with (Nats' 32nd round pick Randolph) Oduber, and he was also a late-round pick a year ago. He can run and throw, and he's Dominican by heritage, but with a year of eligibility left at Western Oklahoma, I expect him to return to school, where he could blossom into a top fifteen rounds pick next year." (6/10/10): "Frankford coach Juan Namnun said for his 5-11, 174-pound protege, it simply was a matter of time. 'He was a gifted a player as you'd ever see,' Namnun said. 'He's always had a major league arm and a major league bat.'"

Nunez was drafted in the 49th round last year out of Frankford HS in Philadelphia). Sounds like we got a nice surprise with Nunez signing. He's a raw talent, but he could be a steal out of the 36th round.

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story about him on the front page last August, but has hidden it behind the paid archive wall (lame!). Fortunately for me, I waded my way through a few databases that VT subscribes to and found the full-text version (which I have made available for you here).

Some excerpts: "Nuñez, who turned 19 on June 27 (2009, so now he's actually 20), immigrated to the United States when he was 12, settling with his father, Cristino, in Orlando, Fla. Less than a year later, Wander (pronounced JUAN-day) Nuñez moved to Philadelphia to live with his half-brother, Nelson Cagral, who had bought space for his Almonte Mini Market in Feltonville, a neighborhood that is home to many Latinos. The two-story building has the small convenience store - packed with American and Latino goods along narrow aisles - on the first floor and their two-bedroom apartment on the second."

"For more than four years, his life consisted of working behind the counter and stocking shelves at the corner store and training at a dusty baseball field in Hunting Park. Going to school - which he admitted didn't come easy - wasn't in the picture. And those around him allowed him to stay out of the classroom."

"By all accounts, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound outfielder is an impressive hitter, using a wooden bat - not the batter-friendly aluminum ones used by just about everyone else at the amateur level."

"Eric Valent, the (Phillies') Northeast scout and a former big-league outfielder, said Nuñez has the 'tools. He's got power and has been using a wooden bat, which is always good. And he's got good speed.' On days when he doesn't have a game, Nuñez said, he plays baseball from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., then heads to the gym until 5 p.m. 'This is a full-time job, like any other one,' he said. 'And to achieve what you want, you need to put the time in.'"

The one red flag from last year's article is that Nunez would have signed with the Phillies for peanuts, but they didn't even offer him that. Maybe he's improved a bunch over the last year, but for the Phillies to draft him and not even want to throw a contract his way scares me off a little bit. But from all accounts I've read, Nunez has a lot of potential but will have to work pretty hard to reach his ceiling.

RHP Shane Zellers (Undrafted FA-Alvernia University)

Not a whole lot on Zellers, but he went 8-2 with a 2.23 ERA this year for Alvernia University. In 72 and 2/3 innings, he allowed only 11 extra base hits (2 of them HR) with the following rate stats: 6.8 H/9, 3.09 BB/9, 11.27 K/9. Dominating in the Eastern College Athletic Conference and dominating in the Major Leagues are two different things, but you can never have enough pitchers, no matter where you find them.

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