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Draft Preview: Nats eye No. 1 overall selection

Draft Preview: Nats eye No. 1 overall selection

WASHINGTON -- Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo recently called the First-Year Player Draft his "Super Bowl."

An excellent talent evaluator, Rizzo's history in the Draft is exemplary. As the scouting director for the D-backs, Rizzo selected players such as right-hander Brandon Webb, outfielder Justin Upton and infielder Stephen Drew. Those players helped Arizona go to the postseason in 2007.

As a member of the Nationals -- first as vice president of baseball operations and now GM -- Rizzo made his mark in the organization by drafting pitchers such as Jordan Zimmermann, Drew Storen, Stephen Strasburg and Ross Detwiler. Three of them -- Zimmermann, Storen and Detwiler -- have big league experience, while Strasburg expects to make his Major League debut on Tuesday against the Pirates.

On Monday, the Nationals have the No. 1 overall pick for the second year in a row. Rizzo reiterated he already knows who the player will be, but declined to say who it is. However, he did tell MASN's Debbi Taylor that the Nationals will most likely take catcher-outfielder Bryce Harper. MLB.com confirmed that same sentiment, but was cautioned that the club could change its mind.

This year's Draft will be different for Rizzo. He hasn't been able to see as many amateur players as he would have liked because most of his focus has been on the Major League team, but Rizzo is not worried, for new scouting director Kris Kline and assistant general manager Roy Clark have scouted all the players.

"I have two of the best -- if not the best -- talent evaluators in the business," Rizzo said. "Roy Clark's track record speaks for itself with all those years with the Atlanta Braves. Kris Kline was my right-hand man in Arizona all those years."

Draft Central

MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft from June 7-9 on MLB.com/Live. The first round and Compensation Round A will be broadcast live on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday, June 7, beginning with the Draft preview show at 6 p.m. ET.

MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo will join Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds, John Hart, Peter Gammons and Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis on Monday's broadcast.

Coverage for rounds 2-50 will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live. Rounds 2-30 will be streamed on Tuesday, beginning at noon, and rounds 31-50 will be streamed on Wednesday, starting at noon. Host Pete McCarthy will be joined by Mayo and former general manager Jim Duquette.

Here's a glance at what the Nationals have in store as the Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
Rizzo and his staff met early this week at Nationals Park to rank the best players in the Draft. Rizzo has kept the plans a secret. Last year, it was known before the Draft that the Nationals would select Strasburg as the No. 1 overall pick.

The scoop
"Whenever you have the first overall pick, it's a unique opportunity to really get an impact player. It's extremely important, a vital Draft for us. Hopefully we'll never pick first in the Draft again. That's always our hope, but since we have it, we have to take full advantage of it. Not only do we pick one/one, we pick first in every round after that. It's just as important." -- Rizzo

First-round buzz
The feeling is that catcher/outfielder Bryce Harper will be the first overall pick. Can Harper be an impact player for Washington? Unlike Strasburg, it will take a few years before the team finds out. Harper hit .442 with 29 home runs and 89 RBIs for the College of Southern Nevada.

Shopping list
Rizzo will always say the Nationals will select the best player available, but a baseball source said recently the Nationals need more power pitchers like Strasburg. It would also appear that the Nationals need position players. Since 2005, only Ryan Zimmerman has made an impact on the Major League level. The jury is still out on shortstop Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina, who are currently in the big leagues. The Nationals don't have any position players coming to the big leagues soon.

Nationals Recent Top Picks
Year Player Current team
2009 Stephen Strasburg Nationals
2009 Drew Storen Nationals
2008 Aaron Crow Royals organization
2006 Chris Marerro Double-A Harrisburg
2006 Colton Willems Retired
2005 Ryan Zimmerman Nationals

Trend watch
When Dana Brown was the scouting director, the Nationals drafted mostly pitchers. Look for that trend to continue under Kline and Clark.

Recent Draft History

Rising fast
Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, was dominant in the Minors, going a combined 8-2 with a 1.30 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse. He'll make his much-anticipated Major League debut on Tuesday.

C Derek Norris, Goddard [KS] HS: Even though he has been hampered by injuries this season, the organization considers him the best hitting prospect in the system. Norris-- who plays for Potomac -- is big league ready with the bat, but needs work behind the plate -- blocking balls and calling games.

OF Michael Burgess, Hillsborough [Fla.] High School: He is having his best year in professional baseball, hitting .287 with five home runs and 40 RBIs for Class A Potomac. During the month of May, Burgess drove in 31 runs, third most in Minor League Baseball during the month. Burgess, a two-time Minor League All-Star (2008, '09), was drafted by Washington in the sandwich round (49th overall) of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

Cinderella story
Drafted in the 19th round of the 2007 Draft, Jeff Mandel is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA (5 ER/23.1 IP) in four starts with Syracuse. He began the season in Harrisburg, where he posted a 3.83 ERA in seven outings. Mandel, 25, was a 2009 Carolina League All-Star last season with Potomac.

In The Show
The 2005 class featured Zimmerman, John Lannan, Craig Stammen and Justin Maxwell. Zimmerman is considered one of the best third basemen in baseball, while Lannan is considered a mainstay in the rotation. Maxwell continues to have problems staying in the big leagues because of problems with the bat. Stammen is struggling to stay in the rotation. He has a 5.88 ERA in 11 starts and could be back in the Minor Leagues once Strasburg is in the big leagues.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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