SAN DIEGO -- General manager Jim Bowden is not with the Nationals during their current six-game West Coast road trip because he is preparing for the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6.
Bowden is going on scouting trips to look at some of the players who could be drafted by the team. The Nationals have the ninth pick in the first round.
"This Draft is interesting only because -- besides the first two players [likely to be selected] -- there's a group of eight after that that are extremely talented," Bowden said. "We're going to get one, and unfortunately, the eight teams in front of us are going to help make the decision for us. But at the end of the day, we're still going to have to make a tough choice."
Bowden said it's one thing to draft the best player in the first round, but the real work comes in the later rounds. In the past, the Nationals have been able to find talented players in the later rounds, such as left-hander John Lannan (11th round), outfielder Justin Maxwell (fourth) and Jordan Zimmerman (second). All three players are considered part of the team's future.
"We [draft the best] player. That's what we've done since I've gotten here, and it's all we're going to do," Bowden said. "High school, college, junior college -- it doesn't matter. Now, injury plays a factor. Sign-ability plays a factor. We're blessed that we're an organization where, if it gets late and there's an unsigned [guy who should have been a late] first-round pick, we have support from our ownership and our president to take that player and sign him. We're not afraid to do that. They are committed to building the organization the right way. It takes patience -- and we're all seeing it at this level -- but it takes backing."
For the first time since the team moved to Washington, the Nationals' Minor League affiliates (Class A Vermont and the Gulf Coast Nationals have not started their seasons yet) have records over .500, but Bowden is not celebrating this fact.
"Winning and losing in the Minor Leagues doesn't matter," he said. "It's the prospects. What is exciting is when I get a call from a GM [last] week, [and] he likes eight players on our [Double-A] Harrisburg club and then raves about our [Class A] Hagerstown club. ... That's value. Even before they get [to the big leagues], that's trade value. It's pieces we have as leverage to go help our big league club win. We're not just going to develop them for us; we're going to trade some of them to get what we need to make this [club] better."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.