WASHINGTON -- The First-Year Player Draft is like Christmas Day to Nationals scouting director Kris Kline. For a year, Kline and his staff have been working hard scouting amateur players and, starting tonight, they hope to replenish the farm system with prospects.
The Nats have the 18th overall pick. According to Kline, there is a plethora of power pitchers and left-handed power bats available, and Washington could focus a large part of the Draft on pitching. The team can spend $5,275,700 this year.
"I would say some of our needs in the Minor Leagues would be left-handed power bats," Kline said. "I think we are pretty good everywhere. But pitching always wins championships in the end. When you have depth in that area, I think you are built to last. It's been a fun year, as far as running around the country seeing guys."
As for pitching, the Nationals realize they don't have a chance at right-hander Tyler Kolek, but right-hander Erick Fedde, who has already undergone Tommy John surgery, could be available. One baseball source believes Fedde had the best stuff before he went down with his injury.
There are about five impact bats available, and the Nats could be interested in Michael Conforto, Kyle Schwarber, A.J. Reed, Alex Jackson or Casey Gillaspie, although Jackson and Conforto could go earlier in the first round.
The 2014 Draft will take place from Thursday through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Following is a glance at what the Nationals have in store as the Draft approaches.
In about 50 words
The Nationals are looking to add depth to the farm system. As general manager Mike Rizzo has often said, he will take the best player available. The Nats believe they never have enough pitching, so it won't be a surprise if they take a pitcher in the first round.
"We think the Draft class is deep, with a lot of velocity arms," Rizzo said. "I think that's the thing that jumps out at us the most. There are some quality left-handed college power bats, which is atypical of the Draft class. Most important, we like the quality of the players."
The Nationals have the 18th pick, and it's hard to say whom they could select. The past three years, Washington has focused on pitching with its first selection and could do it again this year.
Nationals bonus pool
The Draft pools cover the top 10 rounds, and any bonus money in excess of $100,000 given to players taken in rounds 11-40. If a player selected in the first 10 rounds doesn't sign, his assigned value is subtracted from his team's pool.
A club that exceeds its pool by 0 percent to 5 percent pays a 75 percent tax on the overage. The penalties are much more severe at higher thresholds -- the loss of a first-round pick and a 75 percent tax for surpassing the cap by more than 5 percent and up to 10 percent; the loss of first- and second-rounders and a 100 percent tax for more than 10 percent and up to 15 percent; and the loss of two first-rounders and a 100 percent tax for more than 15 percent.
Rizzo and Kline reiterated that they don't draft players based on need. However, they are loaded with arms. It wouldn't hurt them to select some hitters, especially from the left side of the plate.
The Nationals are known to take a risk on players who are injured. Third baseman Anthony Rendon and Lucas Giolito are two examples of players who were hurt before they were drafted. Rendon had shoulder and ankle problems before he was taken in 2010, and Giolito tore a ligament in his elbow before he was taken two years later.
Today, Rendon is among the team leaders in runs scored, hits and RBIs, and has a chance to participate in his first All-Star Game. Giolito has recovered from Tommy John surgery and is on an innings limit while pitching for Class A Hagerstown. He recorded a 2.51 ERA in seven starts before being shut down recently.
How do the Nats balance the risk/reward when it comes to injured players?
"The upside has to really trump the risk of a player not coming back from an injury," Rizzo said. "We really [consider] elbow injuries a lot more favorable than shoulder injuries. A lot that goes into it is the character of the player, the type of makeup that he has. The rehab process is not an easy one. You have [to have] the right character, right makeup to go through it and to come out the other end better than when you started."
* RECENT DRAFT HISTORY *
All Michael Taylor had to do was hit, and he has done that this season. Entering this week, he had a batting average over .300 with an on-base percentage of over .390 for Double-A Harrisburg. If Taylor keeps being consistent at the plate, he could be the starting center fielder for the Nationals by 2016.
Right-hander Matt Grace, an eighth-round pick in 2010, was hit hard as a starter during his first two years of professional baseball. He became a reliever last year and is currently having the best season of his career. Entering the week, Grace had a 1.20 ERA in 18 games for Harrisburg.
In the Show
There are 12 players on the Major League roster who were drafted by the Nats. Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann are considered the aces of the pitching staff, and Ian Desmond is considered one of the team leaders. Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper are on the disabled list, but they are expected back on the field soon.
The Nationals' recent top picks
2013: Jake Johansen, RHP, Class A Hagerstown
2012: Giolito, RHP, Class A Hagerstown
2011: Rendon, 3B, Nationals
2010: Harper, OF, Nationals
2009: Strasburg, RHP, Nationals
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.