Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2009 Entry Draft--First Day--Final Press Conference

Tuesday evening, while Our Washington Nationals were still playing The Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park, Washington's Director of Scouting, Dana Brown, alongside Bob Boone (Asst. GM/VP Player Development), Deric Ladnier (National Cross Checker) and Chris Kline (Scout/National Cross Checker) met with the media in the temporary briefing room set up in Presidents Club. For approximately 15 minutes--the foursome handled questions on Washington's first four picks in the 2009 Entry Draft.

With that, here we go with that availability--Dana Brown leads off.

“Today, we set out to make an impact into our organization, so we can get on our way to building a championship club. We feel very fortunate that we were able to get three college pitchers all of whom pretty much throw over 90 (MPH). Of course the first two in (Stephen) Strasburg and (Drew) Storen have power arms—mid 90’s and above. And we were very fortunate to get a college position player, 2nd baseman, middle of the diamond, above average type Major League Player that's very athletic (Jeffrey Kobernus). We set out on this journey during the beginning of this year, a lot of flying, a lot of flights and we were very fortunate (with what we got today).”

“I do want to let you guys talk to Deric Ladnier (National Cross Checker), Bob Boone (Asst. GM/VP Player Development, and Chris Kline (Scout/National Cross Checker) also. Then we will take some questions. But we can take some questions now if you want?”

Question: How does Chad Cordero compare to Drew Storen?

“I like Storen better than Cordero. I know we were very fortunate to get Cordero. He pitched in an All-Star Game. But Storen has more power to his stuff. And he has a better breaking ball. A more powerful fastball.”

Question: Was there a plan around picking all college guys?

“What we did was line up our board according to the best players available. And those guys were the best players available when we picked. That’s pretty much how we did it, regardless of whether it was high school or college. We are going to take the best player available to make the greatest impact in the organization.”

Question: Can you give us some details about the 2nd baseman picked (Jeffrey Kobernus)?

“Sure, I will make a quick statement before I turn it over to Deric and also Chris who really liked the player early on this year before I saw him. First of all, he is a 20-Year Old Junior—so he is a little younger for his age than the average junior. He’s an above average athlete and he plays the middle of the diamond and he’s going to hit for some power down the road. But right now, he is more of a gap hitter, and he is a baseball player—very good instincts for the game. And he has a chance to hit at the top of the lineup.”

Deric Ladnier: “I think it was a great day for the organization. I think we were able to address a lot of different needs we have. Obviously, the first pick was well documented. The second pick, Storen, we all saw him. And just as Dana explained, he’s a young man with a plus fastball and as good of a curveball as I have seen. It’s an out pitch now. Also, has a slider, we’ve even seen a change up. The night we were there (scouting), he didn’t throw it. But Chris had the chance to see it—very competitive, he’s athletic—that type of mentality. I really think he is a great pick for this organization.”

“Kobernus, like Dana said, athletic second baseman—who can really run. He’s big and physical, very good hands, plus range—a baseball player type. Now you hear guy's got tools, guy's got skills—he’s got both. He’s a great kid, competitive, and I think he is just an outstanding selection for this organization.”

And (Tyler) Holder—to a man—everybody felt like this guy was going to be a quality starter. We’ve seen him up to 94MPH, slider, change up; he’s around the zone and once again—big strong durable with great makeup. Again, I think it’s an outstanding day for the organization.”

Question: Do you feel Kobernus was the best available with your 50th pick?

Ladnier: “We took him where we felt like he needed to go. Like Dana said, we were taking the best guys on the board. You really don’t know the draft and how it will unfold. Guys you expect to get lower—maybe those guys are gone. It’s the nature of the draft. You take the player that is best for the organization and that’s what we were able to do.”

Question: Does that mean you are taking players without thought to positions?

“Sometimes you are going to take the best player regardless of position or need. You are not going to be drafting for the need. When a draft unfolds and you are able to address the needs you have—that’s always a plus for the organization. And these are guys that will develop quickly—which is another plus for the organization.”

Question: Can you project when these guys might be with the big club?

“I don’t know--every player has a different timetable. They have got to go out and play. Bob (Boone) might want to comment a little more on that. But in my experience, when you start putting timetables on guys—I think it’s unnecessary pressure that you put on the player. They develop in different ways. We can look into the crystal ball and say he (Kobernus) should, but he’s got to go out there and play. And I think once he gets out, starts playing—I don’t see anything that is going to hinder him from developing at a fast pace. But once he gets out, Bob and his staff will be able to watch him play and see where he needs to go. They will put him where they feel like he will be challenged and also where he can have some success.”

Question: And you project him as a second baseman?

Ladnier: “Yes, absolutely.”

Question: And you feel he will fill out?

Ladnier: “Super athletic and he’s a plus runner now.”

Bob Boone: “Just to piggyback on Kobernus. We all guess in our heads and try to tell you guys what we think he is going to do. But he is a pretty polished kid playing in a real good conference (Pac-10) at California (Berkeley). And we think he is pretty advanced. With all these guys, we will probably start him a little lower than where he may end up this year—just to get his feet wet. But he does do everything, very athletic, very instinctive, knows the game, very aggressive kid, likes to run, and likes to steal. The one day I happened to be there he hit two home runs and had five RBI. He’s got a real solid mechanical swing. There are not many flaws. You are not going to do too much (with coaching). Really, with all four of these guys, you are pretty much going to let them play. We are not making any adjustments unless they need it down the road because these guys are all very polished. Storen is very exciting because he throws it (the baseball) into what I call “The Cylinder”. He pounds the strike zone. And really, all three of the pitchers really throw strikes. Of course, we have been beating that drum here in the Big Leagues a lot and we certainly beat that drum in the Minor Leagues.”

“We are very excited. I would say one of the things, now it’s not unique, why we are so excited—is that of these four guys—a lot of wrangling goes on when you are trying to line up 250 kids. And people will have different opinions. I think we are all of the mind—when you line up 100 guys on the board and you kind of think: ‘here is the 1st round. Here’s the sandwich, here’s the second, 3rd and 4th.’ We all kind of pick out our favorites. ‘Boy, I would like to get that guy right there in the second. I hope he’s there.’ We were not sure Kobernus would be there in the 2nd. We were pretty sure of Storen being there. Not sure where Holder would be there when all the clubs that had multiple picks did what they could do.”

“So, we were pretty excited and for me—those are the type of guys I had my eye on. Everybody up here had their eyes on them as well—just by the way we talked in the (draft) room. So that when that time is coming and you are getting close—you pick out that guy (and hope) they don’t take him because that is the guy we want. I think we all felt in all rounds, we got the guy we kind of thought would be there and we were all hoping would be there. So we are pretty excited about that.”

Question: Whom does Kobernus remind you of in The Majors?

Bob Boone: “These guys are going to say someone, but I am not going to say it. (Laughing). I don’t want to label. I will let Chris tell you. He’s got a good label for him. And I think a real solid label for him. He’s just a player. We got an aggressive, competitive guy that has a lot of tools. He’s very athletic, as we’ve said. We added some speed to the organization there.”

Chris Kline: “I am going to re-iterate a few things that they have already touched on. This is a kid that is 6’2” 195 lbs (Kobernus). He’s a big man, right hand hitter. He runs very well, very athletic as they said. This kid started out as a third baseman last year. And he’s moved over to second, where he’s made a very good transition to the position. This isn’t a guy you couldn’t say could possibly play shortstop, maybe he can do that at the lower levels—and play himself off. You asked about who he compares to—maybe like a Casey Blake type guy—very versatile. He’s got a great clock in his head, always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Again. All these guys we took, we all agreed that these are all tremendous kids with tremendous makeup. This first day (of the draft) was exceptional—as far as the kids we took.”

1 comment:

SenatorNat said...

Nats were clearly trying to draft: 1. an ace; 2. longtime closer; and 3. longtime lead-off hitter and middle of the infield type, a la Orlando Hudson.

They, protestations to the contrary, were in actuality drafting for need and drafting guys ready to make the jump potentially as quickly as Zimmerman and Cordero in the latter two, and two years max for Strasburg to be installed as the instant ace of the staff.

They must be counting on Justin Maxwell to develop and be the fixture in centerfield and not lead-off as part of the revamped Kasten-Rizzo-Boone "Plan." (Perhaps even holding outside some outside hope for Lastings Milledge to suddenly mature, but more likely hoping to unload him as part of a deal.)

Here must be something resembling the Plan at the moment for Nationals 2011:

1. Kobernus (Hernandez) 2B
2. Gonzalez (Guzman) SS
3. Marrero (Johnson) 1B
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. Dukes RF
6. Williamham (Burgess) LF
7. Maxwell (Bernadino) CF
8. Flores C

Pitchers: Strasburg

Bullpen: Storen Closer
Hanrahan Set-Up
Bergmann Middle
Stammen L
Martis L
This blackboard would look awfully good to the Lerners since it would be a relatively low payroll based on age and experience.

Thus, the $22.5 million likely signing bonus for Stausburg could be considered a one-time extravagence balanced out by relative frugality on payroll for foreseeable future. Unloading $18.5 million for 2010 payroll (Kearns; Young; Belliard; Cabrera) can nearly pay for the bonus, plus saving on Crowe from 2008 pays for Storen and Kobernus probably.

I would trust that Stan-Mike-Bob would hope to get some real value for Dunn rather than letting him go full two years, hit his homers, make his errors, and then move on in free agency after 2010. He is such a liability in the field that he cannot be part of the 2011 Plan. Still think that a deal with the Red Sox this season makes the most sense. They could really use him as DH for years to come. Nats could perhaps get Clay Buckholtz or someone of his ilk in return if they move him soon.

Re-signing a healthy Nick Johnson would be a prudent move, since it gives the team a constant at first-base and in the line-up until Marrero can take over there. Doubtful the team will want to re-up Guz when his contract runs out, since he cannot go to his left now, and that should only get worse with age. Would be good value on the bench though.

This plan, if it is close to reality, still lacks the A-Rod, Albert Pujois, Ken Griffy, Jr. budding superstar, obviously, which can take a team to the next level. It is, of course, the Atlanta scheme, which had Chipper and Andru, but no one (besides Chipper) of Hall of Fame stature. It is a projected everyday line-up which lacks some power and star power. Like prior Nats plans, it relies too heavily on everyone playing healthy and up to full measure of their potential simultaneously - i.e., still driven too much by that frugal invisible hand.

Trust in a Plan that can be adjusted to be a winner. All over again.