The Nationals are in a spot that makes it difficult to figure on which way they'll go in the draft come Thursday. The organization has a lot of holes to fill, so they don't have to draft by position, although it always makes sense to grab some young pitching when you've got the chance. There is no definite ranking at the top of the draft, meaning that the first three to five picks could be somewhat fluid and someone could be getting a surprise opportunity somewhere between the sixth and tenth picks of the first round.
The potential to fall
Every year, there is at least one player who falls down the draft boards and this year doesn't figure to be much different. Here are a couple of names to watch early on to see if they will fall down toward that ninth pick.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, American Heritage HS (Florida)
Any time you have a high school player represented by Scott Boras, some teams are likely to pass on him. With no true big money teams ahead of the Nationals, Hosmer could fall to ninth. So, would the Nationals bite on him? Not likely. They could also be one of the teams to say 'thanks, but no thanks' and move on to another pick.
Even with pitching at a premium, it would be hard to pass on Smoak if he falls to nine. He's a switch-hitting first baseman with the ability to hit for both power and average and has a simple, sweet swing. The Giants and Orioles both draft ahead of the Nationals and both have shown plenty of interest in him, so they would be the teams to watch if you like this kid; and there's a lot to like.
Kyle Skipworth, C, Patriot HS (California)
The Marlins seem enamored with this kid, so it's not likely that he makes it past them at number six, but the upper portion of the round is fluid and anything could happen. He's got good power and improving defensive skills, but is going to need some work on both parts of his game before he can really start to move through the system.
The money picks
These are the guys that the smart money is leaning to for the Washington Nationals to take when they draft with the ninth overall pick. While the Nationals seem to be patient with young players, keep in mind that they seem to have a way of finding players who can move through the ranks pretty quickly to hit the majors. This season might not be any different.
Aaron Crow, RHP, University of Missourri
He fits the mold for the Nationals near perfectly. He's a quality pitcher who figures to move pretty quickly, but his perfection for the Nats ends at the probable price tag. With a 96 mile per hour fastball and a change-up that's coming along very well, some believe that Crow has the best arm in the draft, while others just put him near the top of the rankings. If he's there, the Nationals should bite the bullet, give the kid the money that he's going to want and sign him up.
Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky
If you want a left-hander, it's either Friedrich or Brian Matusz and Matusz doesn't figure to fall to nine (grab him if he does). You have to love college left-handers and Friedrich is right there with Matusz for the ranking as the best lefty in the draft. None of his pitches are dominating, but he throws a fastball, cutter, curve and change-up that are all good, especially the curve. It figures that he'll develop a little more velocity and push his fastball close to the mid-90s range. He's got solid poise on the mound and would be a nice addition to the system. It's worth mentioning that some scenarios have Matusz falling to nine, but it's very unlikely that will happen.
Aaron Hicks, OF/RHP, Woodrow Wilson HS (California)
Scouts are decided on whether Hicks would be a better outfielder or pitcher and most believe outfielder. Even with that said, he could become an above average pitcher and doesn't have too many miles on his arm, making him a very attractive fit for a lot of clubs who look to mold young pitchers to their image. The Nationals are one of the teams that have looked at him and rumor is that they like his potential as a pitcher, but it's going to take a while for him to move through the system and as we pointed out, that's not something that the Nationals have done in recent years.