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Rizzo explains Nats draft strategy for tonight

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Rizzo explains Nats draft strategy for tonight

Mike Rizzo has been a part of five amateur drafts with the Nationals -- two as assistant general manager, three as GM -- and each time he sat down in the club's war room on draft day, he had a pretty good idea whose name ultimately would be called.

Such is life when you're always among the first 10 selections in baseball's annual draft.

Tonight, when Rizzo and his team of scouts and front-office executives gather in that same war room at Nationals Park, there will be only one consensus among this group of hardened baseball men: They'll have no idea what player they're going to wind up taking with the No. 16 pick.

"It's a lot less clear the type of player we're going to get," Rizzo said. "Picking in the middle of the pack, you put together a list, and the next guy on the top of the list is the guy you're going to take. It's hard to plan."

The Nationals will happily deal with this dilemma, because it means the franchise is finally making progress at the big-league level. After going 80-81 last season, they finished in the top half of the sport for the first time since relocating from Montreal. Thus, their first draft pick has never before come so late in the first round.

So don't expect any Stephen Strasburgs or Bryce Harpers to be available around 8:30 p.m. tonight when the Nationals are finally on the clock. They might not even find any Ryan Zimmermans, Drew Storens or Ross Detwilers.
HISTORY OF NATS 1ST ROUND PICKS
2005: Ryan Zimmerman (4)
2006: Chris Marrero (15), Colton Willems (22)
2007: Ross Detwiler (6), Josh Smoker (31), Michael Burgess (49)
2008: Aaron Crow (9)
2009: Stephen Strasburg (1), Drew Storen (10)
2010: Bryce Harper (1)
2011: Anthony Rendon (6), Alex Meyer (23), Brian Goodwin (34)
-Did not sign
What the Nationals will find is at least one player rated by their scouts as one of the 16 best in the country this summer. And no matter what available player is left at the top of their board when the time comes, they'll draft him. No exceptions.

"We're going to take it as we always have," Rizzo said. "We're going to put the board together ability-based, and we'll do our due diligence on the health, makeup and signability of all the players. We're going to pull the trigger and take the best player available."

The process for creating that draft board may not have changed at all, but the process of signing those players has changed dramatically in the last year. After watching draft signing bonuses skyrocket over the last decade -- with the Nationals among the biggest culprits -- owners and players instituted significant changes in the new collective bargaining agreement that was signed over the winter.

Teams are no longer free to spend as much as they want on draft picks, not without incurring some stiff penalties. MLB has set a cap on what all 30 clubs may spend on the first 10 rounds. The Nationals' limit: 4.4 million, significantly less than they paid to any of their last three first-round picks (Anthony Rendon got 6 million last year, Harper got 6.25 million in 2010, Strasburg for 7.5 million in 2009).

If a team exceeds its cap, it faces penalties including taxes up to 100 percent and the loss of future draft picks.

Teams also are no longer allowed to offer major-league contracts to draft picks, as the Nationals did with all three of those aforementioned picks (plus left-hander Matt Purke).

As a result of all these changes, the Nationals no longer have the ability to entice high school prospects to forgo their college commitments and instead accept above-slot signing bonuses to turn pro.

"That all goes under the heading of doing your due diligence, of knowing who you can get and who you can sign," Rizzo said. "The constrictions that we have, the amount of money we can spend, will certainly change the way we run business from the past. But, again, it comes down to getting the right player in each of the right spots."

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Nats prospect update: Three minor-leaguers sent to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera

Nats prospect update: Three minor-leaguers sent to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera

The biggest story in Nationals prospects this week is the three Washington lost to the Royals in return for closer Kelvin Herrera. Here’s a look at what the Nationals gave up to add more depth to the bullpen.

Kelvin Gutierrez, AA 3B

The infielder, formerly on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, has posted a .285/.344/.388 line through his six-season minor league tenure. One of his greatest strengths is his speed, with 55 career stolen bases and 14 extra-base hits this season. His other notable tool is his powerful arm strength, which may help explain his transition from shortstop to the hot corner.

Blake Perkins, High A OF

The Nationals chose outfielder Blake Perkins in the second round of the 2015 draft. He has quite a bit of room to improve at the plate, batting .234/.344/.290 this season in Hagerstown. However, what he lacks offensively, he makes up for in the outfield. According to Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser, Perkins has “plus speed, mature instincts, excellent routes and an above-average arm.”

Yohanse Morel, RHP

The biggest wild card of the group, Morel is a 17-year-old outfielder-turned-pitcher from the Dominican Republic. His fastball reaches 95 mph and he certainly has huge potential for growth. He has not yet pitched in the U.S. since making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in early June.

So, what did the Nationals gain?

Right-handed closer Kelvin Herrera is a two-time All-Star who is currently in the midst of a stellar season. In his Nats debut, he needed just six pitches to shut down the Orioles in the eight. The team is reportedly (and understandably) thrilled to have Herrera joining the roster. Adam Eaton said, "I'm so happy he's here and he's on my team and I don't have to face him anytime in the near future."

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Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The rain was heavy and relentless. As the puddles grew deeper on the tarp at Nationals Park, the Baltimore Orioles were left to wonder if their bid for a rare road victory would be thwarted by, of all things, the weather.

During a season in which very little has worked in their favor, the Orioles withstood a long rain delay to beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 Wednesday night.

Baltimore led 2-0 after four innings when play was stopped. After a wait of 2 hours, 43 minutes, the game resumed with a few hundred fans from the announced crowd of 32,153 sprinkled around the lower seating bowl.

Mark Trumbo homered for Baltimore, and Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hitter in a game that ended long after midnight.

"It was nice," Trumbo said. "I'm glad that we actually kept the game going. Had we not been able to, it might have been a wash. But it ended up being pretty big for us."

Baltimore ended a six-game losing streak to Washington that began last May, won for only the fourth time in 20 games and improved the majors' worst road record to 10-28.

This one was worth the wait.

"It's never easy, especially when you get over the hour mark, two-hour mark," Trumbo said. "Then you have to restart. It's almost two games in one, so, great job by our guys tonight."

The Nationals managed only two hits following the delay, both in the ninth inning.

"It happens. You can't do anything about the rain," manager Dave Martinez said. "You've got to come out and get yourself ready to play. I'm not going to make any excuses."

The rain delay cut short a solid pitching performance by Cashner, who allowed three hits and no walks over four innings in his return from an 11-day stay on the disabled list with back spasms.

Miguel Castro (2-2) followed with two hitless innings, Darren O'Day pitched a perfect seventh and Zach Britton got four outs.

Brad Brach allowed the Nationals to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Mark Reynolds .

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Gio Gonzalez (6-4), and for a while it appeared the drive would be washed out by the rain.

"One pitch. That was the whole game," Gonzalez lamented. "That was it."

Indeed, it all ended well for the Orioles, who added a run in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled off Shawn Kelley and scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia .

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