Suckitude has its privileges. A top draft seeding is the only silver lining to a woefully under-performing season. The darkest years in Nats history from 2008-2010 yielded three top of the draft prizes in Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and Anthony Rendon. The resulting winning years can drill back to those drafts. The World Series win can easily be traced to that bounty of the 2009 and 2011 drafts.
If the season ended today, the Washington Nationals would have the fifth worst winning percentage in baseball. Baseball America believes like most that Kumar Rocker out of Vanderbilt will be the first pick in the 2021 draft. In that same mock draft, the fifth pick would be Matt McLain, a shortstop from UCLA who previously chose college and turned down millions when he was drafted out of high school as a first round pick in 2018 by the Diamondbacks.
A lot can change in the draft order, and maybe Bo Porter is right that the Nationals can go on a 20-8 run to finish the season. If they do, the documentary Improbable II can be scripted, and the Nats will be in a similar drafting position as last year.
Those 2009 to 2011 drafts were no-brainers for the first picks. You control your own destiny with one-of-one picks like with Strasburg and Harper. You are picking “best available” when you are drafting after the first pick. Fortunately the Mariners drafted Danny Hultzen, and the Orioles drafted Dylan Bundy, and the Royals chose Bubba Starling to allow the Nationals to draft Rendon. It was like a scene from the movie “Draft Day” when the G.M. of the Seahawks is fictionally imploring a competing GM ( Jeff Carson) picking before him to “screw this up” in a way that you have to believe happens in war rooms all over during drafts.
Nats fans should not fret. We might look back on this season as a new beginning. Without Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, and Starlin Castro, that is a lot of missing All-Stars to try to make a serious run at a successful postseason, and in a few years if this 2021 draft pick is a success, we will point to the 2020 failures as a contributing factor.
As magical as 2019 was with the World Series win, this is the polar opposite with this comical season. We have likened it to Three Stooges slapstick, and the Keystone Cops. At times it has looked like a bad Vaudeville Act with comedic actors running around in circles. It started with Emilio Bonifacio crashing into Victor Robles at the start of the season and jarring Robles glove over the fence for a home run.
We have seen dropped baseballs, bad routes, and balls lost in the sun, twilight, and the stadium lights. And we have seen some starting pitching performances that have hearkened back to those dark days of 2008 when Odalis Perez, Jason Bergmann, and Collin Balester were the three back-end starters for the Nats.
Yes, that ultimate suckitude produced Stephen Strasburg. The stars had to line up perfectly for that 2009 draft, and it did for the Nationals. Statistically speaking, Anibal Sanchez, Austin Voth, and Erick Fedde are worse as a trio than Perez, Bergmann, and Balestar. That 2018 team lost 102 games with a .366 winning percentage. Guess what, the 2020 Nats have a .375 winning percentage.