Nats place premium on pitching in Draft
Washington takes Kansas State righty Morris in fourth round
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals began the 2009 First-Year Player Draft by selecting super-prospect Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday, then kicked off Wednesday's Day 2 by choosing another 2009 Golden Spikes Award finalist -- Kansas State University junior right-hander Anthony "A.J." Morris.
Morris was 14-1 with a 2.09 ERA as a junior, striking out 100 hitters on his way to becoming the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and the first Wildcat to be a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
"He can throw 140 pitches in a start, and he's also a kid who can throw four, five days a week," Kansas State head coach Brad Hill said of Morris. "He could be effective either way."
When Hill said that Morris can throw 140 pitches, he isn't exaggerating.
Against then-No. 2 Texas, Morris picked up his 10th win in a 144-pitch complete game, during which he surrendered one earned run. He set the Kansas State team record for wins in that game.
As a sophomore, Morris wasn't nearly as effective, accumulating a 5-5 record and 6.04 ERA.
"We lost three weekend starters from a year a go, and we were searching for someone to set the tone for us," Hill said.
With his 90-92-mph darting fastball and plus-slider, Morris stepped up and did just that, carrying Kansas State all the way to the second round of the NCAA regionals, where it lost in three games to Rice.
In the 11th round, the Nationals also selected Morris' college teammate, Justin Bloxom, who led the Wildcats in all three Triple Crown offensive categories (.361 average, 12 home runs and 63 RBIs).
Bloxom -- a switch-hitter who has played catcher, the corner infield spots and some outfield -- is what Hill thinks could be a "great utility guy" in the pros.
But the Draft has been all about pitching thus far for the Nats. In the first 30 rounds, they have selected 20 pitchers (14 righties, six lefties).
Acting general manager Mike Rizzo has relentlessly billed his strategy as taking "the best available player," but the Nationals' current pitching struggles -- especially in the bullpen -- certainly validates the frequent pitcher picks.
Along with pitching, the Nationals have targeted shortstops, taking six so far. Shortstop also happens to be a position of need. Current starter Cristian Guzman is 31 years old and the team has no elite shortstop prospects in the Minors.
Round 4, Anthony Morris, RHP, Kansas State University
As a junior this season, Morris was the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, posting a conference-best 14 wins and a 2.09 ERA. The 6-foot-2 right-hander was a workhorse, completing four games and throwing 141 pitches in a win against Texas on April 24.
Round 5, Miguel Pena, LHP, La Joya H.S. (Texas)
Pena was just about unhittable in high school, holding opponents to a .114 batting average while sporting a miniscule 0.12 ERA in 56 innings this year. He also played center field and hit .347.
Round 6, Michael Taylor, SS, Westminster Academy (Florida)
The 6-foot-2 shortstop is committed to North Florida.
Round 7, Andrew Weaver, RHP, University of Georgia
Weaver began his collegiate career as a starter, but he moved into a relief role his sophomore year. As Georgia's closer this season, Weaver saved 10 games and had a 4-2 record. He finished the season with a 3.60 ERA in 40 innings.
Nationals -- Top five selections
|1||RHP||Stephen Strasburg||San Diego St U|
|10||RHP||Drew Storen||Stanford U|
|50||2B||Jeffrey Kobernus||UC Berkeley|
|81||RHP||Trevor Holder||U Georgia|
|112||RHP||Anthony Morris||Kansas St U|
|Complete Nationals Draft results >|
Round 8, Roberto Perez, SS, Dorado Academy (Puerto Rico)
Perez is the nephew of former Major League infielder Dickie Thon. Perez pitched a bit in high school and has a very strong throwing arm. He signed with Oklahoma State.
Round 9, Taylor Jordan, RHP, Brevard CC (Florida)
The 6-foot-3 right-hander is from Merritt Island, Fla.
Round 10, Paul Applebee, LHP, UC Riverside
Applebee is a contact pitcher who uses his offspeed pitches to keep balls in the park. This spring, he was 10-2 with a 3.74 ERA.
Round 11, Justin Bloxom, LF, Kansas State University
A powerful switch-hitter who came to Kansas State as a catcher, he moved to first base. He led the Wildcats with a .361 batting average, 12 home runs, 63 RBIs and a .607 slugging percentage.
Round 12, Nathan Karns, RHP, Texas Tech
He cut his 8.46 ERA in his sophomore year to 5.47 in his junior season. He was 4-5 last year as a starter. His best year in college came as a freshman at N.C. State, where he was 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA for a team that earned an at-large bid to the NCAA regionals.
Round 13, Patrick Lehman, RHP, George Washington University
As the Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year, he lead the conference in ERA (2.40), strikeouts (89) and innings pitched (105). He threw six complete games and finished with a 7-4 record.
Round 14, Naoya Washiya, RF, College of the Desert (California)
Washiya was drafted last year by the Nationals in the 42nd round.
Round 15, Corey Davis, 1B, Coffee H.S. (Georgia)
Round 16, Sean Nicol, SS, University of San Diego
Hit .359 with eight home runs this year as a junior. His 126 total bases and 19 stolen bases led the team. Nicol played his freshman season at Portland before transferring.
Round 17, Chad Jenkins, LHP, Cecil CC (Delaware)
The Nationals selected Jenkins, a 6-foot-4 southpaw, in the 44th round of the 2006 Draft.
Round 18, Marcus Stroman, SS, Patchogue Medford (New York)
He is a diminutive switch-hitter who is quick on the basepaths. He's also a hard-throwing pitcher who is signed with Duke.
Round 19, Frank Corolla, RHP, University of Houston
He played two years at Angelina Junior College before transferring to Houston, where he posted a 6.05 ERA in 18 appearances. He started six games as a junior.
Round 20, Jake Walker, 3B, Concordia University
Round 21, Mitchell Clegg, LHP, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
A big lefty, he was 7-1 with a 4.15 ERA as a senior and struck out 81 batters in 91 innings.
Round 22, Daniel Rosenbaum, LHP, Xavier
He attended Indiana before transferring to Xavier, where he was 5-5 with a 5.28 ERA. He also started 15 games and relieved in one.
Round 23, Kyle Breault, SS, Northville H.S. (Michigan)
Round 24, Dustin Crane, RHP, Snead State CC (Florida)
Round 25, Matt Ridings, RHP, Western Kentucky University
Ridings was 8-2 with a 4.84 ERA this spring. He threw 102 1/3 innings, giving up 107 hits.
Round 26, Gianison Boekhoudt, SS, Carroll H.S. (Texas)
Round 27, Brandon King, RHP, Martinsburg H.S. (West Virginia)
Round 28, Matt Swynenberg, RHP, Black Hawk College (Iowa)
Round 29, Evan Bronson, LHP, Trinity University
Round 30, Rob Wort, RHP, Jefferson College
As a sophomore, Wort had 31 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings. He finished the season with a 5.81 ERA.
Mark Selig is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.