Pride of Wentzville is music to team’s ears

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“He always had a very good arm,” Guttin said. “But his command of pitches improved dramatically, as well as his consistency with his change-up and curve ball.

“He is a very level-headed young man. Off the field, he is very calm and relaxed. On the field, he is very competitive, but not overly emotional. He was very well respected by his teammates and people at school.”

And he has rock and roll in his soul.

Don’t dismiss Missouri State as some little two-bit program, either. Brett Sinkbeil, a pitcher on last year’s team, was drafted in the first round by the Florida Marlins. And a few years ago, when it was called Southwest Missouri State, they had a pretty good young hitter named Ryan Howard.

It appears the Nationals did well yesterday, on paper anyway. They grabbed a high school pitcher, Josh Smoker, with the 31st pick, and he was high on everyone’s board. And they feel they got a steal with outfielder Michael Burgess as the 49th pick. Burgess comes out of Hillsborough High School (the alma mater of Gary Sheffield, Dwight Gooden and Elijah Dukes — not exactly Character High) with tremendous power. He had slumped in his senior year, but the Nationals saw enough of him and spent enough time with him that they were elated when he was still available at No. 49. They had considered taking him with the 31st pick.

“It felt like a bonus,” said Dana Brown, director of scouting.

Added assistant general manager Mike Rizzo: “This guy has a high upside. He has tremendous power.”

Their pick at No. 67, a right-handed pitcher from Wisconsin-Stevens Point named Jordan Zimmermann, pitched with a broken jaw. You’ve got to love that.

“He was pitching with his jaw wired together,” Brown said. “He is that kind of competitor.”

And with the 100th pick, they selected a high school infielder from Cascade, Wash., named Steven Souza. That was a choice close to the hearts of Nationals scouts, because Souza had been found and scouted by Doug McMillan, who died last month. McMillan had signed top prospect Kory Casto and outfielder Stephen Englund, the Nationals’ second-round pick in last year’s draft. His son Brett McMillan is a first baseman with the Nationals’ Class A team in Hagerstown.

“For us as a group, it was special to have [Souza] fall into place here,” Rizzo said. “Doug McMillan was a special guy for us, and this was his gut-feel kid. We feel we got him for Doug.”

I got a gut feel, too, about yesterday and the kid from Wentzville:

Maybe some day your name will be in lights/

Saying Ross Detwiler tonight.

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