Haas, who’s used to working behind the scenes, has stepped into the spotlight as the Washington Nationals’ vice president of amateur scouting. He was hired by General Manager Mike Rizzo in October and tasked with making the final call on the Nationals’ draft picks.
“We’re getting used to it,” Haas said of the attention. “It’s definitely new, the cameras and so forth. I do enjoy kind of being on the back end of it. This is more of a first-time-out-in-front thing, but I don’t really view it that way. You have Brad [Ciolek, the team’s new senior director of amateur scouting], who came over from Baltimore, [and new assistant director] Reed Dunn. … Having Mike, he’s been in scouting for a long time. He’s going to continue to be a resource, so I don’t look at it as an out-in-front kind of deal.”
Haas, 47, and Rizzo met when Rizzo was a scout for the Boston Red Sox and Haas was an outfielder in the organization. Rizzo also worked with Haas’s father, Eddie, who was a scout for the Red Sox. Asked what Rizzo thought of him as a player, Haas quipped that he hopes Rizzo thinks he’s a better scout than player.
Rizzo joked Tuesday that, when he was a scouting director, he didn’t like it when his general manager interfered too much in his process. As a result, he doesn’t plan to meddle in Haas’s efforts.
“We’re going to let him be him,” Rizzo said. “I think that when you have the track record of Danny and Brad and Reed and those guys, you brought them in to do their thing. We’re going to let them do their thing. Obviously, it’s a team effort and we’ll all have input on it, but we brought him in here for a reason.”
Haas, who joined the Nationals after stints with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Orioles and the Red Sox, replaced Kris Kline, who had been the Nationals’ scouting director since 2009. Taking over for a longtime scouting director is a tall order, but Haas perceives his role as collaborative while Washington looks to add more talent to a burgeoning farm system.
Haas was soft-spoken during Tuesday’s meeting with the media, speaking just loud enough to be heard amid the chaos around him. He raved about the abilities of Ciolek from when they worked together in Baltimore. Ciolek brings an analytics-based approach to his job, while Haas offers a traditional scouting background. And they’ll have Dunn and others to help as well.
“We’re very collaborative,” said Haas, who added that he wanted to combine video and input from his staff to get a fuller picture of each prospect. “This job has gotten to where it’s bigger than one person, so you got to weigh all your voices. At the end of the day, someone’s got to make the call. But it’s a big process with a lot of input from folks.”
Haas’s first major task arrives in July, when the Nationals pick 10th in the 2024 draft. The draft lottery was held Tuesday, and the Cleveland Guardians surprisingly landed the first pick for the first time.
The Nationals actually won the lottery’s first drawing, but they were ineligible to pick higher than 10th because the 2022 collective bargaining agreement prevents teams that pay into MLB’s revenue sharing system from drafting in the top six in back-to-back years. (Teams that receive revenue sharing funds cannot have a lottery pick for three years in a row.) So the Nationals, who grabbed outfielder Dylan Crews with the No. 2 pick in July despite having MLB’s worst record in 2022 and then tied for the fifth-worst record in 2023, had to settle for the 10th pick in 2024 when Cleveland won Tuesday’s second drawing.
Before the new CBA led to the installation of the draft lottery last year, picks were handed out in reverse order of the standings from the year before. The Orioles and the Houston Astros, to name just two contending teams, benefited greatly from that system while losing year after year, using those high draft picks to rebuild their rosters. The Nationals don’t have that luxury, but they do have a new leader in the scouting department who hopes to make the most of whatever pick his team lands.
“We feel like, to this point, it’s going to be a good college class again,” Haas said. “The hope is not to pick in the top 10 or 11 every year, but it’s not a bad year to be doing so this year.”