Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Nats Rule-5 Draft History; updated for 2016


Jesus Flores remains our most successful Rule 5 Draftee. Photo Toni Sandys/Washington Post

Jesus Flores remains our most successful Rule 5 Draftee. Photo Toni Sandys/Washington Post

The Nats for years were heavy participants in the Rule-5 draft, thanks to some pretty awful teams and some shrewd scouting.  I first did this history post in November 2011, updating in in January of 2014 and here I update it for the last couple of draft results and drafted player disposition updated for the latest season.

Borrowing a chunk of the text for the previous years from the previous post, here’s a list of the Rule 5 drafts since 2005, with our players taken/received noted and with some thoughts on how the player turned out for either side.  Even though there wasn’t any 2016 Rule 5 action for the team, I’ve added a bunch of updates for all the recently involved players, updating their career dispositions.

Note: this post used to be to pass judgement on our Rule-5 picks, so when you see “Verdict: Failure” that’s what it means.  Its been so long since we tried to draft someone that I forgot what it was like.

2016 Rule 5 Draft (ahead of the 2017 season)

Full draft results here for the 12/8/16.  For the sixth straight year, the Nats did not take anyone in the major league phase.  For the third time in a row, we did not have anyone taken either.  Lets pause to congratulate the team for its excellence in player analysis.

In the minor league phase, the Nats did not take anyone, but did have one player taken: RHP reliever Philp Walby was taken in the “AAA phase” by Toronto.  We acquired Walby on 5/31/16 as a MLFA from the New York Yankees and he pitched quite ably for us in Hagerstown, with more than a K/inning.  He was in his age 24 year though, so clearly “old for the level” and i’m guessing Toronto is banking on him being able to compete in the upper levels immediately.  Its notable that never even bothered to get him in the Hagerstown Suns hat for his profile :-).

(These minor league acquisitions are essentially $12,000 purchases and the drafters now own these contracts; I’m not entirely clear on the rules that drive them, nor how the players are determined to be eligible, but suffice it to say that Walby isn’t exactly a high-end prospect on our collective radars.)

2015 Rule 5 Draft (ahead of the 2016 season)

This occurred on 12/10/15.  The Nationals did not take anyone in the major league phase, nor did they have anyone taken.

In the minor league phase, the Nationals selected 3B Zack Cox from the Miami organization. He was entering his age 27 season, is a former 1st round pick and has bounced around AA and AAA the last four seasons.  He seemed like good AAA 3B insurance for the ever-injured Anthony Rendon, but Cox never even made it to Syracuse, getting released on 4/2/16 and never picking back up with another franchise.

2014 Rule 5 Draft (ahead of the 2015 season)

For the first time since their arrival in DC, the Washington Nationals neither took a player in Rule-5 nor had one taken.

2013 Rule 5 Draft (ahead of the 2014 season)

The team did not select anyone in the major league phase.  We did lose one player in the MLB phase:

  • Adrian Nieto was the 2nd overall pick in the major league phase, by the Chicago White Sox.  As commenters at the time noted, it seemed like an odd pick for the White Sox, who had a couple of younger developing catchers in their system.  Meanwhile Nieto had never played above A-ball but did hit .285/.373/.449 prior to the 2014 season.  Those are pretty good numbers for a catcher … even if he’s an old 24 in A-Ball.  I didn’t even mention him in my own pre-Rule5 analysis piece at the time, but amazingly he stuck on the White Sox roster for the entire 2014 season, hitting .236/.296/.340.  The White Sox sent him to AA for 2015, he elected FA (presumably after being DFA’d) and signed as a MLFA with Miami for 2016.  After playing sparingly for New Orleans in 2016, he is a MLFA as we speak.

In the minor league phase, the Nats took a couple of players for organizational depth: Theo Bowe, a AA outfielder from Cincinnati and Martires Arias, a low-A right-hander from the New York Mets.  Neither player really panned out: Bowe was left in XST the entire year and Arias was released before the season started.

2012 Rule 5 Draft

Again, the team did not select anyone but got poached for four players in the major and minor phase.

  • LHP Danny Rosenbaum was drafted by Colorado to take part in their unique rotation experiment (where guys work up to a certain pitch count each night).  Rosenbaum didn’t make the Rockie’s pitching staff out of spring training (somewhat an indictment of Rosenbaum’s skills; Colorado’s rotation was one of the worst in the majors in 2013) and he was returned to Nats.  Rosenbaum toiled in AAA for the Nats for the 2013 full season.  He was the AAA opening day starter in 2014 but blew his UCL and had TJ Surgery.  In Jan 2015 the team flipped him to Boston for Dan Butler, and he got roughed up in Boston’s system (0-8, 5.81 ERA).  He was released on 3/28/16 and may be done playing.
  • Utility player Jeff Kobernus was drafted by the Boston Red Sox, traded to Tigers and then eventually returned to Nats.  Kobernus turned out to be quite the speedster, stealing nearly a base every other game in the minors and earned a call-up to the big team in 2013.  He struggled with injury, spending a chunk of 2014 on the 60 day D/L and had just a handful of MLB atbats.  The team released him mid spring training 2015, he picked up with the San Francisco organization and played near his home town in San Jose in 2015, struggling in High-A ball.  Kobernus never signed after the 2015 season and may be done playing.
  • In the minor league phase, Nats draft bust Jack McGeary was taken by the Red Sox.  He threw 21 ineffective innings in short-A and low-A for Boston in 2013.  He’s from Boston, so it was a nice gesture, but it just doesn’t look like he’s ever going to recover from his arm issues.  Hey, at least he got his Stanford education and his bonus money.  He signed as a MLFA with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization for 2014, struggled again in A-ball, and did not sign for 2015.
  • The Dodgers poached Hector Nelo from the Nats AA team and stuck him on their own AA team … where he promptly made the all-star game again and had another excellent season.  I’ll be honest; I do not know the minor league rule-5 protection rules, but I wonder why an all-star player was exposed, no matter what his age.  Nelo struggled in 2014, was released and looks like he’s out of affiliated ball.  So perhaps the team was a year early but still right in exposing him to Rule 5.

2011 Rule 5 Draft

The Nats did not take anyone for the first time in years, but had two players themselves taken.  Neither player drafted was a surprise; I posted at the time that I thought both these players should have been protected.

  • Brad Meyers (RH starting pitcher) was drafted by the New York Yankees, but he suffered an injury in spring training and was DL’d all year.  He was returned to the Nats and subsequently missed all of 2013 too.  I listed him as a “release candidate” in my 2014 rotation projections, not knowing if he was healthy or if he could win a AAA rotation spot that year; he ended up making 6 starts in AA and was released.  He’s now out of baseball.
  • Erik Komatsu was drafted by St. Louis (in retaliation for our taking Broderick the previous year?), made their 2012 opening day roster, played for a while before being waived, got picked up by Minnesota, and by Memorial Day was returned to Washington in a whirlwind set of transactions.  He got hurt in 2013 and played just a few games for the Nats AA and AAA teams, then was released on 5/9/14.  He signed immediately with the Angels, bounced to Milwaukee, was a MLFA after the season and did not play in organized ball in 2015.

2010 Rule 5 Draft

  • Elvin Ramirez, RH reliever, drafted from the New York Mets: he was injured in spring training and spent the entirety of the season on the DL.  Interestingly, the team returned him to New York in October, long before they needed to, and with New York in 2012 he made his way to the majors for some appearances.  The Mets eventually sold him to the Angels, then he bounced around in MLFA to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and in 2015 was playing in the Mexican league.  Verdict: impatience leading to failure.
  • Brian Broderick, RH Starting Pitcher, Drafted from St. Louis and stuck into the 2011′s bullpen as the long-man/mop-up guy.  He was awful, he was costing the team wins, and was eventually returned to St. Louis before May was out.   However, St. Louis waived him towards the end of 2012 and we picked him back up.  I projected him to be one of our AAA starters in 2013 but he struggled and ended the season in AA and was cut loose.  He pitched in Indy ball in 2014, well enough to get a MLFA contract in 2015, spending the whole year in the Royal’s AAA team.  He did not sign or play for 2016 and may be done. Verdict: failure for the Nats, jury still out for the player.

The team lost one player in the 2010 draft:

  • The Phillies drafted Michael Martinez away from the Nats, and he stuck on their roster as a backup middle infielder.  His batting lines were awful though, and the Nats clearly had depth at middle infield at the time, so losing this player was not that big of a deal.  Martinez has continued to hit sub .200 but has bounced from Philly to Pittsburgh to Cleveland, splitting time between AAA and the major league rosters providing MIF cover.

2009 Rule 5 Draft

  • Jamie Hoffman; OF, Drafted with the #1 pick in the Rule 5 draft from Los Angeles Dodgers and immediately traded for Brian Bruney in a pre-arranged deal.  NY returned him to the Dodgers later that spring.   Bruney, meanwhile, immediately went to arbitration and lost with the team in the spring of 2010, was awful out of the gate, and the team outright released him before the end of May.   Verdict: failure, all the way around this transaction.

The team lost one player in this draft:

  • Zech Zinicola was drafted away from us by Toronto, who eventually returned him to the Nats without any Toronto appearances.  His selection was probably due to Dana Brown‘s hiring in Toronto, going from Washington’s Scouting Director to being a special assistant to the GM in Toronto.  Zinicola remained in our farm system until 2013, when he was released.

2008 Rule 5 Draft

  • Terrell Young: Drafted with the #1 pick in the Rule 5 draft from Cincinnati.  He got hurt, never played for us, and was eventually returned to the Reds.   His injury was severe enough that he was out of baseball after being drafted; he has no professional games after 2008.  Verdict: failure.
  • Ricardo Nanita, selected in the minor league phase, played most of 2009, then went to the Mexican league, then got picked up by Toronto in minor league free agency and has been there ever since, playing all of 2013 in Buffalo.   Verdict: failure.

The team lost two players in the minor league phase:

2007 Rule 5 Draft

  • Matt Whitney: 1B/3B, Drafted and then eventually returned back to Cleveland, who eventually made the former 1st rounder a ML free agent and we signed him after the 2008 season.   We cut him after the 2009 season and he retired after 2010.  Verdict: failure.
  • Garrett Guzman: LF/RF: after Rule-5 selecting him, the team eventually traded a PTBNL for him to Minnesota, then we cut him outright and nobody picked him up.  He played two years of Independent ball and was out of baseball after 2010.  Guzman is more infamously known as the player who was caught having sex with an underage girl while playing for our AA team in Harrisburg in 2008, likely the reason why nobody picked him up after his DFA.  Verdict: embarrassing failure.

The Nats lost one player of note in the minor league phase in this draft:

  • Brett Campbell was drafted by Milwaukee in the AAA phase of the rule-5 draft.  Milwaukee released him in spring training of the subsequent 2008 season and Campbell never played another inning of pro baseball.  This seems especially odd to me: he was drafted in 2004 and rose all the way through the Nats system to debut in the majors by Sept of 2006.  He pitched in just two games in 2006, and returned to the minors in 2007.  Was he hurt?  He was only 26 when he apparently hung them up.  Oddity.

2006 Rule 5 Draft

  • Jesus Flores, C, drafted from the New York Mets, stuck with the team all year despite having only played high-A ball in the minors.  Despite his eventual injury issues that plagued him for the better part of 3 seasons, Flores remains the best example of a “found gold” prospect that can be had in the Rule 5 draft.   After the Nats DFA’d him last off-season, he bounced around both LA and Tampa’s AAA teams in 2013 but did not appear in the majors. Verdict: success.
  • Levale Speigner RHP (a closer) was drafted from Minnesota and, as with Booker above, eventually was traded for by the Nats so they could keep him and stash him in the minors.  After some awful outings for the big team, he passed through waivers mid 2008 and was released from AAA in 2008, bounced around a couple other organizations, and retired after 2010.  Verdict: failure.

The Nats lost one player in this draft:

  • Alejandro Machada was drafted by Minnesota just a month after the Nats had re-signed him to a minor league contract.  So Machada didn’t have to stay on their active roster.  And indeed he didn’t; he was injured all of 2007 and stayed with Minnesota’s AAA team until 2009, never again broaching the majors.

2005 Rule 5 Draft

The Nats did not draft anyone, but had a player taken who went on a whirlwind tour of MLB organizations before getting returned mid 2006.

  • Chris Booker was rule-5 drafted by Detroit, who immediately sold him to Philadelphia, who then waived him in May of 2006 with the intent of returning him … except that Kansas City picked him up, hung onto him for a couple months and eventually returned him to Washington.  The Nats eventually called him up but he was relatively ineffective and he washed out of the game (seemingly due to injuries) after 2008.

2004 Rule 5 Draft (ahead of the 2005 season)

  • Tony Blanco: 1B; drafted from Cincinnati.  He batted .177 as a 1st baseman backup while eating a roster spot all season, then we cut him from AAA after 2007.  He kicked around Colorado’s system for a year and has been playing in Japan ever since.  Verdict: failure.
  • Tyrell Godwin: CF, drafted from Toronto.  Prior to the 2005 season, the team traded another minor leaguer to keep his rights, so this really played out less like a Rule-5 pickup in that Godwin didn’t have to stick on the 25-man roster all year.  He played a grand total of 3 games for the Nats, kicked around AAA for a while an hung them up in 2007.  Verdict: failure.

Summary: we’ve drafted 11 guys in the MLB phase Rule 5 draft since 2005, and I’d classify 10 of the 11 draftees as eventual failures.  Not a great track record.  Plus its safe to say that most every player drafted FROM us has been a failure for the drafting team.  Clearly the Rule 5 draft isn’t a great way to reliably find players.  Why do we do so much analysis on it?  I dunno, because its fun?  Because its December and we’re desperate for Baseball news?  Fair enough 🙂

27 Responses to 'Nats Rule-5 Draft History; updated for 2016'

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  1. What, no one took Matt Skole — the man, the myth, the legend — for the third year in a row? I’m shocked!

    I don’t hate Skole, and at one point I had high hopes for him as a potential replacement for LaRoche. I don’t know what kind of a future he has with the Nats, though. They clearly like CRob over Skole, and I’m actually hoping they’ll upgrade on CRob with someone like Logan Morrison, who can play LF as well as 1B. I would say that they might want to flip Skole, but they wouldn’t get much in return.

    The one thing Skole has going for him, of course, is that he had 24 HRs in an organization almost completely devoid of power.


    9 Dec 16 at 9:22 am

  2. KW,
    Skole was added to the 40 man roster and was therefore not eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft this year.


    9 Dec 16 at 9:38 am

  3. That’s right. Sorry, I forgot about that. I think the he would have been eligible for minor-league free agency if they hadn’t added him.


    9 Dec 16 at 9:49 am

  4. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Michael Martinez was not only a world series player, but was in fact that last man to bat in the 2016 World Series.

    He grounded out weakly to third, of course. The Indians have since let him go. But what an amazing ride for someone who was not good at major league baseball. My friends who are Phillies fans used to routinely wonder what he had on Ruben Amaro that convinced him to keep Martinez on the roster.

    John C.

    9 Dec 16 at 10:49 am

  5. Fowler gets 5/82.5, an AAV of 16.5 per. The Eaton contract is fantastic in comparison, and for a younger player, but of course it came at a steep price in personnel. If the Nats can turn their savings into Jansen, that will add a big point in their favor.


    9 Dec 16 at 11:49 am

  6. The AAV for Fowler seems about right, but the 5th year and particularly the full no-trade seem like overreaches when nearly every other team that wanted a CF had gotten one. But I’m sure the Cards will get praised by the Talking Heads because they’re one of the sainted franchises. Just don’t ask them why they spent all that cash when they have no back end to their rotation . . .


    9 Dec 16 at 1:12 pm

  7. Fowler is a good player, and I think the contract is ok. On the edge of an overpay, but truthfully, there is so much money in baseball right now that salaries have been escalated across the board (except for pre-are guys) and it is taking a while for us fans to adjust our own metrics.

    So what’s the latest on Jansen?


    9 Dec 16 at 3:21 pm

  8. Todd, thank you for the trip down memory lane!

    My, how far we’ve come.

    Mark L

    9 Dec 16 at 3:28 pm

  9. Wally, I just checked MLBTR, and the latest stories are on a PTBNL and a minor-league signee. I’m having rumor withdrawal!

    There’s all kinds of weird stuff with Jansen, possibly getting married during the middle of all of this, with the Dodgers possibly out (or maybe not), and Jansen supposedly choosing between the Nats and the Marlins. All I know is that on deals that play out this publicly, the Nats aren’t usually the team at the finish line. Rizzo’s deals seem to come as surprises.


    9 Dec 16 at 4:04 pm

  10. How little sense does it make for the Marlins to be chasing Jansen?

    Todd Boss

    9 Dec 16 at 4:31 pm

  11. The Fish were also chasing Chapman. They have no starters to get them a lead to take into the late innings, though. Not that I’m complaining . . .


    9 Dec 16 at 4:40 pm

  12. I can make a case for the fish chasing a Chapman. They have a pretty good line up and lack starting pitching. Also a decent bullpen. To buy 3 medium quality starters in today’s market – which arguably didn’t exist anyway, but let’s say Hill, Hammels, Nova – would add $40m/yr to the payroll for the next 3 years, for a total of $120m.

    But they are only mediocre, not elite, and with the Mets and Nats in the division, how much does it improve their odds?

    Instead, they sign Chapman and maybe another good 7th inning guy, add $20m to their bullpen and have an elite bullpen so that when they do have a lead in the 6th, they bring it home to a win. Plus, they change the psychology of the game by pressuring the other team to score early or lose out.

    I don’t think it’s a winning strategy, but I do think it’s plausible and interesting, and probably the best they can do to give themselves a chance in the short term.


    9 Dec 16 at 7:33 pm

  13. There’s one answer to a question I raised on the last thread. According to Chelsea’s intro article on Eaton, he was one of the most vocal defenders of Adam and Drake LaRoche. So he’ll start off as a popular guy in the Nat clubhouse.


    9 Dec 16 at 9:52 pm

  14. Wally, the Fish already have an above-average bullpen, and a pretty reliable closer in Ramos. They’ve also got a pretty decent lineup. The black hole is their rotation. Of course there’s nothing available starter-wise on the FA market. Still, if they’re going to take on salary, it would make a lot more sense to do it on a traded-for starter or two than on a closer. But they haven’t got much to trade for starters. So please stop hiking up the closer market!


    9 Dec 16 at 10:05 pm

  15. For those tired of seeing/hearing the Nats trashed, there are several positive takes about them and the trade in Jeff Sullivan’s chat:

    I also agree with him on avoiding Greg Holland.


    10 Dec 16 at 8:19 am

  16. Well but that was my point. Take an above average pen and make it elite, then manage games to your strength. Whereas improving a poor rotation to one that’s barely adequate doesn’t really gain you as much since you haven’t locked down either end.

    I assume this Jansen delay is designed by them to get LAD back to the table. Plus, I’ve gotten to where I’d pass on him. I was mostly always there but was finding myself open to being convinced. I’d add two medium quality guys like Ziegler and Feliz on two or three year deals – I don’t like that length but that’s the market now. Then see how the first half of the season plays out.


    10 Dec 16 at 3:42 pm

  17. I like Jeff’s comment:

    If you believe in WAR and also believe Giolito is kind of overrated, you like the deal. If you think Eaton is just an average hitter and Giolito is about to break out as an ace or a No. 2, you don’t like the deal.

    I’m absolutely in the latter half of that sentence; I’m not ready to give up on Giolito so there fore I don’t like the deal. I’m well aware though that Rizzo has generally been the better evaluator of his own players, and rarely has been wrong. So perhaps I’ll be eating my words at some point. But its going to take a couple of years potentially to see what may happen. And honestly there’s nothing I can do to undo this deal, so i’ll likely stop obsessing with these players and embrace who we have now.

    Todd Boss

    10 Dec 16 at 8:36 pm

  18. Also saw the nugget about Glover having a frigging torn hip labrum.

    Well now we know why he fell apart in September. And yet another data point supporting my ongoing statements about how injuries affect performances.

    Todd Boss

    10 Dec 16 at 8:40 pm

  19. KW

    10 Dec 16 at 8:43 pm

  20. Wally, I don’t think Ziegler would add anything. If you want a veteran guy who’s cheaper and was just as effective, it would be Belisle. I wouldn’t rule out Feliz, though, mainly because Maddux was his pitching coach in Texas.

    I’m not sure what to think about the Jansen pursuit. I think Glover is going to be a closer, and the news about his injury certainly does explain some of his late-season struggles. At the same time, Jansen would be much more of a sure thing, but you’d have to pay him a lot of scratch for five years to get the sure thing. The rumor is that he wants an opt-out after two years, though, which might not be such a bad thing from the Nats’ perspective, either, as Glover may be ready to be Da Man by that time.


    10 Dec 16 at 8:51 pm

  21. I don’t want to relitigate the Eaton trade, but one other yet-unknown about it is what the flexibility of Eaton’s contract will allow them to do. Will it allow them to add Jansen? Is it a step toward having enough salary space to make an offer to Bryce? We’ll see.

    I think it’s entirely possible that the trio traded will have more MLB WAR than Eaton posts by himself for the five years. But the Nats are going to be able to add more parts because of the flexibility than just Eaton.

    Plus if it hastens Danny’s departure, hallelujah.


    10 Dec 16 at 9:04 pm

  22. KW – you got your wish. It doesn’t look like much coming back from LAA, but maybe it’s a Rizzo special, like with Roark. Time will tell. Seems like a salary dump to me.


    10 Dec 16 at 10:33 pm

  23. McGowin seems to be the better prospect in the Danny deal to the Angels. Though the best return may ultimately be Drew.


    10 Dec 16 at 10:33 pm

  24. Yeah, wow, I woke up this morning to “Espinosa traded.” I assume that Rizzo already had the deal in the works before Danny shot off at the mouth. I’ve been predicting all winter that the Angels would be the perfect place for him.

    Danny had to go, though. He would have been a very useful utility piece defensively, but that attitude would have been corrosive.

    It is curious to be getting back arms from the pitching-starved Halos, isn’t it? Give Spin Williams a crack at them and see what he can do.

    It felt like an era was starting to end last offseason when Desi, JZim, and Storen left. Now it’s Ramos and Danny. Not all were as loved as others, but they were a big part of the core of the group that elevated the Nats to the playoff level. Of course perhaps it was the limitations of some of them that kept the team from taking the next step. All the Ks in particular are just death in the playoffs.

    And Trea officially, no-doubt now has the keys at SS.


    11 Dec 16 at 7:58 am

  25. Also just cleared ~$5.3M off the payroll, although it may cost nearly that much to re-sign Drew to fill the same role.


    11 Dec 16 at 8:01 am

  26. new posted on the trade.

    Todd Boss

    11 Dec 16 at 8:10 am

  27. […] versions of this post: December 2016,  January of 2014. and November […]

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