Nationals Arm Race

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

Rule 5 Addition analysis/predictions for 2018


Did Jordan Mills' AFL performance earn him a 40-man spot? Photo via

Did Jordan Mills’ AFL performance earn him a 40-man spot? Photo via

Its an annual tradition.  This is my 9th annual analysis of the roster moves the Nats will do to protect players from the Rule 5 draft.  See the bottom for links/summary of the first eight such posts with a quick guess as to how well i’ve done making predictions.

Lets take a look at who is eligible, who might get protected and make some predictions.  I’ve got the Nats 40-man roster at 35 now, so there’s plenty of room to add names and do their off-season work.  But, this team also needs to sign a bunch of FAs, so perhaps the Rule5 activity will be limited.  That being said, there’s some dead-weight at the end of the 40-man roster that includes some fringe players out of options for 2019 anyway, who we may try to slip through waivers as we go.  Nonetheless, its something to think about.

Another recurring theme while doing this research: a good number of the prospects we received back in late-season trades ended up being Rule-5 Eligible this coming off-season.  I suppose it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that we got players back in this category, but it does mean our trade bounty for some of our veterans might end up never playing a game for the Nats franchise.

As always, using the indispensable Nationals resource sites Draft tracker and the Big Board, and then looking up candidate acquisitions made via trade, here’s some thoughts on who might merit protection.   Also incredibly useful is Roster Resource’s Nats Roster, which keeps track of options, rule-5 status and the like.

The quick Rule-5 rules for 2017; any college-aged draftee from 2015 or before who isn’t already on the 40-man roster is Rule-5 eligible this coming off season, and any high-school aged draftee/International Free Agent from 2014 or before is newly eligible this year, assuming they were at least 18 as of June 5th of that year.  There’s always a couple of guys who have specific birthdays that move them up or down one way or the other; i’ll depend on the Roster Resource rules.

One last thing: here was our 2018 AFL Roster: Ben Braymer, Taylor Guilbeau, Jordan Mills, Luis Reyes, Tres Barrera, Carter Kieboom, Jake Noll, Daniel Johnson.  Half these guys (Guilbeau, Mills, and Reyes) are rule-5 eligible; the others (Braymer, Barrera, Kieboom, Noll and Johnson) were all 2016 draftees and thus are not part of this discussion… for this year anyway.

Newly Eligible 2015 draft College Players this year worth consideration for protection:

  • Rhett Wiseman, 3rd round left-handed hitting OF out of Vanderbilt.  Repeated High-A in 2018 and drastically improved his OPS, but it seems to be on the back of perhaps going for more of an all or nothing approach: he increased his homer output, but also struck out 122 times in 407 PAs.  The team invested a big bonus in him, and it hasn’t panned out.  I really liked this pick at the time, but then watched him hit in the CWS that year and thought he’d have a hard time adjusting to pro pitching.  So far, my amateur observation seems to be holding true.
  • Taylor Guilbeau, LHP 10th rounder who repeated High-A this year but switched to the bullpen and halved his ERA.  The team named him to the AFL roster and he excelled,  giving up 2 runs in 10+ innings.  Given the team’s lack of lefty arms, I’d consider Guilbeau … but then again, he’s never pitched above High-A so he seems like a safe bet not to get picked.  But then again, he just manned up in the AFL in front of every scout in the game.
  • Andrew Istler, our trade bounty from the Dodgers for Ryan Madsen.  He had very solid numbers in AA in a middle relief role, even earning a stellar AAA call-up.  He’s an undersized Duke grad, 23rd round pick who has done well.  I wonder if his pedigree makes him less likely to get picked.

Eligible but not mentioned here: Ian Sagdal, who (like Wisemann) is still in High-A and is a power-less 1B.   Angelo La Bruna is a part-time SS who was a senior sign, did not appear in 2018 but is still listed as active.  Matt Crownover may be lefty, but he also repeated High-A for the 3rd year in 2018.  Grant BorneTommy Peterson and Ryan Brinley missed all of 2018 with injury.   Andrew Lee basically missed all of 2017 with injury and still hasn’t even gotten out of Low-A.  Jorge Pantoja has bounced around the A-levels for four years now, ending last year with a 4.68 ERA in High-A.

The key college-eligible players out of this draft have long since been called into 40-man service, released or traded.  Andrew Stevenson and Koda Glover are the biggest remaining names from this draft for the team.


Newly Eligible 2014 High School-age drafted players under consideration for protection

  • Jakson Reetz, 3rd round C from 2014.  Reetz was paid a big bonus out of HS, and has basically never hit at any level.  He played all of 2018 as the backup C in Potomac and slugged just .323 for the year.  His career BA is .233 across 5 pro seasons and nearly a thousand plate appearances.  Suffice it to say, had he not been paid $800k out of HS, he’d have been released long ago.  He’s certainly not going to get picked in Rule-5.
  • Weston Davis, RHP 11th rounder.  He missed all of 2015… and then all of 2018.  Through 5 full pro seasons he has just 124.2 innings pitched.  He’s still hanging around, and will look to make it out of XST next year.

The Nats generally don’t pick HS players, so the picking here is always slim.

Newly Eligible 2014 signed IFAs under consideration for protection:

  • Joan Baez went 9-9 with a 3.79 ERA as a full time starter for Potomac this year.  We’ve heard about Baez’s arm for a while.  He repeated Potomac again after walking as many as he struck out in 2017, and indeed he’s improved on that ratio.  I think he’s a decent bet for someone to look at, but his lack of upper-level experience probably keeps him from getting picked.
  • Telmito Augustin, a LF who hit pretty well for High-A this year (OPS of .822).  But he’s never even gotten to AA, and like many of the “holdovers” he’s a corner OF type who is competing with a ton of MLB veterans for roster spots.  I don’t think he’s a threat to get drafted.
  • Steven Fuentes, who forced a mid-season promotion to High-A where he posted a 3.00 ERA in 45 middle-relief type innings.
  • Andruw Monasario, the 2B prospect the Nats received from the Cubs in the Daniel Murphy trade.  He was an IFA2014 signee and is newly Rule-5 eligible.   He repeated High-A in 2018, has no power (6 career homers), little speed (48 SBs in 349 career minor league games), and is only mentioned here b/c he was trade bounty for Murphy.
  • Gilbert Lara, the 3B prospect the Nats received from Milwaukee in the Gio Gonzalez trade.   He played all of 2018 in Low-A, had decent numbers and is very unlikely to be taken.  He’s only mentioned here for similar reasons to Monsario.

Others in this category: Tomas Alastre , who posted a 5.23 ERA in 23 starts in Low-A.  Malvin Pena basically missed two full seasons and only just made it to Low-A.

Our biggest 2014 IFA signing is now safely ensconced on the 40-man roster; Victor Robles.

Rule-5 Eligible hold-overs of note: 2014 or prior college draftees still hanging out in the system, or 2013 and prior HS/IFAs.

  • Taylor Gushue, a 2014 Draftee out of Florida who has now made his way all the way to AAA. Even though he didn’t really hit that well in AA (.212), he still made his way to the top level of the minors.  The Nats only have 3 catchers on the 40-man and one of them (Severino) has no options left, so they’re going to need some depth.  I think Gushue may be a consideration to add.
  • Drew Ward, who drew a promotion to AAA in July but struggled and was sent back to AA.  I thought he was a candidate to get protected last year but he missed the draft.  Now?  I’d guess he slips through again, despite being a lefty corner player that the team needs to back up Ryan Zimmerman simply because there’s a glut of such veteran players on the market every year now, and they can be had for just a couple million bucks.  A 40-man spot is much more valuable.  I think Ward plays out his term in 2019 and makes his way to MLFA.
  • Austin Davidson is a corner OF and 13th rounder in 2014 who is beginning to show some promise.  He had a solid OPS of .846 in 94 AA games this year.  But, like Ward (who is about a half a step ahead of him), he faces competition from above.  Not a real threat to get drafted.
  • Alec Keller: a 2017 17th rounder in the same boat as Ward and Davidson above him; corner OF, decent numbers, no chance of getting Rule-5’d.
  • Tyler Mapes, a great story who continues to make waves.  He was a 30th rounder in 2014, missed all of 2017 with injury but came back with a vengeance in 2018, dominating Potomac and holding his own with a 3.95 ERA in AA.  I like his chances of pushing towards AAA in 2019, but don’t quite think he’s a scare to get plucked.
  • Luis Reyes: finally made it to AA this year, and got shelled (12 starts, 5.18 ERA).  Nonetheless the team included him in their AFL roster, where he got even more shelled (4 starts, 12 innings, 22 runs allowed).  I think whatever jeopardy he had of getting picked is long gone.
  • Jordan Mills: a 2017 MLFA signing who really came on this year as a lefty reliever in AA.  He was also sent to AFL in perhaps a final audition for the bigger club; there he did pretty well, holding his WHIP under 1.00.  I think he’s one to protect.
  • James Bourque was (finally?) moved to the bullpen in 2018 and immediately turned into a monster: he struck out 52 in 33 high-A innings, got moved to AA and posted a 0.92 ERA in 19 2/3rds innings.  I think he shows a ton of promise; enough to protect?

Others in this category: Aldrem Corredor, a 1B who has hung around since 2012 in the system.  David Masters completed his *fourth straight* season in Potomac in 2018.  Dakota Bacus has been on this list for 3 years running, is now a 27-yr old RHP middle reliever just completing his 4th season in AA.  Jose Marmolejos i suppose theoretically is still eligible; he was on the 40-man, got outrighted in July and subsequently had a sub .700 OPS in AAA (low for a 1B).

Austen Williams got added late in the year; he would have been in this category.

So, who would I protect?

So, remember, if someone gets drafted they have to stick on someone else’s ACTIVE, 25-man MLB roster the entirety of 2019.  So it has to be someone who could theoretically stick on a MLB roster.  Given that statement, and looking at what the Nats are light on, I think they add three arms:

  • Bourque
  • Mills
  • Istler

Who would I additionally consider?

  • Baez
  • Gushue
  • Mapes

Here’s some other opinions in the Natmosphere on the same topic:

  • District On Deck thinks Bourque is a lock, Augustin and Ward under consideration.
  • listed every organization’s top ranked prospects who are Rule5 Eligible: Augustin, Bourque, Alastre, Marmolejos and Ward are top-30 prospects being exposed.
  • TalkNats has a bunch of the players listed but doesn’t make a prediction; seems to imply they think Bourque, Istler, and Agustin might get protected.
  • WP’s Chelsea Jane seems to suggest Marmolejos, Augustin, Bourque, plus perhaps others.

For a fun trip down memory lane, here’s the same Rule 5 Protection analysis post for 2017201620152014201320122011, and 2010.

By year, here’s who I predicted we’d add and who we did add.

  • 2018: Predicted: Bourque, Mills,Istler.  Actual: just Bourque.
  • 2017: Predicted: Gutierrez, Gushue, Ward, Baez.  Actual: Gutierrez and Jefry Rodriguez.
  • 2016: Predicted Voth, Bautista.  Actual: Voth, Bautista, Marmolejos, Read and Skole.
  • 2015: Predicted Kieboom, Bostick, Marmolejos-Diaz.  Actual: Kieboom, Bostick, Lee
  • 2014: Predicted Cole, Skole, Goodwin.  Hedged on Grace, Martin and Difo.  Actual: Cole, Goodwin, Difo, Grace.
  • 2013: Predicted Solis as the only lock (Souza already added).  Possibles mentioned in order Barrett, Taylor, Grace, Holland.  Actual: Solis, Barrett, Taylor.
  • 2012: Predicted Karns and McCoy, with Hood and Rosenbaum as maybes.  Actual: Karns and Davis.  I think we were all surprised by Davis’ inclusion, despite his good AA numbers that year.
  • 2011: Predicted Norris as a lock, guessed strongly on Moore, Meyers and Komatsu.  Actual: Norris, Moore, Solano, Perez.    This was poor analysis on my part; I did not consider the IFAs newly eligible.
  • 2010: Predicted Marrero, Meyers and Mandel.  Actual: Marrero, Carr and Kimball.
  • 2009: pre-dates my blog and thus no predictions, but Actual was Jaime, Thompson and Severino.
  • 2008: I might be wrong, but I don’t see any evidence of the team protecting *anyone* prior to the Rule-5 draft.  A bit of an indictment of the farm system at the time, I’d say 🙂

43 Responses to 'Rule 5 Addition analysis/predictions for 2018'

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  1. If I’m an opposition GM looking at the Nats’ list, I would take a pass even if they don’t protect anyone. I see only two with an outside possibility to stay on an MLB roster a whole season: Istler and Davidson, who I think can hit enough and play enough positions to be the 25th guy at the end of the bench. He’s a better hitter than the two utility stiffs the Nats have on the 40-man now, Sanchez and Matt Reynolds, but he’s not nearly as good defensively. I would be very surprised if the Nats protect Davidson, though.

    Istler and Mills are both 26, and Bourque is 25. None of them are starters. There are A LOT of guys with similar profiles in the Rule 5 pool every year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nats add any of these three, particularly Istler, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

    Baez is probably the only starter under consideration. I wouldn’t do it, but they might. I really can’t see an opposing team keeping him on an MLB roster, though.

    I like some of the others here, including Agustin and Fuentes, but they’re at no risk of losing them.

    If I’m predicting, I would say just Istler. They’ve got so many other needs to fill that they’re going to need the 40-man flexibility.


    19 Nov 18 at 12:54 pm

  2. I think a team could take Istler and stick him as 7th or 8th guy in a bullpen easily. Same with Bourque but they’d have to be a lesser team. Mills as a lefty AND having just cleaned up in AFL is even more in jeopardy.

    None are locks.

    I was also thinking along these lines: who among these names not only might get plucked, but are in positions of need. And its all about bullpen arms. I mean really; who would you rather gamble on in 2019 Adams, Gott or Isler/Bourque. Would you pay Solis 900k or give Mills a shot?

    Todd Boss

    19 Nov 18 at 1:26 pm

  3. There’s no way Mills is ready to be in the MLB ‘pen of a contender. He only has 19 innings at AA. He’s certainly needed depth in the minors, though, as the Nats have very, very few port-siders in the upper minors. Tim Collins probably won’t be back, and who knows if they’ll re-sign Bryan Harper if/when his little bro skips town.

    With Solis, I’m going to make the seemingly contradictory statement that I think they’ll tender him but that I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t on the roster by opening day. I think he’s sort of their insurance policy in case they can’t add another decent lefty reliever, and they can probably get a bag of balls in return for him if they do.

    I’m curious to see if they go after a higher-end lefty along the Miller or Britton lines, or at least someone like Sipp. There isn’t a great mid-tier of FA lefty relievers, though, unless you consider Sipp the middle tier. He’s made $6M the last three years and likely will be wanting at least that much.


    19 Nov 18 at 2:15 pm

  4. Kurt Suzuki!!! Not great, not bad. Certainly more durable than Ramos.

    Very good for the Nats to strike early and get the best option from the second tier.


    19 Nov 18 at 2:44 pm

  5. However, much like Ramos, Suzuki is still basically just a half-year player. I’m not thrilled with the thought of S. Kieboom being in the lineup for 70-80 games.


    19 Nov 18 at 2:51 pm

  6. Suzuki is fine. Uninspiring but acceptable, given the cost of a clear quality upgrade.

    Astros offered Morton a 1 yr deal with an option (team, I assume). Hope we get in on that


    19 Nov 18 at 3:07 pm

  7. Suzuki acquisition probably means… i guess Severino (for the time beign) is guaranteed the 2nd spot. That means, cascading Catcher depth looks like this:
    AAA: Kieboom & Gushue
    AA: Read and Barrera
    High-A: Reetz and Dunlap
    Low-A: Flores, Pineda, Perkins

    Todd Boss

    19 Nov 18 at 4:04 pm

  8. Sevy’s OPS was .501. Kieboom’s was .642. We’ve seen the last we’re going to see of Sevy, unless he gets DFA’d and goes unclaimed. He’s out of options, and he’s not going to be on the big club.

    Also, Read is definitely ahead of Gushue in the pecking order. I would think Read and Gushue will be in Fresno, and they’ll hope Barrera can hit a little at AA.


    19 Nov 18 at 4:12 pm

  9. As noted, I’m not thrilled with S. Kieboom as the backup, but he’s got a chance to hit a little, and his defense looked pretty decent. Considering how bad the catcher outlook is universally, a backup who can stay above the Mendoza Line is serviceable.

    The key to how “good” a deal the Suzuki signing turns out to be will involve how well they invest the money saved elsewhere. I don’t see them going after a front-line hitter, particularly if they’re not getting Grandal, but they now have the flexibility to go after two upper-tier starters (if they offload Roark’s projected $9.8M).


    19 Nov 18 at 4:19 pm

  10. Best thing about the Suzuki deal is that they aren’t trading Robles or Kieboom for Realmuto.

    Agree on Sevy, he’s done here. Doesn’t seem like the staff likes throwing to him.

    Rizzo is active early. I like it. Worse case is he overpays a bit which I can live with. On the other hand, they get the guy they want. I’d look for the 2B/OF guy next. This is the way they can get Murphy back @2/$16m. I’d like that and defensive positioning should minimize his 2B problems a little. I’d like that bat hitting 5th or 6th.

    But pitching, pitching, pitching. I think that’s going to be a slower moving market though.


    19 Nov 18 at 5:26 pm

  11. Paxton to Yanks for massive return. Nats never would have played at that prospect level. Are the Yanks now out of the market for a big-ticket starter? OK, OK, the Yanks are NEVER out of the market, but perhaps they’re only looking at one instead of two or three.

    Wally, the more I think about it, the more I’m in the tank for a Murph return. He may be the best bang-for-buck hitter in this FA class, at least over the next couple of seasons. Don’t know how he would feel being brought back as Zim’s heir, but he can be the bridge at 2B now and a beloved enough presence to ease a transition from Zim later.

    Some quick math. Both Todd and Ghost had the Nats with around $51-52M to spend to stay under the tax line. Scuttlebutt is that they only want to spend around $40M, both for some in-season flexibility and because of incentives, particularly for Rosey. Anyway, starting with that number, jettison Roark and Solis to add $11M, now -$5M AAV for Suzuki — using those numbers and the MLBTR estimates, they could sign Murphy ($9M), Andrew Miller ($9M), and have $28 left, most of which could be spread across two starting pitchers. Or they could keep Roark and have around $19M for one starter.

    The bottom line is that they’ve got enough bucks to do some interesting things. I really like that they’re getting busy early.

    (I’m still looking for a catcher to platoon with Suzuki. Hate to say that I “wanted to like McCann,” but he hit .215 vs. RHP in ’18. No thanks.)


    19 Nov 18 at 10:17 pm

  12. It also should be noted that none of their deals thus far have completely closed the door on a Bryce return. Until they sign someone at the $15M level, that door is open.

    Here’s how Bryce math would work — exit Roark and Eaton, maybe have to keep Solis as bullpen LHP. Sign Matt Adams for $4M and have around $17M to divide between two starting pitchers. As deep as the starter market is, there are a number of pretty decent guys who could be had at the $8-9M level.

    I should say that I’m not advocating for this approach. I’m just trying to figure out if the math would work, and it does. It just diminishes the quality of players who can be put around him. However, OAK won 97 games with a retread rotation that included Cahill, Anderson, and EJax. I would take Cahill and Anderson on the Nats now. (And of course the Nats let Jackson opt out one week before they needed him.)

    Anyway, my point is that there are value guys out there. The Nats just have to find the right ones.


    19 Nov 18 at 10:32 pm

  13. Agree on the value, but the thing is, if you go that route you probably need an extra one to cover for the higher risk.

    For Bryce, it’s all about how much. At > $300m, I’m out. No player is worth that, especially for a mature team with a lot of guys to pay.

    I agree they have money to do something but they need one of the better starters before they go for the value guys.

    It’s crazy to get rid of Solis. He’ll get paid peanuts and if they let him go, it’s guaranteed he’ll go somewhere and become a valuable guy.


    19 Nov 18 at 10:48 pm

  14. I have always been a fan of Solis’s stuff. I’ve always thought it was far better than Grace’s. But Solis’s numbers last year were really ugly no matter how your slice it. Yes, Martinez overused him, and yes, he was very good in May and June. But it’s really hard to plan around hoping for his comeback, all the more so when he’s a lefty who LHB hit .329 against.

    I think they’re going to sign another LHP. That will give them three with Doo and Grace. I think Solis is going to be the odd man out.


    20 Nov 18 at 8:27 am

  15. I agree with everything you’ve said, but he’ll make $900k – barely more than the minimum. I’d be surprised (and think it foolish) if they didn’t bring back a lefty with a past history of getting out quality hitters at the major league level. They could cut him towards the end of camp and it costs what, $200k? I think you’re right that he doesn’t seem favored and maybe they do cut him, but I just think it’s foolish if they do.

    Paxton – I think the Yanks got a good deal here. Health is so fluid, but he is a high quality guy. Sheffield is not a slam dunk guy. It all comes down to this guy Swanson. If he is serviceable at the back end, then it’s a good deal. Otherwise they may have missed an opportunity.

    Swanson is a great example of what the Yanks have done really well with their farm – they seem to have an abundance of relatively no name pitchers (when prospects) that aren’t highly thought of, yet come up and they plug and play them in the rotation. Jordan Montgomery, Loasinga etc. dodgers seem to do this as well. I wish Rizzo did a better job of that. He does seem to be doing that with relievers, which has been good, but our SP prospects are few and highly touted, like Fedde. I’d much prefer less hyped but more of them. I wonder if it’s time to poach a couple of guys from them or LAD’s development staff, especially pitchers. In general, i’d Say Rizzo has been pretty good at hitting on the occasional star prospect but depth could be better. Although all in, despite the criticisms we’ve given him, I give him credit for developing some options while picking so low Year after year and also having int’l spending restrictions. It’s just a boom or bust approach that makes me nervous.


    20 Nov 18 at 8:46 am

  16. (bringing it back on topic for this post briefly): Rule 5 avoidance moves: just Bourque:

    Bourque seemed like a no brainer. No Mills despite Solis’ possible non-tender and his appearance/success in AFL. I wonder if pro scouts are looking at his size and not bothering. Good for us if he slips through. Also no go on Istler, sort of surprising maybe. Will the Dodgers pluck their guy back and essentially have gotten Madsen for free?

    Todd Boss

    20 Nov 18 at 11:47 am

  17. The Nats saving Bourque over Istler relates directly to what I was thinking in response to Wally’s last comment. The Rizzo-era Nats are infatuated with burly hard throwers who really fill out a uniform. Here, they kept 6-4 and barely at AA over 5-11 and barely at AAA. They’ve also drafted this way, every year, and wondered why the hard throwers who weren’t particularly good in college (Johansen, Mooneyham) have continued to not be particularly good in the pros. In trades, offer them a Henry Rodriguez, Austin Adams, Enny Romero, or Jimmy Cordero and they’ll clear 40-man space for them. And goodness, we sure better draft Seth Romero to show that we’re smarter than everyone else.

    Anyway, unless you count the brief starting period of Detwiler, the last Nats-drafted starter to stick in the Nats’ rotation was Strasburg.

    On the flip side, when they actually hit on a non-98+ guy in Voth, they didn’t know what to do with him and basically have let him wither on the vine. Until his struggles over the last couple of seasons, his numbers at nearly every level were better than Fedde’s, and way better than Giolito’s.

    There have been a few signs of change on the horizon as they’ve drafted a few guys who aren’t 6-4 earlier in the last couple of drafts, including Tim Cate, Brigham Hill, and Kyle Johnston. We’ll see how it works out for them.


    20 Nov 18 at 1:06 pm

  18. Can’t disagree. Its rather disappointing that they can’t look past the classical stereotypical “look” of a player. Its part and parcel to Moneyball’s Beane regularly scoffing at his own scouts, who constantly talked about how a player “looked” and Beane would response, “we’re not selling pants here.”

    Todd Boss

    20 Nov 18 at 1:48 pm

  19. I thought Bourque was a good add, and I might have also thrown in Guilbeau and Istler. relievers are the ones to protect here. And about Istler/Gott etc, in fairness to Rizzo, there aren’t a ton of small, successful pitchers so he is partly playing the odds. but otherwise I thought KW had it exactly right, that Rizzo wants big time stuff from his pitchers and doesn’t value command, figuring they can teach it I guess (except they rarely have taught it). It just creates this boom/bust cycle that hurts organizational depth, plus we really don’t know the upside of these command types. Voth isn’t the best example, because he just wasn’t that good and time showed that.

    But to give an example of their boom/bust approach, here is an article from Fangraphs ranking farm systems by $$. The Nats finish in the late teens, which feels about right. But look how dependent it is on Robles and Kieboom. Without those guys, they are last. That isn’t entirely fair because I didn’t go through and take out everyone else’s top 2, but you get my point. The Nats have always depended on having a superstar or two in their system.


    20 Nov 18 at 2:10 pm

  20. Voth had a 3.15 ERA in a full season at AAA at age 24 in 2016. He succeeded at every level. Not sure what happened to him in 2017, but there were reports that his velocity really tanked. One could surmise that the Nats over-pitched him by sending him to the AFL at the end of ’16 after 157 IP at AAA that year. Anyway, I don’t think the level caught up to him, but it’s possible that it did.

    Completely agree that the Nats’ system has ridden on just a few “stars” for a long time. They haven’t had a solid second tier of good prospective bench guys. In fact, they’ve had a hard time finding many guys who can hit at AA or AAA.

    As for pitchers and drafting, so many scouts are addicted to the radar gun. The gun can’t tell you anything about movement and location, which are the real keys to successful pitching. Even with a higher-velo guy like Max, if he misses location, the ball goes a long way. It’s much safer for the scouts to tout a high-velo kid, though — “ol’ Jake hits 98” sells a lot better than “ol’ Jake paints with 91.”

    The almighty pursuit of velo leads kids to learn bad pitching habits early. Oftentimes, they work so much on throwing hard that they overthrow pitches and lose any natural movement on them. Yeah, you can blow away that 5-8 HS sophomore with your straight heater, but when you get to the pros and throw it to a 21-year-old draftee who was all-conference at a D-1 school, you often don’t get the same results.


    20 Nov 18 at 3:26 pm

  21. A couple of interesting utility guys have hit the waiver wire, Derek Dietrich and Cory Spangenberg. Both are LH bats with a fair amount of defensive versatility. Neither is SS-capable, though, so neither could replace Difo. But I could see the Nats going for someone like this with more versatility instead of another Adams or Lind.


    21 Nov 18 at 8:07 am

  22. I thought the same thing about the church. I’m not as familiar with Spangenberg. It wasn’t there some bad blood between Dietrich in the nets? I’ve vaguely remember something. And also to be clear it’s not very good at defense at any of those positions


    21 Nov 18 at 8:27 am

  23. Sorry for the typos, let me try again.

    I thought the same thing about Dietrich. I am not as familiar with Spangenberg. Wasn’t there bad blood between Dietrich and the nats? I vaguely remember something. And to be clear, Dietrich is not very good at any defensive position, but he does play the outfield. Does Spangenberg?

    I’d still prefer Murph + Difo, I think, with another cheap 4th OF


    21 Nov 18 at 8:30 am

  24. Yeah, I think there was some dust-up with Dietrich, now that you mention it. Probably water under the bridge, though.

    These types of guys wouldn’t be my ideal, but if they’re looking to save money at the fringes, these two are probably a cut above most similarly priced utility guys.

    If the money works, I’d love to have Murph back. Difo is a borderline liability at the plate, but they’ve got to have someone SS-capable, and he’s cheap.


    21 Nov 18 at 9:51 am

  25. Some interesting warnings about several FAs, including ones who might interest the Nats like Murphy, Miller, and Keuchel:

    There also seems to be a fair amount of scuttlebutt on the ‘net about the Yanks looking at Murph for 1B. Not sure why they wouldn’t put Stanton there, though, since he could stretch halfway across in the infield.


    21 Nov 18 at 12:46 pm

  26. Bah, that’s a weak article about Murphy. They don’t even get into his first and second half splits, which tells his injury story. Defense and base running, sure he’s bad. But I’m not buying him done as a hitter.


    21 Nov 18 at 3:46 pm

  27. I see that they’ve been debating some of this at NatsTalk. A little love for Murph, a fair amount of concern.

    I think Murph is going to be an outstanding hitter for another couple of years. We all know his days at 2B are numbered, but I think they can trade off platooning him at 2B with Kendrick and 1B with Zim. Does Murph want to come back here? He seemed to have parted on good terms. I also think the money level is an issue, particularly if the Yanks get involved. He may be a good value at $9-10M/per but perhaps not if the bidding gets up to $12M+. Of course who knows whether he has any interest in going back to the lunacy of playing in NY. One would think that Murphy would prefer to go to a spot where he can play full time, although maybe there would be some appeal for him to cutting back to ~500 ABs.

    We’ll see. Who knows whether Rizzo is even interested in bringing him back. Maybe they would prefer Adams since he would cost half and at least be able to pretend to stand in LF. I would think Adams would be very interested in coming back, as he seemed to thrive with Kevin Long, then fell apart back in STL.


    21 Nov 18 at 8:04 pm

  28. Yeah, same. I’m a buyer at less than $10m per, pass above that. By all accounts, he liked it here and was grateful to Rizzo. He also seems to dance to a different beat, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he came back for less $$.

    I like Adams too – I mean, he was incredible while here. He can’t even fake 2B though, so I’d probably go with dietrich next though.


    21 Nov 18 at 9:13 pm

  29. Hey boys – happy thanksgiving. I enjoy the opportunity to talk about the Nats in an open minded way, and for Todd’s hosting. Hopefully your day is enjoyable with good eats 🙂


    22 Nov 18 at 9:23 am

  30. Yes, Happy Thanksgiving to all!


    22 Nov 18 at 10:44 am

  31. Just read on MLBTR that Kikuchi has retained Boras as his agent. Maybe the Nats will have a chance to get in the door there after all. Honestly, if you can get around the part that the Nats haven’t done anything at all in getting players out of Asia, he would make a lot of sense. We don’t need to pay the #1-2 price of Corbin, plus the QO penalty. We need an affordable lefty to sit at #3-4 in the rotation. He’s more affordable than Happ, and considerably younger.

    Anyway, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about Kikucki because I didn’t think the Nats would have a chance at him, but maybe now they do.


    23 Nov 18 at 2:27 pm

  32. Are you sure he’s more affordable than Happ? I’d doubt it when including the posting fee, and maybe not even the underlying contract. Anyway, I’d be surprised if they are real players, even with Boras.


    23 Nov 18 at 6:18 pm

  33. I know nothing about how posting fees work, whether they count toward the luxury tax or international money, etc. If it’s money that’s outside of luxury tax consideration, then I don’t think the Nats would have a problem. They’re not as concerned about spending money as they are with staying under the tax line.

    MLBTR estimates Kikucki at $7M per; Fangraphs has him at $10M per. With Happ, it’s $16M (MLBTR) and $14M (FG). The Yanks would seem to have enough LH starters so probably aren’t going to be in the market of trying to keep Happ.


    23 Nov 18 at 8:20 pm

  34. Wikipedia page on posting fees seems to indicate they do not count against luxury tax. For what that’s worth.

    Todd Boss

    24 Nov 18 at 9:07 am

  35. It’s arb/non-tender week. Any chance to buy out the arb years and extend for Rendon and Turner? Probably not, but interesting to contemplate.

    Commentors on NatsTalk are wanting to offer Roark a contract worth less than what he made in 2018 ($6.475M). That’s not going to happen. Any offer to him would have to start around $7.5M, or 2/15 for the incentive of extension. That’s closer to what he’s worth than the projected $9.8M. To put it bluntly, with so many decent-or-better starters on the FA market, Roark isn’t worth $10M. In fact, you might have a number of options at closer to $7.5M, like Cahill, Anderson, Miley, D. Holland, Hellickson, Buchholz, and possibly even Harvey and Lynn.

    So . . . I don’t know. I would be surprised if the Nats just turn Roark out on the street, but that might be the savviest roster-construction move they could make. My guess would be that they’ll try to cut a deal with him. We’ll see.

    (Incidentially, FWIW, Roark’s #1 career comp on B-R is Sonny Gray. Too bad they can’t just be swapped straight up for “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude.”) (Gray projected to be owed $9.1M.)


    25 Nov 18 at 2:16 pm

  36. I’ve been hoping on Rendon’s extension, but I think turner is a year early. IIRC, an extension for him will boost his lux tax calc to the average of the extension, even if it doesn’t kick in until next year, which is difficult for the Nats to do this year.

    On Roark, they can always tender him now and cut him later, and only pay 1/6 of his salary. Not great but it buys them time.

    I hope the offseason starts to pick up soon.


    25 Nov 18 at 3:36 pm

  37. Donaldson to Barves. I’m sorta surprised he settled for one year. It’s a lot of money, but not a particularly big “gamble” for ATL since it’s only one year. If he hits, he’s a lethal addition to that lineup. (Donaldson played college ball at Auburn, less than two hours from ATL.)

    McCann, meanwhile, is somewhat of a desperation move after losing Suzuki. McCann was awful last year.


    26 Nov 18 at 3:37 pm

  38. Yeah, but for $2m, I’d have taken that risk for a bounce back. It a fan of the Donaldson signing for ATL (or i’m Glad they did it).

    I wouldn’t mind picking up Torreyes from the NYY on waivers. Decent utility guy. Dietrich is a FA now


    26 Nov 18 at 8:27 pm

  39. I’d have taken the McCann risk for $2m. I’m not a fan of the Donaldson signing


    26 Nov 18 at 8:32 pm

  40. The Donaldson and McCann signings are sort of like Dan Snyder moves from a decade or so ago. McCann is running on fumes and is a serious downgrade from Suzuki any way you slice it. There were several better options on the market, including ATL-connected Wieters (Ga Tech).

    The market for Donaldson was said to be $18-20M, so they overpaid and perhaps were bidding against themselves, at least in that price range. If he stays healthy — big “if” — he’s a nice addition to their batting order. However, he’s an obvious downgrade over Camargo defensively.

    More significantly, Donaldson fills a “need” that didn’t exist. They would have been much better off spending the $23M on PITCHING. They got a remarkable pitching run of luck and career performances in 2018, but they’re deluding themselves if they think they’ll get a repeat performance. It’s a huge gamble if they don’t significantly upgrade their rotation and ‘pen to support their good young lineup.


    27 Nov 18 at 12:48 pm

  41. […] a fun trip down memory lane, here’s the same Rule 5 Protection analysis post for 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, […]

  42. […] the longest running posts I do. Here’s links to past years posts on this topic: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010. We have managed to do this post every year, […]

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