Per a tweet from The Nationals official account late friday 11/18, the Nats have protected:
- 1B Tyler Moore
- C Derek Norris
- C Jhonatan Solano
- OF Eury Perez
The first two were predictable, especially Norris, who has been on the Nats top prospect lists for several years now. Moore has two 30-homer seasons running and could be putting his name in the mix for at least a bench spot soon.
The other two names were perhaps also predictable, once both international free agent signings were understood to be eligible, but may also indicate some directions this team may be going. Solano wasn’t on anyone’s radar a year ago, when he was first eligible for the Rule5 draft. He was a late 2005 international FA signee at the later age of 20, putting him first Rule-5 eligible last year. However this year he eventually took over as the full time catcher at AAA and held his own, hitting .275 in 255 ABs and solidifying his being the first line of defense if either Ramos or Flores gets hurt. So protecting him and keeping him at the ready in Syracuse is important. This could also pave the way for a transaction involving (most likely) Flores, with Solano coming up to back-up Ramos for a year or so until Norris is MLB ready. A quick look around the league easily shows that the catcher depth charts are weak, everywhere, and Solano could easily have gotten snapped up had he not been protected.
Perez is a wise addition. Frankly I didn’t realize (nor did Zuckerman, or anyone else that was looking at this) that he was rule-5 eligible. He signed with the Nats as a 16yr old in the Dominican Republic and just finished his 5th pro year, meaning (sure enough) he was rule5 eligible this year. Shame on us for not noticing. Perez has been on many top-10 prospect lists, has been steadily moving up the system and could be a mid-season 2013 candidate for the big team. He may still be green enough to not really appear on our own OF depth chart radar, but that doesn’t mean someone else with major holes in the outfield (ahem, Oakland Athletics) wouldn’t have scooped him up without protection.
My predictions for protection included Moore and Norris, Komatsu and Meyers. I would not be surprised in the least if Meyers was picked up by a team looking for starting pitching help. He’s got a similar pedigree to Brian Broderick, who we snatched from St. Louis last year in an attempt to find pitching. I’m slightly surprised the team decided Meyers was not worth protecting. He’s been a solid starter steadily advancing through the system and seems to have fully recovered from his injury issues of a couple years past. He was 6-5 with a 3.48 ERA once arriving in AAA last season, having dominated in his first 6 AA starts to earn the promotion. He’s projected for the 2012 Syracuse rotation again though and isn’t mentioned as a candidate for the Nat’s rotation competition this coming spring (absent a FA signing we seem to basically be full-up, and Meyers probably is the 3rd or 4th best pitcher slated for AAA). So the Nats clearly decided they could part with their 9th best starting pitcher in the system, given the talent they’ve drafted recently (Purke, Meyers) and the talent they have rising up quickly (Cole, Solis, Ray). Fair enough.
Meanwhile, it seems that the team is rolling the dice with Komatsu, who was putting in a strong AA season in Milwaukee’s system before coming over in the Hairston trade and finishing the season hitting .234 in Harrisburg. Upon further review, I’d say that the odds are that nobody’s selecting a right fielder with very little home-run power in the Rule 5 draft. Maybe that was a bad prediction