Nationals Arm Race

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

Rule 5 Losses: odds of them coming back?


Danny Rosenbaum gets drafted by Colorado in the Rule 5 draft. Photo Jeff Mankie via

The Rule 5 draft was conducted on 12/5/12, the last day of the Winter meetings, and the Nats farm system took a hit.

In the Major League Phase (full results from, we lost:

  • Danny Rosenbaum, who was drafted 3rd overall by the Colorado Rockies.
  • Jeff Kobernus, who was taken 7th overall by the Boston Red Sox, and immediately flipped to Detroit for a utility player.

Rosenbaum’s drafting isn’t a huge surprise, given his stature as the leading lefty starter prospect in our system and consistently being mentioned in top 10 lists and all-star teams.  Rosenbaum’s problem is that he projects as a classic back-of-the-rotation lefty; decent but not eye-popping velocity, good control, keeping the ball in the park and giving you consistent innings, and the Nationals current management has little use for such a player.  He projects almost exactly like John Lannan and Tommy Milone, two lefties that Rizzo didn’t covet and who were either flipped or non-tendered.  Now, before bemoaning Rosenbaum’s loss too much, the odds of him being returned seem nearly 100%: Colorado is absolute hell on pitchers.  He joins a team which lost 98 games and whose BEST starter last year posted a 4.43 ERA.  Colorado is stock piling young starter prospects, running them through an unconventional pitch count limit system, and (I guess) seeing who stands out.  Is Rosenbaum any better than the large handful of starters there already?  I don’t think so; I suspect he’ll be back.  Lets just hope he doesn’t return as damaged goods, as Brad Meyer was late last season.

Kobernus has to be excited; he goes from presumably being stuck in the minors for another year to getting a chance to make the 25-man roster team of the defending AL champs as a utility infielder.  Our 2009 2nd round pick signed an under-slot deal (as did nearly everyone else in that draft thanks to the monies paid to Strasburg and Storen) and has posted decent if not flashy numbers in a steady progression through the system.  In 2012 his slash line in AA was .282/.325/.333 and he was a mid-season all-star.  I guess the team decided it just didn’t need a middle infielder who had little to no power (his best OPS season was in 2011 where he just reached .700).  Can he stick in Detroit?  I suspect he could, given the role he’s asked to perform.  However, I worry that (much like Erik Komatsu in 2011, who it should be noted was NOT picked this year despite still being rule-5 eligible) he won’t be able to hit consistently enough to stay with the big team and may eventually be returned.

In the AAA phase, the team also lost:

  • Jack McGeary, taken by Boston.
  • Hector Nelo, taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The departure of McGeary represents the end of a relatively tumultuous relationship between the one time upper-end prospect and team, and serves as a continuing cautionary tale of the risks behind drafting and paying high-end high school arms.  McGeary wanted to attend Stanford and worked out a part-time playing deal to allow him to attend school.  Admirable, but not exactly what a team expects for a $1.8M investment.  After a couple of years he decided to finally focus on baseball first, but blew out his elbow in June 2010.   His late 2011 return looked promising, but injuries cost him most of 2012 as well, pitching a grand total of 9 1/3 innings this year.   After 6 full pro seasons he had yet to advance further than Low-A.   Nats prospect fans have waited years and years for the likes of McGeary, Josh Smoker, Colton Willems and other top-5 talent High school arms to pan out, and have been left wanting.  Arguably the best HS arm the team has drafted since relocating to Washington is Patrick McCoy, a lefty with halfway decent numbers in AA this past year and who has been passed over in two successive rule 5 drafts.  At least the current regime seems to understand this; they’ve signed exactly three HS arms in the last three drafts combined and they’re all familiar names (Giolito, Cole, Ray).

Nelo ended the year as the AA closer, with pretty decent numbers, but himself was a 2011 minor league free agent and seemingly was considered nothing more than an organizational arm for the team.  He was a right handed reliever in a system filled with such players , and his departure shouldn’t be missed too much.

In the end, the Rule 5 draft was as we expected it; it was rather anti-climactic for Nats fans who thought we may get a new player or two to try out.  But as has been stated elsewhere, when the 25-man roster is nearly finalized for the 2013 season, there exists little need to experiment with a rule 5 draftee.

7 Responses to 'Rule 5 Losses: odds of them coming back?'

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  1. Usually these guys come back, but given that Detroit actually traded a player for Kobernus, instead of just the $50K, I have to believe they think they can use him. If nothing else, he can be used as a pinch runner, and Detroit is strong enough to perhaps carry a weak hitter for a year.


    6 Dec 12 at 4:48 pm

  2. Kobernus can run like the wind, but he doesn’t hit or walk much. You can’t coach speed, but you can’t steal first either. Add his nonexistent power and you can see why the Nats were OK with risking him in the Rule 5 draft.

    John C.

    6 Dec 12 at 4:57 pm

  3. Lots of cliches there John 🙂 You sound like an old-school scout.

    Todd Boss

    6 Dec 12 at 5:46 pm

  4. I remember McGeary got into Stanford on bball scholarship, but then signed with the Nats. Pissed by not being illegible to play for the school after recruiting him, Stanford’s coach would not allow him to work out on school facilities in off season.


    9 Dec 12 at 10:37 am

  5. Indeed. And I think while McGeary was at Stanford his roommate was none other than Drew Storen. But to throw on his own, he had to drive to another baseball facility (believe it was at Santa Clara University).

    I don’t think McGeary made a bad choice; if someone offers you life changing bonus money (in his case $1.8M) out of HS you really have to take it; you can always go back to college if your baseball career doesn’t work out. In McGeary’s case, if he washes out of Boston’s organization in a year or two he still has a stanford education to fall back on. Not exactly the worst thing in the world. It reminds me of the Billy Beane scenario; he was offered a full ride to Stanford, instead took the NY Mets 1st round bonus money. In the movie that was played out as a poor decision (he “made a decision based on money” once, and never again as it was explained) but any baseball advisor would have told him to do the exact same thing.

    Todd Boss

    9 Dec 12 at 12:02 pm

  6. I wasn’t shocked the team didn’t protect Kobernus. Walters passed him on the depth chart and Espinosa and Lombardozzi are already in the majors. Behind him are Martinson, Hague and recent draftees Renda and Perez. The team is pretty stocked at guys that profile towards 2nd base.

    Rosenbaum was a bit surprising they didn’t protect him but I think he will be back by June.


    9 Dec 12 at 5:58 pm

  7. I have two, mutually exclusive thoughts on rule 5 protection:

    1. I guess I just don’t understand the point of open spots on a 40-man roster, nor do I really understand the National’s management of theirs sometimes. Why leave open spaces on the roster at all? Is it really necessary to leave an open spot for some future FA signing? How hard is it to designate someone if you need to sign someone else? I dunno. Also, sitting on the roster right now is Carlos Rivero, who has never played a game in the majors but has burned all three of his options and will have to be DFA’d off the roster at the end of spring training ANYWAY. Why is he possibly still on the roster at this point? Is Corey Brown really getting picked up anywhere? He already survived one assignment to AAA, why not another?

    2. On the flip side … the requirements for a rule 5 draftee to stay with the team are so high (staying on an active 25-man roster for an entire season, no dl time allowed), that I sometimes wonder why we bother to protect anybody. Most rule5 draftees seem to be AA guys who took 4-5 years to arrive at AA, and its no surprise when they get up to the majors and hit .200/have a 6.00 era.

    On Kobernus; yes totally agree that he’s a spare part/low on the 2B depth chart. But he’s also a 2nd rounder with a pretty significant bonus attached to him. Perhaps the Nats front office remembers their economic theory (specifically, the concept of a “sunk cost”) and doesn’t mind letting a guy like him (or McGeary for that matter, who they spent a lot more on) move on, despite past bonus monies paid. Rosenbaum seems like a gamble (same as leaving Brad Meyers unprotected), but a gamble that pays off. BUT, it goes to my #1 point above; why let Rosenbaum get picked at all if you value him?

    Todd Boss

    10 Dec 12 at 9:05 am

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