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Nats Rule-5 protection thoughts for 2013


Walters already got added to the 40-man; who else may join him? Photo unk via

Walters already got added to the 40-man; who else may join him? Photo unk via

Who might the team protect ahead of the Rule-5 Draft this year?  The topic came up recently in the comments so I thought i’d publish this post to open up the debate again.  I’ve got a rule-5 history post as well that i’ll post later this week.   And, as it turns out, Nov 20th is the deadline for adding players to the 40-man, so today’s as good a day as any to discuss.  (Kilgore’s analysis here, Baseball’s off-season calendar here).

The Nats off-season rule-5 protection debate really started in late August with an observation made about Zach Walters from Adam Kilgore in his pre-Sept 1 callup piece on 8/27/13.  It was continued by the announced list of Nats AFL participants, which included a couple of significant Rule-5 protection candidates.  Walters was subsequently added to the 40-man and called up, ending any Rule-5 speculation.

As (allegedly) was Steve Souza, who hit the cover off the ball in AA in 2013, with power to go with his CF defensive capabilities.  He followed that up by hitting .357 in the AFL, trailing just mega-prospects Kris Bryant and C.J. Cron for top hitting honors in Arizona.  I say Souza was “allegedly added” to the 40-man because, while news of his 11/1/13 40-man addition was widely published at the time, but his name does not appear on’s 40-man roster for the team nor does there exist an 11/1/13 transaction (Editor’s update: it was posted 10/31/13 and the MLB 40-man database was missing him in error; it was eventually fixed).   I don’t know if its just a procedural thing or if all the beat reporters mis-reported the event and it should have been characterized as a “planned future” move.  But I’ll assume for the rest of this article that Souza is going to be put on the 40-man before the rule-5 draft.

Two of the most obvious Rule-5 candidates (even if Souza was technically a minor league free-agent to be) are now protected.  Who else might we see added?

Using the indispensable sites Draft tracker and the Big Board, and then giving some thought to prospect acquisitions made via trade, here’s some thoughts.  The quick rule-5 rules; any college-aged draftee from 2010 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 from 2009 or before is newly eligible this year.

Newly Eligible Players this year worth consideration for protection:

  • Rick Hague: 2B/SS from Harrisburg; .673 OPS in AA, not good enough OBP for a middle infielder and no power.  He’s well down the pecking order of backup middle infielders in this organization right now, and wouldn’t be a great organization loss even if he was selected.  Chances of being drafted or protected: very slim.
  • Jason Martinson: SS from Potomac/Harrisburg: Martinson finally earned a promotion above A-ball, where he promptly hit .185 in AA in 54 games.  He showed a ton of power in 2012 for a SS (22 homers) but it was in Low- and High-A ball.  Maybe he is a late bloomer.  However he’s not in jeopardy of being protected or drafted at this point.

No other 2010 college aged drafted hitter has even made it to Harrisburg; so they’re not going to get drafted or protected.  This includes three draft picks in the first 10 rounds of that draft; understandable in that the team committed millions to 3 top guys in 2010 and skimped elsewhere.

  • Sammy Solis: LHP with Potomac: coming back from injury in 2013 he pitched in Potomac the whole season.  He was a bit “old” for A-ball but its understandible considering where he’s been.  He excelled in the AFL and is being mentioned as a possible Loogy with the big-league team, so I’d have to think he’s a lock to be protected ahead of the draft.
  • Harrisburg middle relievers Matthew GraceAaron Barrett and Neil Holland: all three have good to excellent numbers in relief this year for AA Harrisburg.  Barrett especially as the closer.  Grace is left-handed and could feature as someone’s loogy.   Tough calls here; you can make a case that the team would like to retain all three guys as bullpen reinforcements in the coming years.  You can also make the riskier case that all three guys, while valuable and skilled players, may not stick on a MLB roster the entire year so perhaps they’re good bets to be left unprotected versus someone already on the 40-man roster.

The rest of the remaining 2010 college-age draftees are all either currently on the DL or are in Hagerstown or below, making them very slim candidates to be protected or picked.  Cameron Selik was one guy who could have made some noise, but he got hurt this year and isn’t going to get picked.

  • 2009 High School-age drafted players newly eligible: just Michael Taylor, who has a ton of speed (51sbs) and an improved OBP (.340) while repeating high-A this year.  I know there are readers here who like Taylor a ton, so this isn’t spoken out of disrespect.  I think Taylor has potential.   Maybe he “made the leap” in 2013.  Maybe he’s going to light up AA next season and suddenly we’re talking about him being Denard Span‘s replacement and not Brian Goodwin.  However, I can’t see someone rolling the dice with him in a rule-5 situation.   He’s never played above A-Ball.  In today’s modern game, with 12 man bullpens and thus shortened benches, I just can’t see someone like Tayler getting carried for an entire year.  I think the team may very well roll the dice and leave him exposed in December, and revisit 40-man protection in 2014.

Rule-5 holdovers from before of Note

  • Last year’s selections Erik Komatsu and Danny Rosenbaum: Komatsu has been hurt all year, Rosenbaum was decent but not over-powering in AAA.  Neither guy seems worth protecting since they already were selected and failed to stick.  But, they’re both AAA-level talents who could be someone’s bench player/swing man so they may get plucked again if not protected.
  • Justin Bloxom and Sean Nicol are both college-aged 2009 draftees with run-of-the-mill numbers in AA; they’ll play out the string until they get pushed out at this rate.
  • Patrick Lehman ended the season on the DL, making one think he’s not likely to get drafted.  Well that and his numbers were not good.
  • Matt Swynenberg has looked better in AA than he did in high-A; has he done enough to garner some interest from another team?
  • Destin Hood: our 2nd round pick in 2008 just seems to be spinning his wheels; his batting average has dropped as he’s repeated a level.  He’s officially in bust status.
  • Adrian Nieto has earned a placement in the Arizona Fall League and was Rule-5 Eligible last year, but was not drafted.  He’s yet to rise above high-A and seems a long shot to be taken (though, the Nats did pretty well plucking one Jesus Flores out of the Mets high-A team one year).


So, who’s getting protected?   As of the time of this writing, the Nats roster sits at 39 of 40 (again, assuming Souza is really there), so there’s just one empty spot.  But there’s at least a few guys on the fringes of the 40-man who I think could be waived and have a high likelihood of being kept (namely, Tyler Robinson and Corey Brown) if the team thought it needed room for either protectees or free agents.  The back-end of this roster is getting a bit clogged.

Depending on how many spots the team keeps open, in order I’d protect Solis, Barrett, Tayler, Grace, and Holland.   For me, only Solis is a lock.  The rest (for reasons described above) may be calculated omissions.


25 Responses to 'Nats Rule-5 protection thoughts for 2013'

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  1. To me this offseason Tyler Robertson and Corey Brown will be removed. Cedeno or Abad may get the ax if a veteran loogy is signed. I also predict someone in the Eury Perez, Kobernus, Walters destined for the AAA group will be involved in a trade to clear up another spot. I think the team over all will have 5 roster spots to work with this offseason which covers a catcher, lefty reliever, starter and 1 bench power bat. That really only leaves 1 open spot (that is accounting for Souza already being on the roster) for the rule 5 barring trades of course. I believe you are spot on with Solis getting that spot.

    I think the team would like to put one of the 3 relievers you mentioned on the roster but I think they role the dice like they did with Rosenbaum and Kobernus last year.

    Michael Taylor is an interesting guy to me. I think a 2nd division team like the Marlins, Astros etc could take a flyer on him. He could be the 25th man on a roster based on his speed and defense at a premium position alone. Having the last guy on your roster be a really good defender in the OF and have plus speed while hitting left handed may be something a bad team could hold on the roster an entire season. He may be completely over matched at the plate and may get returned but I would expect someone to draft him and as high as it seems the team is on him I don’t know if they will gamble on it. If they are going to lose him I would expect him to be a piece in a trade instead.


    20 Nov 13 at 9:26 am

  2. Are the rules different for the minor league side of the draft? If not I could definitely see someone grabbing Taylor to play on their AA team next year. I can’t find very clear information on that part of the draft.


    20 Nov 13 at 9:31 am

  3. from Jim Callis on the minor league phase: “There are Triple-A and Double-A segments of the Rule 5 draft, with price tags of $12,000 and $4,000 respectively. Minor league players not protected on the reserve lists at the Double-A and Class A levels are subject to selection, but almost no future big leaguers emerge from this process. It’s basically a tool for major league teams to fill out affiliates rather than obtain talent.”

    So, the eligibility in the AAA and AA phase rests entirely on the “reserve lists” that i’m sure none of us bloggers have access to 🙂

    Todd Boss

    20 Nov 13 at 12:52 pm

  4. Cedeno/Abad: both guys were great in AAA, functional in MLB. I would try to keep them unless you have to ditch them. Which i bet is exactly what Rizzo does; he’s shown year after year to keep guys on who we KNEW were getting non-tendered or released. Makes sense to me; why waste a spot on the 40-man/why release a guy before you have to?

    Here’s a name that may be in jeopardy that we havn’t mentioned: Erik Davis. protected last year, ineffective in callups this year and just so-so numbers in AAA.

    I completely agree that a god-awful team with nothing to lose (and there may be quite a few. Astros, White Sox, Cubs, Marlins) could take a flier on Taylor. But the team needs to decide like today if they’re going to protect him. Maybe the Nats logic goes like this: I have Werth and Harper under contract for many years. Span is my current starter. So then going down the list my depth chart right now probably goes Moore, Kobernus, Perez, Brown (to account for all 40-man guys) After that honestly where would you rank this collection of guys: Goodwin, Burns, Taylor, Souza? I mean if we lost our entire 40-man roster of outfielders to injury, are you calling up Taylor before Goodwin? doubt it. Taylor before Souza? doubt it. Taylor before Burns?? Probably not at this moment. So by my count that puts Taylor ranked 11th on the organizational outfielder depth chart. Is that worth dropping someone else in order to protect him?

    Todd Boss

    20 Nov 13 at 1:05 pm

  5. I would agree on Davis being in jeopardy. I agree that I wouldn’t cut Abad or Cedeno unless it was a necessity. Robertson, Brown and Davis seem like the first to go to me.

    I can definitely see your logic on not protecting Taylor. I just love his raw talent but you are probably correct that he wouldn’t be able to stick on a team for the whole season. It is a nice thing to be able to talk about having some depth throughout the system. I saw a nice piece on the best minor league base stealers on fangraphs and they ranked Burns ahead of Billy Hamilton. That is pretty crazy.


    20 Nov 13 at 2:08 pm

  6. Yeah exactly. Burns across the board has better numbers than Taylor this year at a higher level. BA, obp, # steals. Who you really going to call up? Yeah Taylor is younger and thus has more potential … but its only by 2 years. And Burns switch hits. Career .425 OBP in the minors!? That’s your leadoff-centerfielder prospect to keep an eye on. I don’t care if he’s 5’9″ … that never stopped Pedroia.

    Todd Boss

    20 Nov 13 at 2:27 pm

  7. This year could be a very interesting year for Burns. If he continues to rake at the upper levels he may make Goodwin expendable which would be very useful in a trade. I like what I have seen from Souza as well. All of a sudden CF is a deep position with average to well above average defenders at AA or higher (counting Taylor getting bumped to AA next year.)


    20 Nov 13 at 4:08 pm

  8. Burns will really, really have to earn his way up based on his size. It took Jose Altuve a long time to break through, and even now scouts can’t see past his height. But so far so good. I mean, if the guy hits AAA, maintains a .300 BA and a .430 OBP and steals a ton of bases, why not give him a shot.

    Todd Boss

    20 Nov 13 at 4:46 pm

  9. Burns will rise for a different reason – his speed is a game changer that makes his teams winners.

    As for Souza, his health is the biggest obstacle and nothing else. He keeps making every jump, has all the tools and is legit 25/25 with average and walks. If he stay healthy all year in AAA, we’ll have an interesting conversation that he provokes at the summer trading deadline if Span is still around, and if Burns forces his way up to AAA by then.

    LeCroy being in DC is an interesting part of the picture. He managed both of these guys, and was quoted as saying he wanted Burns a lot sooner than Burns was promoted. Harris and the brass kept him down; but they are now true believers after the Harrisburg run he had, reflected in his Minor league player of the Year nod. He sure became the fair haired boy fast. Chicks may not dig the SB, but they dig winners and Burns is that.


    20 Nov 13 at 5:35 pm

  10. Another point. It is 549 and other teams are making their moves. I see Rizzo’s delay at showing his hand a sign that the team is planning to drop someone they want to have pass through waivers (after others fill up their rosters) or they have their eye on folks on other rosters whom they value more than the cards we have in our deck. Today’s Mauro Gomez, for example.

    Todd, thanks for this post and blog. Great posts, all, very civilized.


    20 Nov 13 at 5:39 pm

  11. From MLBTR: ‘The Nationals announced that they have designated left-handed pitchers Fernando Abad and Tyler Robertson for assignment. The moves will make room for left-hander Sammy Solis, outfielder Michael Taylor, and right-hander Aaron Barrett on the 40-man roster.’


    20 Nov 13 at 7:32 pm

  12. Hurrah! Solis, Barrett, and Taylor protected. Robertson and Abad dropped. Wise choices.


    20 Nov 13 at 7:35 pm

  13. Wow. I stand totally corrected on their intentions.

    Slightly surprised at the Abad DFA. But as others have pointed out, Taylor was ripe for stashing by someone like the Marlins. Barrett protection makes sense as a closer-to-the-majors guy who may get plucked and could contribute in 2014.

    I like these moves. Question is; what is going on with Souza?? Is he on or not?

    Todd Boss

    20 Nov 13 at 8:05 pm

  14. I’m pretty sure they waived Gomez so he could sign in Japan, a common courtesy that teams do and don’t poach each other’s such waivers.

    Todd Boss

    20 Nov 13 at 8:07 pm

  15. Yay! I was 3 for 3 on who I thought would be added! Didn’t see the Abad DFA coming though.

    Yay, forensicane! Michael Taylor is now on the 40-man. I guess we can stop gushing about him because obviously the Nats agree!


    20 Nov 13 at 8:16 pm

  16. OK. Now we can move on to what happens next.

    Todd raised an interesting point about how Taylor, even protected, joins a packed depth chart. Indeed. That is why I believe Goodwin is the attractive trade bait. Consider:


    Even if you see Brown as never emerging for the Nats, let alone as a 4th OF or a person who finds a starting role, even if you believe that Span will be with the Nats for no more than one year, there is still only one 2015 spot. Yes, Werth was the Nats best player in 2013, takes care of his body well, leads and wants to play as long as he can, and there is no reason to believe he cannot be an effective starting OF in 2015.

    Now consider that by 2015, we will be talking about Isaac Ballou and possibly Bautista. And may be Walters becomes, as one suggests, outfield material.

    I look at Goodwin and I see him at the height of the prospect lists, and say, sell high.

    As for pitching, you see the same thing. Karns is a good example.


    With three spots locked down, locked down for 2014 and 2015. Karns fared well in AA and has been hyped as the Nats best prospect. But at the end of the day, Jordan and Roark outpaced him. He is valued, he has value. He is a good chip.

    This 40 Man is obviously going to change. Rizzo and the brass were not blowing smoke when they spoke to the system depth. When they traded for Gio, they traded well. And the person they traded for has been worth the investment.

    Young, controllable talent. Starting pitcher? Maybe. But I still can’t help but dream of Giancarlo Stanton or another such 1B young controllable fixture, remembering the Prince Fielder pursuit. You put a heavy bat like that in the lineup and you can swap out Tyler Moore, Karns, Goodwin, even Stammen and build a package from that. Hell yes I would add to that if need be. But those are no mere parts. They are replaceable parts. Wilson Ramos was a replaceable part for Minnesota. That’s why teams make those deals.


    20 Nov 13 at 8:49 pm

  17. And yes, I did forget Solis and Eury Perez. So you throw in Solis and Perez (or Kobernus) to that deal or as one of two deals and that’s a hell of a package or packages that absolutely do not leave the cupboard bare.

    Imagine if we could upgrade the team with a high grade starter and a big thump bat, and add a lefty reliever by FA?

    And we then still have Soriano and Span, both of whom can get us a Morse yield, and Laroche, whom if he fetched us Matt Walters 2.0, we’d be rather tickled.

    Hot Stove rules!


    20 Nov 13 at 8:56 pm

  18. PS

    I can see a scenario of Burns and Souza to the Nats in 2015 starting with Werth at 1B. But that is because Bryce can play RF or CF and Souza will be a better OF than Werth at that point. So Werth is then essentially moving for the good of the team (assuming Zimm stays indefinitely at 3B).

    Still, those younger players have to make the jump through the minors. But they don’t have as far to go, and they are gaining momentum, as rising prospects do.


    20 Nov 13 at 9:01 pm

  19. Todd, Souza is on’s 40 man roster now.


    20 Nov 13 at 9:08 pm

  20. I see him now. And the transaction wasn’t 11/1/13 but 10/31/13. I think it was just a mistake on the page that was fixed yesterday. I refuse to believe i missed it on the webpage all this time 🙂

    Todd Boss

    22 Nov 13 at 11:46 am

  21. He definitely wasn’t in the website until after they added this round of people. Very strange.


    24 Nov 13 at 10:37 am

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