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Nats Rule-5 Draft History; updated for 2013

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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

(I should have published this in early December but got caught up in a glut of other posts; posting this now in lieu of just trashing it).

The Nats for years were heavy participants in the Rule-5 draft, thanks to some pretty awful teams and some shrewd scouting.  In November 2011 I did a Rule-5 Draft history, and I thought I’d update it for the last few drafts, now that 2013′s draft is complete.  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.  Note I’m mostly only doing this analysis for the major league section of the rule 5 draft; there’s just far too little eventual MLB success to be found in the AAA and AA sections of the Rule 5 draft to do the analysis.  I will note some notables who get snapped up in the minor league section for the later years.

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.

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.

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.

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: failure.

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:

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.

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 this year he made his way to the majors for some appearances.  If the team drafted him, why not keep him through spring training of 2012 to see if he was worth keeping?  It just seemed odd to give up on the draft pick while procedurally you could still keep him.  Verdict: 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 likely will be cut loose this off-season. Verdict: failure.

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 are 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.  Even now, with his career .187 batting line, he couldn’t have helped us.

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’s healthy or if he can win a AAA rotation spot at this point with the talent we have matriculating upwards.
  • 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.  I think he remains a minor league caliber player, with too little offense for a corner outfield position but not enough speed to play center.

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.  As most readers here know, Rosenbaum toiled in AAA a full season, putting up good but not great numbers, and seems like he’s destined to repeat that season for us again in 2014.
  • 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.  At this point the team must feel relatively lucky to have gotten Kobernus back, given his call-up and possible future role as a backup.
  • 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.
  • 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.

2013 Rule 5 Draft

Once again, 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 noted though, it seemed like an odd pick for the White Sox, who have a couple of younger developing catchers in their system.  Meanwhile Nieto has never played above A-ball but did  hit .285/.373/.449 this season.  Those are pretty good numbers for a catcher … even if he’s an old 24 in A-Ball.  I speculated in the comments of other posts that perhaps the White Sox just needed some catching help during the split squad games in 2014′s spring training, because the odds of Nieto sticking on a MLB roster for a full year seem incredibly slim.  I didn’t even mention him in my own pre-Rule5 analysis piece for all of this reasoning.  Its hard not to see him getting returned to the Nats by April 1st.

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.  As mentioned above, these minor league acquisitions are essentially $12,000 purchases and the Nats now own these contracts.


Summary: we’ve drafted 10 guys in the MLB phase Rule 5 draft since 2005, and I’d classify 9 of the 10 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  (the exceptions perhaps being Martinez or possibly Nelo).  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 :-)

 

7 Responses to 'Nats Rule-5 Draft History; updated for 2013'

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  1. There was a big change about 5-6 years ago that allowed clubs to keep their prospects an additional year. That’s why we no longer see the Rule 5 picks who become stars any longer. E.G. Johan Santana being poached by the Twins, or Roberto Clemente.
    Still fun to talk about it.

    Mark L

    7 Jan 14 at 7:57 pm

  2. Speaking of Johan Santana, whenever someone brings up the concept of “reverse lock” (a pitching matchup so lopsided you just know the crappy pitcher’s team is going to win) I think of the game where the Nats and Speigner beat the Twins and Santana 3-1. Speigner’s line: 6IP, 2H, 1R, 1ER, 3K, 1BB, 1HR. A 66 game score, it was far and away the best start of his career.

    John C.

    7 Jan 14 at 11:42 pm

  3. Rule 5 change: no argument. I wonder if we still even see the behaviors that the rule 5 draft was meant to clear up any more (i.e., players who are totally blocked in their own farm systems and not getting the chance to compete). I mean, how many minor league free agents are we seeing that really shine or have impacts on the MLB level? Every once in a while we’ll get one or two (think Ryan Vogelsong or Marco Estrada) but they’re rare. That’s what hte rule 5 draft is supposed to protect against really.

    Todd Boss

    8 Jan 14 at 9:59 am

  4. Remember back in the old days when teams would sacrifice their worst pitcher against the opposing team’s ace? Nobody does that anymore.

    Todd Boss

    8 Jan 14 at 10:00 am

  5. With five-man rotations, if a team sacrificed its #5 starter against the opposition #1, it could then (in theory) have an advantageous matchup in 80 percent of its games. It’s an interesting concept, although it would take some juggling to maintain it series to series. But I seriously doubt any team would try it.

    As for the Rule 5 guys, it’s interesting that the Tigers traded for Lombo a year after returning Kobernus. Kobe is much faster and gets on base better (at least in the minors). He can’t really play SS, but neither could Lombo, and Kobernus has more legit skills in the OF than Lombo did. We’ll see. Kobernus seems more MLB-ready for the utility slot than Walters is. Espinoza, of course, is the real wild card in the whole equation.

    KW

    8 Jan 14 at 1:09 pm

  6. Yeah I get the impression that these rotations are pretty set in stone, that manipulating them to get matchups and to throw a guy to the wolves by forcing your #5 to go against someone else’s #1 would be rather professionally insulting. Imagine if you’re the low starter and was constantly getting your days of rest screwed with just so you could go out and (be expected to) lose to the other team’s ace. Rather demoralizing.

    Good point about Kobernus versus Lombardozzi. Hadn’t thought about that.

    Todd Boss

    8 Jan 14 at 1:38 pm

  7. I agree that no team in likely to try the burn-one-against-the-ace rotation. That said, it’s fun to contemplate. There are a couple of situations where it might at least be worth considering. One would be a second-division team that has nothing to lose, not to mention no real ace to match up with the Kershaws of the world anyway. Another might be an expected contender that needs a kick start, like the Giants or even the Nats last year, not for the whole year, but for a few weeks.

    Two types of pitchers might work in that role–and yes, it would have to be someone who wouldn’t be insulted by it. One would a grizzled vet who understands his role, which is to keep the team in the game and to pitch deep into it. Livan circa 2010 would have been perfect for such a slot. The current Nat closest fit would be Ohlendorf. The second type I could see doing it would be a Nuke LaLoosh, basically a Harper-like young bad-ass who actually thinks he should be facing the opposing ace. Not sure how well it would work out, but it would be fun, particularly for a team with nothing to lose.

    KW

    9 Jan 14 at 8:08 pm

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