Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for November, 2021

Nats 2021 Non-Tender Discussion

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Is this the end of the road for Fedde with the Nats? Photo via minorleagueball.com

12/1/21 is the non-tender deadline for this year. It also happens to be “National MLB lockout day” as the existing CBA expires between the owners and players … but for the purposes of this post, we’ll assume that some normal baseball transactions will occur. and because of this uncertainty, the two sides agreed to move up the non-tender deadline a couple of days so as to at least not leave a bunch of edge-of-the-roster guys hanging for months.

(Like a lot of our posts, they’re recurring features. Here’s links to prior years: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.  I’m not sure why i didn’t do it last year, or in 2016, but we’re back).

As of 11/19/21, when the Nats protected Donovan Casey and Evan Lee ahead of the rule-5 draft, the 40-man roster sat at 39 players. The team’s off-season moves included a waiver claim (Francisco Perez), a re-signing (Alcides Escobar), the returning of three players to the active roster off the 60-day DL (Strasburg, Harris, JRoss), and the two Rule-5 protections.

This doesn’t leave much room for a number of FA moves we think the team needs to make this off-season. Luckily, we have a slew of guys who are “Non-Tender candidates.” We also have a slew of guys who are out of options, or who are on the edges of the roster right now who could make way if/when we need space to sign guys. For today though we’re talking about the non-tender candidates. “Non-tender” candidates are arbitration-eligible players who need to be “tendered” a contract offer by 11/30/21, which is thus a promise to enter into arbitration at a later date to negotiate a 2022 salary.

We have at least 6 and likely 10 arbitration candidates on the roster (more on this later), many of them coming off off really poor seasons. For the arbitration salary estimates we’ll use a combination of the predicted Arb salaries from MLBtraderumors.com, the projected salaries from Cots/Fangraphs, and my own opinion. Lets run through all 10 players and give some opinions on tendering.

  1. Juan Soto. Arb2, projected salary $16-$17M. He made $8.5M this year, finished 2nd in MVP voting, and is already being linked in the sport to a potential $500M contract. Tender Decision: Obviously he will be tendered.
  2. Josh Bell Arb3, projected salary $10-$11M. He made $6.35M this year. He’s given the Nats everything they could have hoped for after trading for him and hoping for a bounce-back from his awful 2020. Tender Decision: an obvious tender.
  3. Victor Robles: Arb1, projected salary $1.5-$1.75M. Yes, he ended the year in AAA. He’s still considered a valuable piece and there’s no way they cut him loose at this point to save $1.5M. Goes into 2022 though behind Lane Thomas on the depth chart and might be competing with Stevenson for the 4th OF job (which has cascading considerations .. see below for more). Tender Decision: tender him.

Ok, so that’s the end of the tender locks. The rest of these guys each have a mostly legitimate reason not to tender. We’ll go one by one by rough projection of 2022 salary and make some guesses.

  1. Joe Ross; Arb3: $2.5-$3M projected. He made $1.5M this year. He sat out 2020, pitched in the rotation for most of 2021 to a 98 ERA+ … then tore his UCL in Mid August. Awesome. So we have a 5th starter who has already had Tommy John surgery sitting on a known second UCL tear, but which apparently doesn’t require surgery. Tender Decision: Do you tender the guy a contract? I wouldn’t: i’d non-tender him and immediately offer him a non-40 man minor/major split deal with an opt-out/call up guarantee for when he projects to be healthy. And if i’m Ross i’d take it, because nobody else would offer him anything different.
  2. Erick Fedde, Arb1: $1.9-$2M. Fedde has now pitched in 75 games across 5 seasons for this team. They tried him as a reliever in 2019 and he was awful (more walks than Ks). They’ve used him as a starter and his career starting ERA is 5.32. I think he’s 7th or 8th on our starter depth chart right now, and that’s before looking at AAA and seeing the guys who are there who i’d rather see on the mound. He has no options and has not proven he’s worth carrying even if he doesn’t make the rotation in 2022. Tender Decision: Non-tender him
  3. Wander Suero: Arb 1, projected $900k-$1M salary. Suero basically doubled his ERA and FIP in 2021 versus 2020, tough to do. He went from being a serviceable middle reliever to a guy getting demoted to AAA. It was a weird season; he had three very consistent performances in the three years prior. Was he hurt? Was it something mechanical? Either way, his track record buys him a roster spot for 2022, especially since he’ll be relatively cheap. Tender Decision: tender a contract and hope for a return to previous levels of performance.

Then, the Nats have four players who all are right around the typical Super-2 cutoff date. All four of these players have 2 years and between 125 – 135 days of service. If the Super-2 cutoff comes in at 2years 136 days … all four of these guys will remain under team control and get paid the MLB min. For the purposes of this discussion though, lets assume they all get super-2 status. Post publishing update: just i posted this, MLB announced the Super2 cutoff at the very low 2years, 116 days (the 2nd lowest cutoff in the last decade), so all four players below are eligible.

  1. Austin Voth: Arb1. Proj Salary: $1M. Unlike his fellow 5th starter competitor for the past few years, Voth was actually put into the bullpen this season … and he wasn’t good. 5.34 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 1.48 whip. Way too many walks, way too many homers. He’s got just as poor a career stat line as Fedde, but it likely doesn’t cost half as much to retain him since the league thinks he’s a reliever now++. But, it isn’t so much about the salary as it is the roster space at this point. Voth has no options remaining either, and has not made enough of a case to guarantee a bullpen spot in 2022. Tender Decision: non-tender him.
  2. Andrew Stevenson: Arb1, projected salary $900k. His 2020 glittering stat line is gone; he slashed .229/.294/.339 in 109 part time games this year. He’s now 5th on the OF depth chart and has no options. It seems like his time as a major leaguer might be done. Tender Decision: non-tender.
  3. Ryne Harper, Arb1. Projected salary: $800K. After awful stats in 2020 post acquisition (we got him from Minnesota for Hunter McMahon in a rare prospect-for-prospect trade), he did pitch reasonably well in 2021. His peripherals were not great, but he kept guys off base and was good. He also has options remaining, meaning he can run between AAA and the majors all they want. I see no reason to cut him loose, especially given his low projected salary, Tender Decision: tender him.
  4. Tanner Rainey Arb1. Projected salary: $800K. What in the heck happened to Rainey in 2021? How do you go from a 170 ERA+ season to a 55 ERA+ season? Something seems amiss. Unfortunately, he’s out of options, meaning he’s got next year’s spring training to figure it out or get DFA’d. He’s got too good of a track record and too big of an arm not to gamble on especially since his projected salary is peanuts. Tender Decision: tender him.

My conclusion: Non-tender Ross, Fedde, Voth, and Stevenson, clearing up 4 roster spots. Offer all four minor/major combo deals to try to resurrect their careers. I doubt any would take it save Ross.

Post-publishing update! On 11/30/21 the Nats non-tendered Harper, Suero, and Ford. Ford was not arbitration eligible, but was a curious roster claim last season who was near the top of my “Next Nats 40-man roster guy to get cut when they needed to make a move.” I was completely off on my predictions.

Sources used:

  • Cots Nats page: https://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/national-league/washington-nationals/
  • Cots Nats 2022 salary page: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Au_xTIni1eJbDGzravS1482wBbzN9DBQaOY1wwo2Mr0/edit#gid=1520401900
  • Roster Resource nats page: https://www.fangraphs.com/roster-resource/depth-charts/nationals
  • Nats Big Board; https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/186nm-v5F-zTCoR2Be7TFYM3e2cZ-gYi2WVqJLEkHdmc/
  • Baseball-Reference.com of course.

Written by Todd Boss

November 27th, 2021 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Nats in General

MLBPA CBA bargaining playbook strategy leaked

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The Athletic got its hands on a huge memo the MLBPA issued to its members, providing guidance and answering questions for the (expected) lockout to occur on 12/1/21.

What’s more interesting to me was the rhetoric that the MLBPA communicated as to its “primary concerns” with the state of baseball right now, and to me it reads like a list of the major demands/strategic positions the union has. We’ve talked at length about all the issues that we think are contention points, but this list prioritizes what the union is after.

Here’s a summary of the 4 main issues the union will be arguing:

  1. Incentivizing Competition. As in, the blatant and open tanking that has been going on. MLBPA wants to change things so that winning is incentivized. Possible solutions here include financial penalties for sustained and purposeful losing (like, loss of revenue sharing dollars), draft pick compensation changes, and salary floors. None of these are going to go over well, especially to the “poorer” owners in the game such as in Kansas City, Pittsburgh etc. that being said, the owners know something is coming, and has already proposed a Salary Floor of $100M. Of course … they also included a salary ceiling thats at least $40M lower than current, which is ridiculous.
  2. Ensuring the most talented players are on the field. This is a direct attack on service time manipulation, and clearly the Union has had it. I don’t blame them: when Kris Bryant was blatantly kept in the minors for two weeks simply to gain an additional year of service, and the grievance went nowhere, the Union knew it had to demand changes. Our own Nats have done something similar in the past with Super-2 considerations, though not as blatantly as some teams (ahem, Tampa Bay, who kept Wander Franco in the minors well into the summer this year). The solution here is pretty simple, and has already been proposed by the owners in one form: a standardized age for reaching free agency, which removes any and all incentives for teams to keep their best players in the minors. The challenge will be figuring out what that age is; to me age 29.5 is too old. My suggestion would be a flat number of years of control based on the age of the player at signing, which basically turns into age 28 for all players. If the player is 16 at age of signing, 12 years before FA. If player is a HS player who has not turned 19, then 10 years. If the player is 19 or a juco signing, then 9 years, and if the player has turned 21 or is from a 4-yr program then 8 years.
  3. Reducing artificial restraints on competition. This is a direct attack on the luxury tax threshold, which has basically turned into a salary cap, even for teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox, which is patently ridiculous. But it also talks about the concept of draft pick compensation, saying that it gives teams a “convenient excuse” to not compete. I can’t help but agree; Scott Boras said it well and accurately when he claimed that the value of draft picks has led to half the league tanking. The challenge here is this: the players never should have allowed the cap, and now they’ll never be able to get rid of it. Clubs are disingenuous with their finances (except for the publicly traded teams like Atlanta, who display for the world how much money they’re not spending on payroll as compared to what they’re making), so we’ll never be able to get to a revenue split like what NHL/NBA has. The Solution won’t be easy: I think the players should get a flat rate of revenues, which is accomplished through both a floor and a ceiling. I like the idea of having what the NBA has in the Larry Bird exemption, allowing teams to go over the cap to re-sign their own players; that would really do much for this issue. I think teams should be inventivized to keep their home grown players; if we had Larry Bird exemption we might still have Rendon and Harper.
  4. Getting players their value earlier in their career. This one is easy; when you have pre-arb players winning MVPs and getting paid 1/50th of their value, something is fundamentally wrong with the system. MLB has already proposed going to a WAR-driven system, which is a start. I’m not sure what the solution here is; if Mike Trout has a 9-war season at age 23, do you pay him $50M the next year? What happens if he gets hurt and misses the entire season? do you pay him $0 the next year? The other challenge with using f-WAR is that it is drastically different in evaluating pitchers than bWAR or WARP; is that fair to non-strikeout guys?

Notably not mentioned here are other issues we know are floating around, such as:

  • International Draft
  • Qualifying Offers
  • Revenue Sharing
  • Arbitration system mods (other than wanting more money of course)
  • Draft signing bonuses
  • International signing bonuses
  • anything having to do with minor leaguers (of course; they’re not union members)

So, look for the players to “give” on these issues to get progress above. This is what really scares me; if the players give up an international draft (which the owners desperately want), what happens to the pipeline of international players?

We’re in for a long winter.

Written by Todd Boss

November 24th, 2021 at 3:43 pm

2021 Awards wrap-up and Bryce MVP #2

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Harper gets MVP #2. Photo via Phila Inquirer

Normally i take pride in being able to predict the 8 major post-season awards MLB gives out. This year I kind of got a time crunch right when the prediction piece had to go out and gave it a quick guess instead of doing deep analysis. how did I do on predictions nonetheless?

Here’s how my predictions went versus actual:

  • AL MVP: predicted Ohtani, actual Ohtani unanimously.
  • AL Cy Young: predicted Robbie Ray, actual Ray with 29 of 30 1st place votes.
  • AL Rookie: predicted Arozarena, actual Arozarena with 22 of 30 1st place votes.
  • AL Manager; Predicted La Russa, actual Kevin Cash of Tampa.
  • NL MVP: predicted Bryce Harper, actual Harper with 17 of 30 first place votes.
  • NL Cy Young: predicted Corbin Burnes, actual Burnes in a very close vote.
  • NL rookie: predicted Jonathan India, actual India with 29/30.
  • NL Manager: predicted Gabe Kaper SF Giants, actual Kapler.

So, I got 7 of 8 right. Not bad.

Current and former Nats are all over this year’s awards. Harper wins MVP, Ray wins Cy Young. Soto finished 2nd in MVP voting, Scherzer finished 3rd in Cy Young, Lucas Giolito got a 3rd place Cy Young vote, Trea Turner was 5th in NL MVP.


Speaking of Bryce Harper; he wins his 2nd MVP award. Certainly it wasn’t nearly as dominant a season as he had in 2015, but it was still a highly impressive season. He now has 40 career bWAR at the end of his age 28 season and two MVP awards. The list of players who have won 2 or more MVPs (and who are not PED-associated) and are not in the Hall is pretty small:  Juan Gonzalez, Dale Murphy, Roger Maris. One more MVP and Harper basically guarantees himself inclusion into the hall.

I mention this because as he stands now he’s already the 45th ranked RF in baseball history by JAWS, and he’s signed for 10 more years in a hitter’s park. The mean career bWAR for all inducted right fielders in the Hall is just 72 bWAR; Harper’s already well past the halfway point and is now basically entering his prime slugging years in his late 20s/early 30s.

There seems to be a lot of antagonism towards Harper; constant droning that he’s overrated or that he didn’t deserve the contract he got. Maybe you can be “over-rated” when you’ve got just one monster MVP quality season .. but two? His career OPS+ is now 142, just a couple points below none other than Albert Pujols. So, at some point the narrative has to change about Harper right?

Written by Todd Boss

November 19th, 2021 at 1:12 pm

Nats 2021 Rule-5 Analysis and Predictions

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Donovan Casey is a possible Rule-5 addition … any others?

Its our Annual rule 5 protection analysis post!

Every time I re-do a post that I know i’ve done in the past, I scan back to get the last few links. For this piece; this is one of 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, without fail, since the blog started. That might be the sole recurring piece that I can say that about on this blog. We also do a post-mortem post comparing our predictions to actual roster additions; we’ll post that the day after the roster additions occur.

Each year, around the 20th of November is the “Day to file reserve lists for all Major and Minor league levels” for MLB teams. In other words, this is the day that players need to be added to 40-man rosters to protect them against the rule 5 draft, which occurs a couple weeks later at the winter meetings. 2021 is an odd year of course, since 12/1/21 is the day the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires between the MLBPA and the owners, and unless there’s an agreement in place (highly doubtful) many pundits believe the MLB-component of the winter meetings may not occur as the owners seem likely to lock out the players. So, this may be academic for now; if there’s no meeting, there’s no rule-5 draft. Maybe they’ll re-do the entire CBA and eliminate the entire concept of rule-5 with some hard deadlines for free agency (instead of the wishy washy service time clock that is annually abused by teams to screw over players’ earning potential). But for now, we’ll assume that we’re going to have a Rule-5 draft, eventually.

Here’s the “rules/guidelines” for rule 5 eligiblity for 2021: any 4-year college-aged draftee from 2018 or before who isn’t already on the 40-man roster is Rule-5 eligible this coming December, and any high-school aged draftee/International Free Agent from 2017 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 and the Draft Tracker for exact details, but apologies in advance if I miss someone. Also, thanks to the 2021 season sell-off, we’ve acquired a ton of new players, and hopefully I havn’t forgotten anyone in this analysis.

Vital resources for this analysis: the Big Board, the Draft Tracker, and Roster Resource.

Group 1: Newly Eligible 2018 draft College Players this year worth consideration for protection:

Hitters:

  • Gage Canning, 5th rounder in 2018. Started the year in High-A, promoted to AA. Hit decently for the year, but he’s undersized (5’10”) without a ton of pop (just 5 homers this year) and little speed (just 2 SBs this year). I don’t think he’s a prospect going forward, and he’s not a candidate to be protected.
  • Cody Wilson, 13th rounder in 2018: hit a combined .124/.225/.164 across three levels in 2021 as a backup CF. Not a prospect.
  • Jacob Rhinesmith, 18th rounder in 2018: hit .250/.340/.398 across High-A and AA this year; nothing spectacular. 9 homers and 9 SBs in 107 games. Org guy.
  • Onix Vega, 20th round catcher from 2018: hit .233 in Low-A this year, not a prospect at this point nor a candidate to get rule-5 drafted.
  • Cole Daily, 22nd rounder from 2018: hit just .193 across several levels as he was bounced around to provide middle infield cover for the lower minors. Not a prospect.
  • Kyle Marinconz, 24th rounder from 2018. Like Daily, hit poorly across a couple of levels as he moved around to provide middle infield cover. Not a prospect.

Pitchers

  • Tim Cate, 2nd rounder from 2018. 5.31 ERA in 21 starts in AA this year. Cate presents a conundrum for the team in general, and for this exercise. He got hit badly this year, and his peripherals weren’t that great (81/37 K/BB in 96IP). Despite this, BaseballAmerica listed Cate as having both the best Curve and best Control in the system with their recently released prospect rankings (side note: how does a guy who walked 37 in 96 have the “best control” in the system? Really? Baseball America’s output for the Nationals this year was, as I noted in a previous post, really questionable analysis). Nonetheless, he’s a 2nd rounder with a significant bonus figure investment (frustrating those of us who studied Economics and can express what a “sunk cost” is better than most Baseball GMs with ivy league degrees), and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the team protect him under the guise that he could feature almost immediately in 2022 as a MLB reliever.
  • Reid Schaller, 3rd rounder from 2018: decent numbers as a middle reliever in High-A and AA this year. 48/24 K/BB in 44 innings. Not exactly the numbers that you’d expect to see someone get plucked for a MLB pen next year, so the risk of his getting selected is not high. If he was left handed, maybe we have a different conversation.
  • Jake Irvin, 4th rounder from 2018. spent all of 2021 recovering from Tommy John surgery, not a candidate to be drafted. Hope he recovers and shows us something in 2022.
  • Andrew Karp, 6th rounder from 2018: was pretty solid all year as kind of a middle to long reliever in High-A … but that’s just it; he’s 26 and was in high-A all year. Definitely “old for the level.” He hadn’t pitched since 2018, so this was a good return to the field. I’m thinking Karp could be a solid bullpen piece for this team by mid to late 2022; is that worth protecting? Would a team grab him for their MLB bullpen next year? Doubtful, but we’ll list him as a secondary candidate.
  • Chandler Day, 7th rounder in 2018: never assigned in 2021, spending the entire season either in XST or secretly released unbeknownst to us. Either way, not a prospect nor a candidate to be protected right now.
  • Frankie Bartow, 11th rounder from 2018: 5.40 ERA as AA’s closer once Matt Cronin got hurt. Averaged a K an inning, so not blowing them away. Not considered a prospect by any scouting shop either, so not likely to be a candidate to protect.
  • Evan Lee, 15th rounder from 2018. Eye-opening numbers as a full-time LHP starter in High-A this year: in 21 games/20 starts he posted a 4.32 ERA 1.31 whip but more importantly 104/32 Ks in just 77 innings. This earned him a last minute spot in the AFL this fall, likely for the team to see how he fares against better competition. He has not fared well, posting an ERA north of 7.00 as of this writing. So he presents another interesting case: would you want to keep a lefty with major strike-out capabilities, even if they were “only” in High-A? I think his placement in the AFL and his lefty arm means he’s going to be protected.
  • Carson Teel, 16th rounder from 2018: had a decent 2021 season, earning a promotion from AA to AAA as a long man/spot starter. 4.40 combined ERA, didn’t blow people away but definitely did not put up the same kind of numbers he did in 2019 in High-A. Has never been considered a prospect (has never appeared on any prospect list for this team), so is probably considered an org-arm of sorts. I can’t see him getting protected, nor selected.
  • Ryan Tapani, 21st rounder from 2018: like Teel, decent numbers from 2021 as a multi-inning middle reliever in AA. Nothing special; zero prospect buzz about him. It seems like he’s a decent org-arm middle reliever righty that may just play out the string for us in the high minors next year. Not a candidate to be protected or selected.

Group 1 Rule-5 Protection Candidates: Cate (Maybe), Karp (doubtful), Lee (Maybe)


Group 2: Newly Eligible 2017 High School-age drafted players under consideration for protection

This section is always easy, since we rarely draft HS kids.

  • Justin Connell, 11th rounder from 2017: starting corner OF for high-A this year, showed some speed (21 SB) and some plate discipline (hitting .293). Has never really been a prospect with buzz, certainly did not show any reason he’d be a threat to get picked, but did show some promise for 2022.

Group 2 Rule-5 Protection Candidates: none.


Group 3: Newly Eligible 2017 signed IFAs under consideration for protection:

For the most part, nearly all these 2017IFA under-age signings are now in the age 21 range and if they’re still with us, they’re in the lowest parts of the minors, meaning by default they are not really candidates to get drafted. But we’ll run through them nonetheless:

  • Viandel Pena, SS. Hit .214 in Low-A. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Ricardo Mendez, OF. The only guy in this section who has matriculated out of Low-A. Slashed . 287/.343/.440 between low and high-A in 2021 in his age 21 season, promising but not world beating. Not a candidate to get drafted, but someone who might continue to prosper next year.
  • Geraldo Diaz, C. hit .217 as a backup catcher in Low-A in 2021. Not a candidate to be drafted.
  • Leandro Emiliani, hit .165 between the GCL and Low-A in 2021. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Pedro Gonzalez, SP. was in the opening day rotation for Low-A, demoted after giving up 19 runs in 9 innings. Ended the year struggling in the FCL. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Karlo Seijas, SP. somehow stayed in the Low-A rotation the entire season, making 22 starts and pitching to a 6.84 ERA. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Carlos Romero, RP. Pitched as a swing-man in Low-A, posted a 5.00 ERA and a 1.63 whip. Not a candidate to get drafted.
  • Jorge Hurtado, OF. Hit .164 in the complex league. Nobody’s banging down the door for him right now.
  • Andry Arias, OF. had decent numbers in FCL. But he’s 21 in the FCL: not a candidate.
  • Jose Ferrer, RHP. Had great numbers in 2021 … in the FCL. 2.78 ERA and 47/9 K/BB in 35 IP. That sounds great. He just finished his age 21 season, and he’s not a realistic candidate to get picked, but I’d like to see him move forward a couple levels in 2022.

Group 3 Rule-5 Protection Candidates: None.


Group 4: Rule-5 Eligible Drafted hold-overs of note: these are players who were rule-5 eligible previously but who put together a nice 2021 and might need additional thought. They’re sort of organized by draft year, from 2017 to earlier. Note; draft signings from 2015 hit 6-year MLFA this off-season, so they’re not listed here).

  • Donovan Casey, acquired from Los Angeles as the 4th prospect in the big Scherzer/Turner deal. He tore up Harrisburg, then struggled in AAA. He’s got solid power, could be a good corner OF guy. Is he worth protecting? Possibly. I’d protect him and have him compete with Yadiel Hernandez next spring for the starting LF job.
  • K.J. Harrison, acquired from Milwaukee in 2018 for Gio Gonzalez. Catcher/1B guy who played part time in AA this year. So-so numbers, not someone who is threatening to get drafted.
  • Jacob Condra-Bogan, acquired from Kansas City in 2018 for Brian Goodwin. Never made it out of XST this year, meaning he’s either hurt or has already been cut loose. Not a candidate to protect.
  • Cole Freeman, 4th rounder from 2017. Light hitting 2B in AA this year, no real push made for promotion. Not a candidate to protect.
  • Alex Dunlap, 29th rounder from 2017. Hit .181 as a 3rd catcher backup between AA and AAA. Not a candidate to protect. Notable that a 29th rounder made it to AAA; that’s quite a feat.
  • Jackson Tetreault, 7th rounder from 2017. Made his way all the way to AAA, but pitched the most in AA, posting a 3.74 ERA in 10 starts with middling K/BB numbers. Is that worth protecting? Would someone look at Tetreault’s 2021 and say, “wow he could be our 5th starter right now?” Probably not since he didn’t have a 12 K/9 rate as a RHP starter. But he’s posted consistent numbers every year in the minors. Never gotten much prospect buzz. Probably considered an Org arm by the industry, but I’ve always liked him.
  • Alex Troop, 9th rounder from 2017. He missed nearly all of 2018 with injuries, so he’s gotten a late start. He pitched primarily in High-A this season with solid numbers, and could be a sneaky decent org-arm for us in 2022. But not a candidate to protect.
  • Jackson Stoeckinger, 12th rounder from 2017. Never assigned to a team in 2021, which means he’s either hurt or has already been released. Either way, not getting protected.
  • Nick Banks, 4th rounder from 2016. Struggled when he got to AAA, bounced between AA and AAA as kind of an OF filler guy, which is the definition of an “org-guy” in some respects.
  • Armond Upshaw, 11th rounder from 2016. Promoted to AA this year, where he hit .186. Not a candidate to be protected.
  • Andrew Lee, 11th rounder from 2015. Made his way to AAA this year, where he got shelled. He served as a swing man for most of the year in AA, kind of a typical org-arm kind of guy. No prospect buzz, not a candidate to be protected.
  • Ike Schlabach, MLFA from 2021 but a 2015 draft pick. Unclear if he’s rule-5 eligible, or why he didn’t return to MLFA at the end of the season, but he pitched decently in high-A and earned a AA promotion, but not well enough to be in danger of drafting.
  • Matt Merrill, a 2020 MLFA originally drafted in 2017 by Houston. He pitched to a mid 4s era in low-A this year and is not a candidate to get picked.

Group 4 Rule 5 Protection candidates: Casey (maybe), Tetreault (unlikely)


Group 5: IFAs: 2016 and older

  • Israel Pineda, C. Pineda might be the highest ranked prospect on this list, a guy who was once listed in the top 10 for the system but who has stepped back. He hit just .208 this season in High-A, but is in the AFL to get some seasoning. He’s played in just a few games so far, since catchers split time, but it seems unlikely he’ll be protected despite his past prospect pedigree.
  • Jordy Barley, SS, trade return from San Diego for Daniel Hudson. A 2016 IFA, he’s a SS with the best SB speed in the system, but barely hit above the Mendoza line after coming over mid-season. He hit a lot better for San Diego earlier this year. He does have some pop though and is a player to watch; is he a protection candidate? Not likely. Could someone take a flier on him and have him ride the bench as a backup infielder/pinch runner all year? Maybe, I suppose.
  • Wilmer Perez, C. mostly a backup Catcher in high-A, hit .206. Not a candidate.
  • Jose Sanchez, SS. Hit .232 as the part time SS in low-A. Not a candidate.
  • Alfonso Hernandez, SP. Perhaps the best pitcher who started the season in Low-A, then held his own in High-A. Pitched mostly as a starter, 119/33 in 102 innings. Not bad. He’s someone to look for in 2022, but not a threat to get plucked for now.
  • Niomar Gomez, SP. Threw just 6 innings in 2021. Unclear if hurt from the beginning of the season or not.
  • Juan Diaz, RP. 2016IFA but a mid-season MLFA pickup who was assigned to the DSL despite being 23. Not a candidate.
  • Omar Meregildo, a 2015 IFA. Hit .234 but with some power as a 3B for high-A.
  • Gilberto Chu, a 2015 IFA. Decent numbers as a swing man in high-A.
  • Gilbert Lara, a 2014 IFA. Made his way to AAA as a 3B through social promotion, but hit only .233 on the year.
  • Malvin Pena, a 2014 IFA. 5.81 era as a middle reliever across three levels.
  • Francys Peguero, a 2013 IFA. Toiled in the high-A bullpen as a 26yr old. Not a candidate.
  • Richard Guasch, RHP, traded to us by Oakland in the Gomes/Harrison deal. The Cuban was signed in 2018 and was a started all year in High-A. He pitched well, and should be a good piece to watch for going forward, but is not a candidate to get drafted.

Group 5 Protection Candidates: Pineda (not likely), Barley (not likely)


Group 6: Former 40-man guys who have been outrighted previously

  • Jake Noll, 7th rounder from 2016. Hit very well in AAA, solid power. But he’s already been outrighted off the 40-man once. Roster resource lists him as having an option remaining (which is true), but he’s not currently on the 40-man, so I still sense he’s R5 eligible. Either way, the demand for someone like Noll seems limited; he played a lot of 1B this year and put up good numbers … but not good enough to command a RH bench bat position-limited spot. He can play 2B/3B as well; is that enough for someone to grab him?
  • Sterling Sharp, 22nd rounder from 2016. Already rule-5 drafted once, then returned to the team by Miami He pitched to a 4.97 ERA in AAA this year. There’s plenty of game tape on him, so if someone wants another crack at him it doesn’t seem like the team would stand in his way.
  • Ben Braymer, 18th rounder from 2016. Made it to the 40-man roster in 2020 against all odds as an 18th rounder, but then got shelled this year in AAA, which led to a DFA and outright. He did not impress in 2021, but he is a lefty starter. Is that worth putting him back on the 40-man for? I don’t think so.
  • Austen Williams, 6th rounder from 2014. Got hurt, then was outrighted off the 40-man and remains in the system. He spent all of 2021 in XST. Obviously not a candidate to get selected.

Group 6 protection candidates: none.


So, who would I protect?

Summary of above:

Group 1: Cate (Maybe), Karp (doubtful), Lee (Maybe)
Group 2: none
Group 3: none
Group 4: Casey (maybe), Tetreault (unlikely)
Group 5: Pineda (not likely), Barley (not likely)
Group 6: none

So, who would I would protect? As I write this, the Nats 40-man sits at 34 of 40, with 3 slots needed for the three 60-day DL guys to return later this month. So they have 3 slots remaining for Rule 5 candidates plus off-season signings (which they’ll need to do), so I’m guessing Rule-5 additions will be limited. That being said, I think there’s a couple of spots that could be opened up pretty quickly on the 40-man, especially around non-tender candidates (which we’ll get to later this year). I think all the above points to just 2 rule-5 additions, leaving the team with one free spot to make a quick waiver claim if needed between now and the non-tender deadline:

I predict we protect:

  • Tim Cate
  • Donovan Casey

I would consider protecting, in order of likelihood:

  • Evan Lee
  • Jordy Barley
  • Israel Pineda
  • Jackson Tetreault
  • Andrew Karp

Post Publishing Results: the team added Casey and Lee, but not Cate. See https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/11/nationals-select-donovan-casey-evan-lee.html

Written by Todd Boss

November 10th, 2021 at 10:10 am