Nationals Arm Race

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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

39 Responses to 'Nats 2021 Rule-5 Analysis and Predictions'

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  1. Jacob Condra-Bogan retired before the start of the 2021 season

    Mick Reinhard

    10 Nov 21 at 10:38 am

  2. This is seamheads dream, Todd. Lots of info.

    The only no-brainer is Donovan Casey. Lots of pitchers to protect next year but none who could stick this time around. Cate if he had a better year.

    Mark L

    10 Nov 21 at 12:00 pm

  3. I think it’s instructive to note that we sent three R5-eligible prospects to the Arizona Fall League, and we have three open spots right now on the 40-man roster. Those are Evan Lee, Donovan Casey, and Israel Pineda.

    Tim Cate was *awful* this past season and I think pitched himself off the radar for the R5. I could be wrong, but he’s plummeted down prospect lists and didn’t get selected for the AFL despite arguably needing more innings for the season. The Nats might still protect him, but I don’t think there’s any risk at all he’s taken this winter, so I don’t really see the point in doing that.

    SaoMagnifico

    10 Nov 21 at 2:00 pm

  4. Thanks Mick! Yeah, sometimes milb.com just doesn’t keep track of everyone perfectly. I’ll adjust the bigboard.

    Todd Boss

    10 Nov 21 at 3:53 pm

  5. I see no reason to waste a 40-man spot on Cate. He was awful all year at AA. The Nats need guys on the 40-man who can help in 2022, and he’s not one. Don’t care where he was drafted; he hasn’t done enough to be protected. No one is going to take him in the draft, either. I agree with Sao that it’s telling that they didn’t send him to AZ even though he was under 100 IP.

    Pineda hasn’t played above A+ and was awful there, except for showing a little power the few times he actually connected. Not very likely that he would be Nieto’d. The Nats have catching pretty well covered now anyway with Ruiz, Adams, Barrera, and perhaps Millas. Those deadline deals signaled no trust whatsoever in the catching the system. Pineda isn’t even in AZ as a full-time player, just on the taxi squad.

    I think they probably will protect Casey, but it isn’t a slam dunk. He’ll be 26 next year and strikes out 30% of the time. There are guys like him in Rule 5 every year. But he probably is one of the few field guys in the upper part of the system actually capable of playing a little at the MLB level.

    I like Tetreault, Troop, and Evan Lee and think all of them still have a chance to make it, but there’s not much risk of losing any of them in Rule 5. Lee in the AFL has a 7.94 ERA, 2.29 WHIP, and is giving up 12.7 hits per nine. Teams aren’t exactly going to be lining up to carry him on their 26-man. I actually think more highly of Troop than I do Lee, but they’re not going to protect Troop.

    Barley hasn’t even made it to A+ and hit .205 in his time with the Nats. He’s no threat to be drafted.

    Bottom line: the Nats have A LOT of holes to fill with the big club, and there’s no reason to tie up 40-man slots with pretenders. For me, Casey is the only one even close, and I’d say he probably will get protected simply because of lack of upper-minors talent. But I’d be just fine if he isn’t. He showed at AAA that he isn’t close to being ready for The Show. He’s hitting .255 in AZ, albeit showing more plate discipline in the SSS.

    Also, I’d DFA Antuna. Why in the heck isn’t he in Arizona? He can’t hit, he can’t field, and he really has no position. If another team wants to add him to their 40-man, they can trade us a couple of stiffs in return. Probably not going to happen, but he’s a total waste of a valuable 40-man slot for the foreseeable future.

    KW

    10 Nov 21 at 10:11 pm

  6. We will truly see many new faces in upper two farm levels in terms of players , instructors and coaching staff
    Not to mention Rizzo might expand his scouting staff ( fresh eyes ).
    Well written piece , Todd

    Alou2alu

    11 Nov 21 at 8:15 am

  7. So … let me be a little clear on my writing in Cate. I’m not advocating that he needs to be protected, especially after his awful 2021. I’m saying that baseball teams sometimes act irrationally and might look at someone like Cate, look at the scouting report (which still has him with great off-speed stuff and great control), draft pedigree (2nd round pick), look at the signing bonus (nearly $1M) and say to themselves … if we just let him walk and some other team turns him into a valuable bullpen piece, we look like idiots. Lest anyone forget, Mariano Rivero posted a 5.78 ERA as a starter in 1995, then became unhittable when moved to the closer role so he could focus on being a 2-pitch guy instead of a 4-pitch guy.

    Its a fine line, distinguishing between what Todd Boss the fake Nats GM would do, versus trying to think along side the real GM and predict what he’ll do. Maybe i didn’t make it clear enough.

    At the end of the day, there’s not a slam dunk player in our system who is a no brainer to protect this year. Yes we sent 3 guys to the AFL who are rule5 eligible, but does anyone think a catcher who hit .208 in high-A is getting protected? Of course not. Lee’s K/9 rate seems like it could feature in a MLB bullpen now; is that worth protecting? I dunno.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if we protected nobody.

    Todd Boss

    11 Nov 21 at 9:31 am

  8. […] Rule 5 Draft is scheduled for December 9th next month. Should it happen (it did happen in 1994), Todd Boss has you covered over at Nationals Arm Race. My prediction: If there is a work stoppage, we’re gonna have a laugh watching the beat […]

  9. If another team takes a guy the Nats insisted on keeping as a starter and makes him a valuable bullpen piece, then more power to them — and much-deserved embarrassment to the Nats. They have a MASSIVE need for bullpen arms but have tried to keep everyone as a starter.

    The Nats have a number of guys (including several who currently are minor-league free agents) who would be good candidates to succeed in the direction MLB is moving — the two-to-three-inning hybrid guys. Are the Nats flexible enough to shift more in that direction? Rizzo keeps talking about how they’re a team built on starting pitching, so we’ll see. The irony is that even through the Nats have indeed been built so heavily on starting pitching, they won their championship due heavily to a lot of relief work from their starters in the playoffs.

    KW

    11 Nov 21 at 12:58 pm

  10. In looking at the free agent lists, I also wonder whether some of the lingering legends like Verlander, Greinke, and maybe even Kershaw, could accept three-inning roles. What if you could start one of those guys — or maybe even Max, or Thor — every fourth day for three innings, instead of every fifth day for five or six?

    It’s actually curious that the Trastros put a QO on Verlander. He probably would be wise to take it. I don’t know why any other team would be lining up to pay more than $18M plus surrender a draft pick.

    KW

    11 Nov 21 at 1:07 pm

  11. MLBpipeline did a rule5 analysis driven by their own rankings: https://www.mlb.com/nationals/news/rule-5-draft-eligible-prospects-on-40-man-rosters

    Interestingly, the top three guys we’re talking about as alternatives are … the top 3 r5 eligible prospects on Mayo’s list.

    Todd Boss

    11 Nov 21 at 3:30 pm

  12. I lean toward protecting Evan Lee, because he’s a lefty with big strikeout numbers, but like KW, I find more to like in Alex Troop’s numbers even though he’s a year older and hasn’t gotten as much prospect buzz. They ought to both be in major league spring training camp whether they’re on the 40 or not.

    Todd, I definitely see your argument w/r/t Tim Cate. It’s possible the Nats will protect him, even though there doesn’t seem like much reason to do so. I wish he were in the AFL so he’d get some looks in relief, because as it stands, it’s impossible to know whether he’s just a garden-variety dud who peaked in A-ball or he’s an effective reliever who is currently being forced into a starting role.

    I go back and forth on Israel Pineda. His overall numbers are bad, yes, but he also hit 14 homers in 77 games, and he’s shown well in limited action in the AFL. And he’s a catcher. I lean toward thinking the Nats will protect him. But then again, he’s well behind Adrián Nieto c.2013, and while Nieto was taken in the R5, that didn’t end up being any great loss to us.

    SaoMagnifico

    11 Nov 21 at 4:30 pm

  13. What gets missed with Rule 5 is that teams often put themselves in a bigger pickle by protecting guys than they do exposing them. Guys rarely get picked, and even if they do, it’s still a narrow window for them to stick for a whole season (see Sharp, Sterling).

    To get irrationally protected stiffs (see Antuna, Yasel) off the 40-man creates more dangers than exposing them to Rule 5 does. Another team merely has to add the player passing through waivers to their 40-man, not to the MLB roster for the whole season, as with Rule 5.

    There have been years where the Nats already had plenty of talent on the 40-man, so adding a marginal guy to the back of the 40 wasn’t going to hurt their overall roster construction. This year it would. The Nats need every one of those three open 40-man slots, plus several more, for talented major-leaguers. Would you rather have Evan Lee in a 40-man slot, or Marcus Stroman? Pineda, or Corey Seager? Cate, or Chris Taylor?

    They’re not going to lose anyone in Rule 5. There’s no reason to protect anyone, although I think there is some likelihood that they tag Casey, for reasons noted above.

    KW

    11 Nov 21 at 6:10 pm

  14. For future notation of just how bad the Nats’ system is at this time, let the record show that the only two field players we’re debating are a recently acquired guy who hit .179/.245/.291 at AAA, and one who slashed
    .208/.260/.389 at A+. They’ve also carried on the 40-man for a year a guy who hit .227/.307/.385 at A+ along with 36 errors.

    The two pitchers we’re debating are one who hasn’t pitched above A+, where he had a 4.32 ERA and currently is getting bombed in AZ; and one who had basically a 6 ERA with a 1.55 WHIP at AA.

    Yes, the Nat system officially sucks. Can we just move on to next year’s debate about protecting Denaburg?

    KW

    11 Nov 21 at 6:20 pm

  15. Someone brought it up, but Jacob Condra-Bogan retired following spring training and is back in Georgia. Also worth noting that Chandler Day retired prior to the season as well (as far as I know he’s back in Central Ohio).

    AmaralFan1

    11 Nov 21 at 7:12 pm

  16. The Nats protection, and continued carrying of Antuna basically makes my point about why I think they might protect Cate, by the way.

    Antuna’s bonus: $3.9M.

    Todd Boss

    12 Nov 21 at 9:19 am

  17. AmaralFan1: thanks for the updates on Condra-bogan and Day. I’ll update the big board.

    Todd Boss

    12 Nov 21 at 9:20 am

  18. Making personnel decisions based on draft status and signing bonuses just makes bad decisions worse. The Rockies left Riley Pint, the #4 overall pick in 2016, exposed last year, and no one took him. Why? He wasn’t very good. He has since retired, with $4.8M down the drain.

    Just looked at that draft. The Phils called up 1/1 Mickey Moniak this year, and he “hit” .091/.167/.182. That was after a AAA line of .238/.299/.447. Kieboom looks like Trout in comparison.

    The guy I really wanted that year was Bryan Reynolds, who went one pick after the legendary Sheldon Neuse.

    KW

    12 Nov 21 at 11:02 am

  19. Sam Dykstra with mlbpipeline listed the toughest R5 decision each team faces; guess who he named for the nats?

    https://www.mlb.com/news/toughest-top-prospect-40-man-roster-rule-5-draft-decisions?t=mlb-pipeline-coverage

    Pint vs Cate; apples and oranges. Pint had an 8 ERA in 2019 in high-A and then missed the last 3 months of the season with injury. I mean, nobody’s picking that guy in rule5. Cate was healthy, is lefty, and was in AA with some tools.

    Todd Boss

    15 Nov 21 at 1:34 pm

  20. Interesting article. Would Cate really be able to stick all year with a club after a 5+ ERA this year?

    I’d like to poach that Dodgers prospect.

    Mark L

    15 Nov 21 at 2:27 pm

  21. half the league is tanking. You’re telling me that a team like Baltimore or Pittsburgh wouldn’t give it a shot? It’s $100k to “buy” a rule5 prospect. That’s pocket change.

    Todd Boss

    15 Nov 21 at 4:42 pm

  22. Don’t forget — adding someone to the 40-man also makes it harder for the Nats to take someone in the Rule V, which might actually be in play this year for the first time in over a decade.

    NG

    15 Nov 21 at 6:37 pm

  23. Cate was healthy . . . and sucked badly. There’s no credible baseball reason to clutter the 40-man with him. It’s just hard to shake off a 1.55 WHIP and 3.44 BB/9, particularly for a guy who supposedly has control as his calling card. He also surrendered a whopping 10.5 hits per nine. Additionally, he completely lost the ability to get guys to hit the ball on the ground. His GB rate at A+ 57.7%, but he had a staggering drop at AA to 45.3%.

    Don’t get me wrong, I sure hope he turns things around and ultimately pans out. But for a team that legitimately needs to sign at least five to seven players to MLB contracts, it makes no sense to have this guy on your 40-man.

    KW

    16 Nov 21 at 8:26 am

  24. Plus Boras now has put a shot across the Nats’ bow by basically saying they can’t talk about a Soto extension until the Nats show a commitment to winning/contending. Don’t blame the Soto camp for that at all. But what would that look like? I’d say one of the big SS/3B bats, maybe a LF bat, two starting pitchers, and four or five credible relievers. That’s why I keep saying not to clutter the 40-man.

    Of course not all new pieces have to come by signing. Trades would be fine. In fact, it would be good for the Nats to move on from some of their pets, like Kieboom, Fedde, and maybe even Robles, so there’s no temptation to continue to depend on them.

    I really wasn’t expecting much FA action until the new CBA, particularly on QO guys, so I was surprised to see Eduardo Rodriguez come off the board. He got a big chunk of change based on advanced stats, despite a 4.74 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.

    I’m on the fence about whether the Nats should avoid QO guys. If they do, they’re left with just Bryant or Baez among the SS/3B guys, both ex-Cubs with a relationship with Davey. Ex-Cub Schwarber is available again for LF. Or I guess Bryant could even be the LF guy. Big boom-or-bust possibilities with all of those, though.

    Lots of crazy lottery tickets among the starters. Stroman might be the safest pick, if the price is right. It would be kind of crazy if the Nats ended up with former draft picks Stroman and Robbie Ray (who is QO’d), although that’s the level of starters the Nats need to add. Gausman and Rodon would be in that level of conversation.

    Anyway, the Nats need to make a lot of moves. If they don’t, they’re not really trying. They’re deluding themselves if they’re still thinking that they’re only one or two players away.

    KW

    16 Nov 21 at 8:49 am

  25. Thor to Angels for 1/$21M plus losing QO draft pick. Wow. Big price for a guy whose arm is barely attached and whose brain never has been. I mean, there’s no way he’s still pitching by the end of the 2022 season, right? And how would you push him into the playoffs if by some miracle he was? (Playoffs?! Playoffs?!)

    Elsewhere, Jays lock up Berrios in a deal that will also be one of the benchmarks for starter salaries.

    KW

    16 Nov 21 at 11:07 am

  26. Among the many changes the Nats need to make is to start participating in the Asian market:

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=suzuki001sei

    MLBTR is projecting him at 5/$55M plus posting fee. He’s primarily an OF now, just turned 27, and just hit 38 homers in 131 games.

    KW

    16 Nov 21 at 12:09 pm

  27. KW, I wish that Rizzo was not allergic to Asian players but I’m not holding my breath.

    Mark L

    16 Nov 21 at 12:50 pm

  28. Mark, yes, I know, but at some point the old dog is going to have to learn some new tricks!

    Actually, in thinking about it, I don’t know that the Nats really need to spend too much on their offense. They’ve just got to replace Kieboom, somehow. Someone on NatsTalk suggested a trade involving Kieboom for Matt Chapman. He’s still controlled for two years, just hitting arb, but has a frightening K%. I’m not sure that’s the answer, but it’s an interesting thought, probably better than signing someone like Kyle Seager. I also have a hard time convincing myself that they need to spend big for wild cards like Bryant or Baez, although I might be tempted by Baez in the $10-12M range because of the defense, if he could be gotten for that amount. Not a fan of his boom-or-bust approach, though.

    The Nats need someone for 3B (or SS) and probably need someone for OF, unless they think Yadiel can give them enough. Honestly, his overall numbers weren’t that different from what they’d get from someone like Eddie Rosario, albeit with a little less power. (I have no idea how Robles fits into the equation, but they shouldn’t count on him in any meaningful way. I fear that they will, though.)

    KW

    16 Nov 21 at 2:14 pm

  29. With starting pitchers, maybe they shop more in the Matz, DeSclafani, Jon Gray, Alex Wood, Alex Cobb range? I’d like to see them get someone a little more high-profile, but I also can’t see them going big and long for a contract, with all the uncertainly already with Stras and Corbin.

    KW

    16 Nov 21 at 2:30 pm

  30. I’ve been beating the Seiya Suzuki drum, but it seems like almost every winter, there’s an Asian player I like and the Nats almost never show any interest at all.

    Circumstances may be different this year. But history suggests Mike Rizzo will ignore both Japan and the Rule 5 draft as avenues to restock the roster. I think that’s a mistake, but I’m not getting paid millions of dollars to run a baseball organization, and I don’t have a World Series ring, either.

    In terms of decision-making, I increasingly think the Nats will protect Evan Lee. They seem to like him a lot. And they’ll protect Donovan Casey. Tim Cate has turned invisible, and if there’s anything to take away from past years in which the Nats have surprised by not protecting the likes of Israel Pineda, Sterling Sharp, etc., it’s that lack of buzz bodes poorly for guys who might be seen as “on the bubble”. The signs were there that the Nats would leave Pineda and Sharp exposed. The signs are there with Cate, who isn’t in Arizona and whom the Nats development guys have basically stopped talking about.

    SaoMagnifico

    17 Nov 21 at 4:16 pm

  31. In terms of other free agents out there, I think Eduardo Escobar makes way too much sense for the Nats, and I’ve been feeling that connection for a while. Josh Harrison would be a fit too. I don’t think either will be in a rush to sign, though; Escobar will likely wait for Bryant to set the market, and Harrison will set his sights high before he’ll settle for a short-term deal as a projected bench player.

    The market for starting pitching is very deep this winter, but I don’t think the Nats will be in a hurry to jump it. Given the options out there and the feeding frenzy over available aces like Syndergaard, Verlander, and Scherzer, I think Mike Rizzo will be very content to let it simmer and be opportunistic. I can see everyone KW mentioned above as a fit, plus others: Kikuchi, Kluber, Greinke, Rodón, etc.

    I don’t see us making a play for a top reliever, and I wouldn’t be really surprised if we mostly seek to supplement our bullpen corps with some NRIs and other low-level signings. As awful as our relief work was in 2021, especially in the second half, I think Rizzo is going to try to build around the existing corps of 20-somethings (Rainey, Finnegan, Machado, Thompson, Murphy, etc.) rather than supplant it. I could be wrong. Just a hunch.

    SaoMagnifico

    17 Nov 21 at 4:28 pm

  32. Sao, yes, you can usually read tea leaves from the Nats based on organizational statements. Sadly, most of those statements came from Mark Scialabba, who was wrong more than any weather forecaster. Thank goodness they’ve finally reassigned him from player development. Maybe they’ll hire someone who understands that actual on-field game performance matters, no matter how well they fill out a uniform.

    I can’t for the life of me see why the team needs to protect a pitcher who couldn’t master A+ at age 24. If the Nats believe so much in Evan Lee, they should have promoted him to AA. Except he’s not ready for AA, as he has shown in AZ. So how in heck is he going to stick on an MLB roster for an entire season when he’s giving up 10.4 hits per 9 in the Arizona Fall League. Sterling Sharp at least had a season of being (fairly) good at AA before he was Rule 5-drafted. Lee hasn’t even pitched in AA.

    Yes, they may still protect him. Yes, I hope he continues to develop and does turn into something. But it’s exactly this type of over-inflation of their own prospect value that has helped dig them into this awful talent hole that they’re in.

    KW

    18 Nov 21 at 6:48 pm

  33. @KW – I don’t disagree, but I think internally, the attitude re: Lee may be, “Well, we were willing to sign Sam Clay to a major league deal last winter; Lee has (significantly) better stats (albeit at a lower level of competition), he’s younger, and he started this season, and he’ll begin 2022 a phone call away. So why wouldn’t we protect him?”

    In the medium/long run, as a commenter pointed out over at TN, the Nats really need to set the bar higher. I mean, who did we protect in 2020? Antuna? Adon? And in 2019? Braymer? These aren’t impressive dudes (and I say that as someone who is more bullish on Adon than the consensus) and yet who else is filling these roster spots? The choice isn’t between Lee and a Top 100 prospect, or Lee and Aroldis Chapman. Realistically, it’s between Lee and some Michael Blazek/Kyle Lobstein type.

    SaoMagnifico

    18 Nov 21 at 10:32 pm

  34. The Nats have dug this deep hole because of scouting hubris combined with the unwillingness to admit mistakes. The commenter you cited is absolutely right: nearly all of their adds to the 40-man ahead of Rule 5 in recent years were guys who hadn’t actually proven anything on the field. The one exception was Fuentes (who had to be added for the double reason that he would have become a minor-league free agent last year). He had the stats, got added, then really struggled this year, in part due to injury. He got DFA and currently is a minor-league free agent (unless I’ve missed him signing somewhere).

    But there was no reason to add Antuna or Adon. No team was going to take and keep them. And what must the guys who have grinded their tails off think when they get to Wilmington and meet their teammate who is on the 40-man but can’t make simple plays in the field or barely even get a hit the first two months of the season?

    Boy, they like the guys who fill out a uniform, though. Kelvin Gutierrez sure looked like a major-leaguer, even at Potomac. They added him to the 40-man in a year after he hit two (2) home runs playing a corner INF position.

    KW

    19 Nov 21 at 7:57 am

  35. Re the choice “between Lee and some Michael Blazek/Kyle Lobstein type.” At this stage of the offseason, it isn’t really, as the Blazek/Lobstein types will be signing minor-league deals. The real issue to me is not to clog up 40-man slots when this team desperately needs to add at least seven players on MLB deals. Plus they’ve got the dance going on with Zim. (I assume at least some of the mutual decision there will be based on whether we get the DH in the NL.)

    I don’t mind if they add Casey (although I don’t think they will lose him if they don’t). Stevenson is out of options, so Casey likely would be the next in line as the AAA-shuttle OF, all the more since he’s CF-capable.

    KW

    19 Nov 21 at 8:18 am

  36. There really isn’t a roster crunch though. Ryne Harper is almost certainly a non-tender, Wander Suero and Austin Voth are probably non-tendered, Andrew Stevenson and Erick Fedde might be tendered and then cut loose in spring training. Beyond them, there are the likes of Mike Ford, Sam Clay, Gabe Klobosits, Jhon Romero, etc., taking up roster spots, and it would be easy to cut them. Guys like Carter Kieboom, Víctor Robles, and Yadiel Hernández could be trade bait.

    My point is it’s not going to be like Rizzo gets a call from a player-agent that Mark Melancon will sign for $6M plus a mutual option and he says, “Oh darn, tell Mark sorry but we can’t because Evan Lee is taking up that roster spot.”

    SaoMagnifico

    19 Nov 21 at 11:15 am

  37. Todd Boss

    19 Nov 21 at 12:11 pm

  38. They rearranged the deck chairs of the front office, but nothing changes. Another year, another dumb decision.

    OK, start the DFA line on the left and the non-tender line on the right. They’ve got a lot of 40-man space they need to clear. Mike Ford, we hardly knew ye. And Erick Fedde, thanks for all the (mostly bad) memories. Except I’m really afraid they’ll still tender him.

    KW

    19 Nov 21 at 12:49 pm

  39. I think the non-tender deadline isn’t until Dec1 , so I’ll wait a bit to do that analysis.

    Todd Boss

    19 Nov 21 at 1:17 pm

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