Nationals Arm Race

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

Rule-5 Draft Targets for Nats


For more than a decade, the Nats have basically sat out the Rule-5 draft. In fact, the Nats have not taken a player in the Rule-5 draft since 2010. This is a good thing; it means the team has been good, has expected to compete, and has not had a “spare” roster spot they could tank on to hide a kid for a year.

Click here for complete Rule-5 draft (players drafted by us and drafted from us) for the Nats

That’s certainly not the case now. In fact, they’re in prime position to roll the dice on a couple of Rule-5 picks for 2023 to see what happens.

So, in the wake of teams protecting guys ahead of the draft, lets take a quick look at who’s available that might be useful to draft.

The boys at did all the analysis for us, so relying heavily on prospect status to determine some rule-5 draft options … here we go (the “No. XX” in parenthesis is the prospect rank of the player in that team’s system)

  • Arizona’s Conor Grammes, RHP (No. 28): I only mention Grammes because he’s a DC-area kid and I used to play racquetball with his dad. He had abhorrent numbers in high-A this year but throws 100 and struck out 33 in 18IP. Can’t teach velocity.
  • Atlanta’s Victor Vodnik, RHP (No. 9): He was really solid in AAA’s bullpen this year as an 8th/9th inning guy. I’d rather have him than several of the RHP arms we have now.
  • Colorado’s Grant Lavigne, 1B (No. 13); Supp 1st rounder Prep pick in 2018, now 23 and just advancing to AA. 1B, good gap power, good eye at the plate (.400 OBP this year). We need at 1B after cutting Voit…
  • Detroit’s Austin Bergner, RHP (No. 15): completely dominated AA as a starter this year before struggling a bit in AAA. He had better AA numbers than Jake Irvin, just saying, and we certainly need starters.
  • Houston’s Jayden Murray, RHP (No. 12): Just acquired from Toronto, Murray also had decent #s in AA as a starter but may be more of a pitchability guy, with less than a 9 K/9 rate.
  • Kansas City’s T.J. Sikkema, LHP (No. 16): really dominant in High-A this year with a huge K/9 rate; he missed two full years due to Covid and injury but was a supp-1st rounder in 2019. Now he’s 24 and probably could be a level higher; he could be sneaky good for someone.
  • Los Angeles Dodger’s Jose Ramos, OF (No. 8): a #8 prospect in the Dodgers is probably like a #4 overall in someone else’s org, but Ramos probably is a little too young to stick. Only 21, only made it from Low- to High-A this year, with middling numbers.
  • Minnesota’s Misael Urbina, OF (No. 8): a 20-yr old in Low-A, not someone we need.
  • Philadelphia’s Erik Miller, LHP (No. 7): a lefty who crushed in AA and got promoted to AAA this year, who pitched against Nats affiliates all year, a 4th rounder out of Stanford… i like this as a possible pick. Especially since its from a divisional rival.
  • Pittsburgh’s Malcom Nunez, 1B (No. 12): a 21-yr old Cuban who hit 23 homers this year in AA. Can play 3B or 1B. Initially an IFA with St. Louis; was flipped to PIT as part of this year’s trade-deadline move for Jose Quintana/Chris Stratton (which makes his lack of protection super curious, since he was a big part of that trade). I like Nunez.
  • San Diego’s Korry Howell, OF (No. 9); Corner OF with decent numbers in AA; only mentioned b/c presumably Washington has already done a ton of due diligence on him.
  • San Diego’s: Jairo Iriarte, RHP (No. 10): big armed but wild 20-yr old Low-A starter.
  • San Diego’s: Noel Vela, LHP (No. 11); also a big armed but wild 20-yr old Low-A starter.
  • St’ Louis’ Inohan Paniagua, RHP (No. 13): really nice low-A numbers, but … Low-A.
  • Texas’ Antoine Kelly, LHP (No. 13), a nice lefty starter, former 2nd rounder, solid in High-A but struggled in AA. Seems like a stretch
  • Toronto’s Gabriel Martinez, OF (No. 8): really nice numbers as a 20yr old IFA rising up to High A, maintaining an OPS of .871 after promotion. Plays a corner OF despite only being 6.0 but has power.

There’s several names on this list who I could squint and see on the team, especially the relievers.

Post publishing: MLBpipeline also published a list of the best prospect per team available. Lots of the same names listed here mentioned, along with the excellent discussion in the comments.

Written by Todd Boss

November 21st, 2022 at 9:43 am

Posted in Rule-5

21 Responses to 'Rule-5 Draft Targets for Nats'

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  1. great compilation, as always. thanks


    21 Nov 22 at 9:59 am

  2. Interesting lists. Although we also know that the rankings within the system don’t necessarily correlate with the quality of the player. Alu probably had the best batting numbers in the Nats’ system but isn’t in their top 30.

    There are at least two guys of whom I’m aware who are not on top 30 lists who would deserve serious consideration. I have mentioned Andres Chaparro (NYY), who has even better numbers than Malcom Nunez (PIT), and particularly better contact. (Also would have played in the same league with Harrisburg.) The other is Jake Mangum (NYM), a fantastic defensive OF with good contact. He’s older (approaching age-27 season), looks like Stevenson with more contact but slightly less power. If they’re keeping Robles around mostly for defense, why not take a guy with better contact? (There is buzz in several places that Mangum has a good chance to stick on the Met MLB roster in 2023.)

    Erik Miller (PHI) looks good on paper but seems to have been moved off being a starter . . . by an organization that really needs starters. Among the guys listed who are still starting, T.J. Sikkema (KC) and Austin Bergner (DET) look interesting. Victor Vodnick (ATL), with solid numbers at AAA, may be the surest thing of any of these guys to stick.

    I’m sure we will hear about other guys along the way. If it were me, from the guys we know, I’d take Chaparro in the 1st round and one of those four pitchers in the 2d. What could it hurt? If they come to spring training and suck, you send them back.


    21 Nov 22 at 10:24 am

  3. To be clear, more than half of Rule 5 picks get returned, and few of the ones taken actually turn into anything. The last one of any note was probably Odúbel Herrera, way back in 2014. Considering how bad some of the players were who appeared in Nats’ uniforms in 2022, though, the bar is pretty low.

    Also, the majority Rule 5 picks in the MLB phase are pitchers, as they’re easier to stash.

    So I’m not thinking the Nats are about to nab the next Roberto Clemente or Johan Santana, to name two of the greatest Rule 5 picks of all time. But maybe they can find someone better than Lucius 2-for-25 Fox.


    21 Nov 22 at 1:56 pm

  4. Rule 5 possibilities from a Cubs site, focused on pitching, with videos of several guys:


    22 Nov 22 at 8:33 am

  5. Here’s another big-time possibility for the Nats, corner OF Dominic Canzone:

    24 homers and 25 doubles across AA and AAA, although of course it’s hard to know what to believe of PCL numbers, where Yadiel Hernandez was a 33-homer guy. Canzone had 15 SBs in 2022 as well, so apparently decent speed.


    22 Nov 22 at 8:45 am

  6. Err, 22 homers for Canzone. Several were of the tape-measure variety, which pop up when you Google him. He’s definitely interesting, particularly as a corner outfielder who has played significant time at AAA. I would think that he has a higher ceiling than Mangum.


    22 Nov 22 at 8:58 am

  7. Interesting take on Erik Miller that says he has three legit pitches to be a starter:

    It’s unclear whether he’s mostly been in the bullpen because of arm health after missing much of 2021, or because the Phils have decided that he’s too erratic to start.


    22 Nov 22 at 9:06 am

  8. This profile, which doesn’t include 2022, doesn’t believe in Canzone’s arm and puts him in the LF/1B category. Also doesn’t believe in his speed, despite 19 SBs in 2021 and 15 in 2022:


    22 Nov 22 at 9:15 am

  9. no shortage of information here, appreciate it


    22 Nov 22 at 9:49 am

  10. If I’m looking up these folks, I might as well share the links. Jayden Murray:


    22 Nov 22 at 12:42 pm

  11. Thad Ward:

    As much as I would like the see the Nats steal a starting pitcher, that also seems like the riskier path. Every team in baseball needs starting pitching, so there must be a reason that these guys have been left exposed. At the same time, a couple of these are probably at least as good as where Adon is now, better than Jake Irvin, better stuff (but perhaps not guile) than Espino. The bar to be a back-end starter for the Nats right now is very low. The decision on whether to draft a starter in Rule 5 also would be directly tied to internal thinking on whether they plan to sign an “innings eater” or two.

    All in all, someone like Canzone or Mangum would likely be a surer thing with the first pick. In the second round, go either for a reliever or hope a AA hitter like Chaparro, Nunez, or Lavigne drops through.


    22 Nov 22 at 12:57 pm

  12. KW

    22 Nov 22 at 1:01 pm

  13. Count me among the Chaparro supporters. Fangraphs STEAMER forecasts a 121 WRC+ for him next year at the MLB level. I’ve seen a few guys who are draft eligible who project as over average, but nothing like that. No one on the Nats current roster projects to be that good.

    And generally speaking, I support taking a position player in the rule 5 now. With pitchers capped at 13, there are too many position players. It’s easy to stash one. And if STEAMER is right about Chaparro, no need to stash him. He’s a middle of the lineup bat.

    Bland Moniker

    22 Nov 22 at 6:27 pm

  14. Here is the article on Chaparro that I posted in the last set of comments:

    Note that Millas was on second base in the first video clip, as Chaparro was on the same AFL squad with the Nat players in the 2021 AFL. They also faced him regularly in the Eastern League in 2022, so the Nats should be pretty familiar with him. They would have seen Mangum a lot as well, less of Canzone.

    Chaparro certainly would seem to have one of the highest potential offensive ceilings of the guys available. The hesitation on him would be that he hasn’t played at AAA. I have also seen reports that don’t think that he can stay at 3B, calling him more of a 1B/DH type. The book on him is that he fields balls hit near him well but that he doesn’t have much range.


    23 Nov 22 at 8:59 am

  15. Our friend Bland Moniker may be onto something. Out of curiosity, I looked at the Steamer projections of several of the top guys who have been mentioned. Now we all know that Steamer is an educated guess, but presumably it incorporates pretty sophisticated MLB equivalences that are similar to what teams use. Anyway, Chaparro is well ahead of any of the other hitters we have mentioned (wRC+/SLG):

    Andres Chaparro (NYY) 121 / 459
    Dominic Canzone (AZ) 108 / 437
    Malcom Nunez (PIT) 103 / 408
    Grant Lavigne (COL) 91 / 401
    Jake Mangum (NYM) 91 / 365

    BA and OBP for all are projected very close among those five, but Chaparro has a significantly higher. Mangum fares the worst in all slash categories, with stats at least arguing that he’s overrated (not surprising since he’s an NY prospect).

    Among the pitchers, using FIP/ERA:

    Victor Vodnik (ATL) 4.03 / 4.11
    Thad Ward (BOS) 4.45 / 4.71
    T.J. Sikkema (KC) 4.47 / 4.43
    Austin Bergner (DET) 4.50 / 4.48
    Jaden Murray (HOU) 4.82 / 4.76
    Erik Miller (PHI) 4.89 / 4.67

    Vodnik is the only true one-inning reliever in that bunch. I thought Miller’s profile looked good on paper, but at least with FIP, there’s a real difference. Projected ERA pushes Ward closer to Murray and Miller. In both categories, Sikkema and Bergner stand out and probably deserve further investigation.


    23 Nov 22 at 3:04 pm

  16. Sikkema:

    Three quality pitches and good control but a history of arm issues.


    23 Nov 22 at 3:07 pm

  17. KW

    23 Nov 22 at 3:09 pm

  18. Thank you for compiling this list; always enjoy visiting your site. Curious to see what Rizzo’s plans are here, since he has historically been indifferent towards the exercise. On paper, Jose Ramos looks to be the homerun swing to take, but will the GM think long term or does he look to fill a need? Of note, two most recent Rule V gems are Anthony Santander (’16) & Garrett Whitlock (’20).


    25 Nov 22 at 9:30 am

  19. Ramos would be fun to take a flyer on in the 2d or 3d round of the Rule 5 draft. In sheer prospect quality, he may be the best player available, but he’s so far from the majors that I don’t think teams will be rushing to pick him. I’d be more interested in taking a late flyer on him than a low-ceiling guy like Mangum, though. And if all Ramos has to do in the spring to make the team is outhit Robles, that’s not a very high bar, LOL.


    25 Nov 22 at 10:19 am

  20. And that’s the thing: with Rule 5, how do you weigh ceiling vs. likelihood that a player can stick for a full season on the MLB roster?

    The safest picks in terms of quality + stickability seem to me to be Dominic Canzone (OF, AZ), who has already hit well at AAA, and Victor Vodnick (RP, ATL), with solid relief numbers at AAA. It sort of seems like a waste to use the top pick on a reliever, though, even though he’s the surest thing. Also high on my list would be Andres Chaparro (3B/1B, NYY), who has mashed at AA, and without the K issues of Ramos. Among starting pitchers, Austin Bergner (RHP, DET) strikes me as the closest to the majors, although he might not have as high a ceiling as some of the others. He also doesn’t have the history of arm issues that some of the others do.


    25 Nov 22 at 10:37 am


    MLB Pipeline guys have come up with their list of best Rule5 candidates per team. Lots of the names we’ve mentioned are in here.

    Todd Boss

    26 Nov 22 at 7:35 am

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