Nationals Arm Race

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

Rule-5 Protection Prediction history updated for 2023


Rutledge could be one of our best ever Rule5 protections. 2023 photo via

Here’s a complete history of my predicted Rule-5 additions (with links to each prediction piece), along with the Actual players the team protected (with links as well), to show my (lack of) predictive powers. It’s updated for 2023 and has narratives about each class and how the players turned out later on.

How many of the above players who were added to “save” them from the Rule-5 draft actually turned into impactful players for the Nationals? Lets work backwards:

  • 2022: Cronin, Alu, De La Rosa, Rutledge, Ferrer, Irvin. Some good, some bad so far out of this crew. The Good: Irvin spent most of 2023 in the MLB rotation, Rutledge pitched great all year and ended in the rotation as well, Alu became a solid MLB player, and Ferrer got 39 appearances this year). The bad: Cronin and De La Rosa both already outrighted right back off the 40-man.
  • 2021: Casey and Lee: Casey was DFA’d mid 2022, outrighted, then demoted to AA for most of 2023 before hitting MLFA. He never once played in the majors for us. Lee got hurt in 2022, made a few starts in AA, got outrighted (ironically to make room for the 2022 Rule5 guys) then was converted to relief for 2023 where he struggled badly in 2023. He was a bad rule5 protection selection; someone who was “good” for a brief second and had crazy K/9 numbers but who couldn’t come close to sustaining it at the higher levels of the minors.
  • 2020: Adon, Antuna: Adon toiled in the lower minors for most of 2021, made it to the majors for a spot start and looked solid. His performance since? Absolutely abhorrent: 1-12 with a 7.10 ERA in 2022 before mercifully being sent down. 2023 was not much better. His outlook for 2024? Probably another year in AAA, i’ve got him probably 7th or 8th on the pecking order before considering this year’s rule-5 adds. Meanwhile, Antuna was a disaster, had to move off of SS and hit .230 in High-A with none of the power he’d need to present with his move to a corner OF position. The team seems to be clinging to the guy simply based on his massive IFA signing bonus. Finally at the end of 2023 he hit MLFA; final career minor league totals: .224/.326/.675 and the only level where he even came close to an .800 was rookie ball.
  • 2019: Braymer; got DFA’d mid-season 2021 and outrighted after struggling in both seasons. Never amounted to much after that.
  • 2018: Bourque: got shelled in AAA in 2019, waived in 2020, then left the team as a MLFA.
  • 2017: Gutierrez, Jefry Rodriguez. Gutierrez never really did anything for us and was traded to KC in the Kelvin Herrera deal. Rodriguez threw a bunch of mediocre starts and was flipped to Cleveland in the Yan Gomes deal; he’s now back with us as a MLFA for 2022.
  • 2016: Voth, Bautista, Marmolejos, Read and Skole. A ton of guys; anyone impactful? Voth has competed for the 5th starter job for years but has a career 83 ERA+ and was waived; he then went on to Baltimore to succeed, a pretty black mark for this team’s usage of him (since Baltimore ins’t exactly known for being a pitching development team). Bautista never did much for us: 33 career MLB plate appearances. Read had a PED suspension and a handful of MLB games. Marmolejos was a 1B-only guy who showed some gap power in AA but never above it. Skole was inexplicably protected as an age 26 corner infield guy whose profile seemed to mirror dozens of veteran free agents readily available on the market; he hit .222 in 2017 and then hit MLFA.
  • 2015: Kieboom, Bostick, Lee: This was Spencer Kieboom, the catcher, not his younger brother Carter, who remains on the 40-man as we speak. Kieboom was a AAA catcher who was worth protecting but he played just a handful of games in his MLB career. Chris Bostick didn’t last the full 2016 season before being DFA’d. Nick Lee lasted even less, getting DFA’d in July.
  • 2014: Cole, Goodwin, Difo, Grace. All four players ended up playing in the majors for various lengths … but all four were role players for this team. AJ Cole was tried out as a 5th starter season after season, finally flipped to the Yankees when he ran out of options. Goodwin was another guy who couldn’t seem to break our outfield, but who has had spells of starting with some success elsewhere. Difo was our backup IF for years, and Matt Grace pitched in the Washington bullpen for years before getting outrighted and leaving via MLFA in 2019.
  • 2013: Solis, Barrett, Taylor. Sammy was good until he wasn’t, and his time with the 2018 Nats was his last. Barrett remains with the team after multiple surgeries, but is a MLFA this off-season and may be forced into retirement after so many injuries. Michael A. Taylor is an interesting one; he had a 2.7 bWAR season for the Nats in 2017, nearly a 20/20 season when he finally got full time playing time in CF. He won a Gold Glove this year for Kansas City, one season after we DFA’d him because we all thought Victor Robles was a better option.
  • 2012: Karns and Davis.  Karns had one good year as a starter in the majors … for Tampa. Career bWAR: 3.0. Davis pitched a little for the team in 2013, then got hurt, then never made it back to the majors.
  • 2011: Norris, Moore, Solano, Perez.  This was a big year; Norris was a big part of the Gio Gonzalez trade and made the all star team in 2014 for Oakland, but didn’t play much afterwards. Tyler Moore was great in his first year as our backup 1B/bench bat type, but never replicated his 2012 season. Jhonathan Solano was always our 3rd catcher and saw sparing duty until he got cut loose. Eury Perez played in just a handful of games for us before getting DFA’d and claimed by the Yankees in Sept 2014.
  • 2010: Marrero, Carr and Kimball. Marrero was a 1st rounder who “had” to get protected to protect the team’s investiment; he just never could get above AAA. Adam Carr and Cole Kimball were both relievers who looked promising after their 2010 minor league seasons but did relatively little afterwards: Cole never made the majors, while Kimball hurt his shoulder and never recovered.
  • 2009: Jaime, Thompson and Severino. three pitchers, none of whom did much. Jaime was a 2004 IFA who has a grand total of 13 MLB innings. Thompson was waived a year after being protected. Severino got a cup of coffee in 2011 then hit MLFA.
  • 2008: Nobody added. Not one eligible pick or signing from the 2004/2005 draft was considered worthy of protecting.

Conclusion: So, after more than a decade of rule-5 additions, who would you say is the most impactful player we’ve ever added? Brian Goodwin? Michael A. Taylor? Sammy Solis? Maybe it’ll be one of the two starters from 2022 Jake Irvin and/or Jackson Rutledge.

Written by Todd Boss

November 20th, 2023 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Rule-5

7 Responses to 'Rule-5 Protection Prediction history updated for 2023'

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  1. This list is quite the reminder that this is, um, mostly much ado about a bunch of guys who aren’t really going to amount to much. Of course that’s sort of by definition of the beast: if they’re really good players (and not injured), they’ve already moved through the system within the appointed time frame and been called up. Among the current crop, Henry undoubtedly would have debuted in the majors by now if not for injuries, and probably Brzycky as well.

    I remain a Rutledge skeptic. And yes, there’s the caveat that he spent all of 2022 at low A so has come a long way (never mind that he was better at the same level in 2019). His FIP, xFIP, WHIP, and H/9 numbers at AAA and MLB aren’t good, and neither is his ever-decreasing K%. And his walk rate was really high at AAA.

    I’m not saying at all that he won’t make it or that he can’t improve. But at one point, one of the FanGraphs guys wrote of him that he “has some of the best stuff on earth.” What happened to THAT guy? He basically hasn’t been seen since the lost COVID season (when Rutledge was at the alt site). Is it possible that someone could still unlock that potential? Rutledge turns 25 in April, so he still has a time to figure it out. But as of now, he remains a fringy guy who’ll probably be stretched out at AAA.


    20 Nov 23 at 1:48 pm

  2. Another of Todd’s favorite subjects — the new Hall of Fame ballot is out:

    Among the newbies, Beltre would seem to be a lock. The sad aside to think about is that there was a time when Ryan Zimmerman’s numbers were tracking similarly to Beltre’s.

    Joe Mauer will have an interesting case and I think will get in sooner or later. The rub with some may be that his real value was as a good-hitting catcher, but he didn’t catch after 30. It will be interesting to see the reaction to Mauer’s candidacy and think of the coming one of Buster Posey, who played almost 500 fewer games but posted similar slash numbers. Both have one MVP, and Posey has a ROY and three rings.


    20 Nov 23 at 6:57 pm

  3. Just a reminder that Austin Voth DID have a brief moment in the sun in Baltimore (fueled by a fluky low .283 BABIP), which was used by all those who don’t much like the Nationals organization as an indictment of the Nationals. He then turned back into, well, Austin Voth. He pitched himself out off the roster, Baltimore declined a team option and is now a free agent.

    The only part of that that anyone on the InterNats seems to remember is “Voth went to Baltimore and seemed to get better!”

    John C.

    21 Nov 23 at 1:17 pm

  4. the Voth narrative was “why couldn’t the Nats see that he was not a reliever”. well after having some success in the rotation for the Birds, he was back in their bullpen the next year.

    I always liked Voth and I’m not convinced he won’t get another shot somewhere. I wish him all the best of luck


    22 Nov 23 at 5:34 pm

  5. The only one who got anything useful out of Voth with the Nats at the MLB level was Menhart, probably from them having a relationship in the minors. If you look at Voth’s career, 2019 jumps off the page, along with his 2022 stint in Charm City (and most of his 2019 numbers were better).

    Speaking of someone finally getting something out of guys, what do we make of Fedde’s off-the-charts numbers in Korea? It will be very interesting to see what kind of a contract he gets back in the States. Would the Nats be interested? Should they be? He went 20-9 with a 2.00 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 1.7 BB/9. Who is that guy? (Also worth noting that his TJ was in 2014, going on 10 years.) (Giolito’s was in 2012 I think.)

    No TJ for Reynaldo Lopez, but it is pretty surprising to hear that the Braves intend to turn him back into a starter for their juggernaut. A $10M AAV for him seems quite high. I guess one thing he has going for him is that even though he’s about to turn 30, he doesn’t have a lot of innings mileage on his arm.


    22 Nov 23 at 7:16 pm

  6. Or, you know, baseball is fluky and Voth’s 2019 and 2022 seasons were his peaks and other seasons were his valleys. Our brains evolved to spot patterns, but that was more useful in the savanna when we were trying not to be eaten by predators than it does in the modern world.

    John C.

    23 Nov 23 at 1:05 pm

  7. all players that reach the major league level have the ability to succeed. short stretches of brilliance make us believe “they’ve figured it out” or “the coaches fixed him”. more often than not they just can’t replicate the success consistently.

    it’s no mystery, the game is very, very hard. the slightest doubt or lack of confidence can doom a player. the examples are countless.


    24 Nov 23 at 10:55 am

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