Nov 212013
 

A couple of mild surprises this year as the Nationals dropped a pair of journeymen lefties in favor of adding RHP Aaron Barrett, LHP Sammy Solis, and OF Michael Taylor to the 40-man roster to avoid exposure to the Rule 5 draft next month.

Barrett was probably the lesser of the two surprises, given his age (almost 26) and function (reliever). As noted yesterday, Barrett seemed a possibility due to the precedent of Erik Davis a year ago, but with his merely average fastball velocity (low 90s) there was reason for doubt. His plus slider — rated as the best in the organization by Baseball America for two years’ running — was apparently deemed to valuable to risk losing.

Even without a strong AFL campaign, chances were Solis would have been protected. The question now is how much longer they’ll wait for him to develop into a starter, especially after not one but two lefthanded relievers were jettisoned. With zero AA experience, and only one year removed from Tommy John surgery, the odds are still good that he’ll pitch every fifth day in Harrisburg for at least a couple of months next season.

Taylor was a bit of a shock because there’s no question that his hitting tools are not major-league ready. It’s possible another team would have taken him, but it’s highly improbable they would have kept him. What now occurs to me — and should have previously — is that his addition gives the team leverage in any possible trade scenario involving either Denard Span or Brian Goodwin. Of course, Occam’s Razor also suggests that the team simply covets his skillset and wanted to eliminate any possible disruption to their plans for him in 2014.

Nov 202013
 

The deadline for teams to file their reserve lists, a.k.a. the day the 40-man rosters have to be set for the Rule 5 draft, is today. This, of course, means it’s time for the annual gnashing our metaphorical teeth over the infinitesmal chance of a “losing” someone significant to another organization (never mind that may actually be better for the player).

Quotes, of course, because nearly every player the Nationals have had selected in the MLB phase since the rules changed in 2007  has been returned and vice-versa. For example, last year Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus were selected and both were eventually returned. Two years ago, it was Erik Komatsu and Brad Meyers who were taken and ultimately returned, though both had surgery, which usually happens before the draft.

The rules are pretty simple: Players that signed at age 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years or players that signed at 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years — if they’re not on the 40-man by tonight, they’re eligible. This basically boils down to 2010 college picks and 2009 high-schoolers and IFAs, though as noted in the comments, the age 19 thing is as of June 5th of the player’s draft year, so there are some exceptions (e.g. HS pick who was an “academic redshirt”).

ELIGIBLE FOR THE FIRST TIME

Aaron Barrett* Colin Bates Matt Grace* Ricky Hague* Neil Holland
Kevin Keyes* Cole Leonida Jason Martinson Estarlin Martinez Silvio Medina
Christian Meza Randolph Oduber Wander Ramos Adderling Ruiz Cameron Selik
Sammy Solis* Michael Taylor*


The asterisks are 2013 watchlist players, the italics for the pitcher who was hurt. I focus on the first-timers because subsequently eligible players are rarely taken. In fact nearly a quarter of last year’s first-timers are no longer with the organization.

Folks perhaps more obsessed with the Draft than I am may look at this group of players as something of an indictment of the Class of 2010, given that so few of these players have touched AA, never mind AAA. There is still hope for this class to produce more than just one major-leaguer (Harper) with A.J. Cole, Robbie Ray and Solis still in striking distance.

Indeed, it would seem that Solis may be the only player here placed on the 40-man to be protected. You could make the case for Aaron Barrett, too, citing the example of Erik Davis a year ago. What will be more interesting is who will eventually be moved off, though I’ll defer to the folks more versed in roster manuevering to speculate about that.

Mar 242013
 

Another day, another Rule 5 pick returned.

Multiple online sources are reporting that Colorado will return Danny Rosenbaum following the signing of veteran RHP Jon Garland. Rosenbaum was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in six appearances for the Rockies this spring, the last of which came a week ago when the 25-year-old southpaw gave up a single and a walkoff home run in a 9-7 loss to the Giants.

He had been competing for the final bullpen spot — five of his six outings were in relief — in a group of relievers that included notables such as Chris Volstad and Manny Corpas.

Like Kobernus, he’s expected to be reassigned to minor-league camp, but it’s much less clear where he’ll begin the season. Last season was arguably his worst, beginning with 7-2, 1.94 in his first 13 starts, but finishing in a freefall of 1-8, 6.54 in his last 13 starts for an 8-10, 3.94 mark overall.

While often compared to former Nats farmhand Tommy Milone, a comp that seems largely based on size (both are shade taller than 6′ with a “sturdy carriage”) and dexterity and the soft-tosser perception. The reality is that Rosenbaum has always thrown harder than Milone (low-90s vs. high-80s), but with a little less control (2.5 vs. 1.5 BB/9).

Still, it’s a understandable linkage because both have shown the ability to get guys out without lot of flash while pitching deep into games (e.g. 171⅓ IP in 2011). Rosenbaum works off a heavy, sinking fastball, which has produced groundball rates of 50%-plus the past two seasons, including 56.7% last year, while mixing in a cutter as well as a changeup and a curve as his secondary pitches.

Like a lot of the AA and AAA pitchers, it’s difficult to predict where he’ll begin the season given the signings of multiple free agents. What’s probably more certain is that he’ll return to starting, given his durability and track record.

The watchlist and the LHPs page have been both been updated to reflect his return.

Mar 232013
 

Well, it looks like yesterday’s reports were wrong: the Tigers have returned Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus to the Nationals.

Kobernus hung a line of .220/.298/.300 in 50ABs for Detroit in 21 games while attempting to make the 25-man roster as a utilityman. The 24-year-old made appearances in all three outfield positions, playing there for the first time since his collegiate days at California.

Officially, he’s been reassigned to minor-league camp but is expected to open the season in Syracuse after an injury-shortened 2012 in Harrisburg. He played in 82 games for the Senators and hit .282/.325/.333 with 42 SBs with a career-best .982 fielding average.

The watchlist and the second baseman page have been both been updated to reflect his return.

Mar 052013
 

Checkin In On The MLB Rule 5 PicksWith an off day yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I’d have something to write about this morning until one of the regulars asked me about Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus.

Truth be told, it was the first time I had checked because I’m not rooting for them to falter so “we can have them back.” For both players, this is their first (and best) chance to make a major-league roster, even if it’s just briefly like Erik Komatsu’s two-team tour in 2012.

Rosenbaum has made just two appearances thus far for a total of four scoreless innings with two hits and one walk allowed and no strikeouts. Thanks to a start last Friday, his opposition quality score is 9.2 (H/T to NatsLady for pointing out this feature on already indispensable baseball-reference.com).

As you can see from the gamer in the Colorodoan, Danny was paying attention to Crash Davis:

“They told me they see me more as a long relief guy. I’ve always been a starter in college and my whole career and coming out of the ‘pen will be different. But it’s pitching and it’s the same game. However they think I can help, I want to do that,” he said.

He’s scheduled to pitch again today in relief as well.

As a position player, Kobernus has gotten a much longer look as noted in this feature from the Detroit Free Press. He’s batting .280/.308/.440 with a lower Opposition Quality score (8.4) because he’s been left in games against the reserves of other teams.

While Rosenbaum can be “hidden” in the ‘pen as a long reliever or a backup LOOGY, Kobernus has no such luxury as a bench player. That’s why the Tigers are trying him in the outfield, where he hasn’t played since his college days at Cal. Kobernus is competing against a pair of 21-year-old prospects — Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia — who, of course, can be returned to the minors for more seasoning, even if they are the #1 and #2 prospects per Baseball America.

Dec 062012
 

For the second straight year, two Nationals were selected during the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft — LHP Danny Rosenbaum and 2B Jeff Kobernus.

Rosenbaum was selected third by the Colorado Rockies. Colorado Rockies blog Purple Row describes the selection:

Rosenbaum will compete for a bullpen job vacated by Matt Reynolds. Josh Outman had been penciled in as the second lefty in the bullpen, joining Rex Brothers, but this move allows Outman to start, or for Colorado to have three lefties in their pen.

Kobernus was taken seventh by the Boston Red Sox, then subsequently traded to the Detroit Tigers for 28-year-old AAA utilityman Justin Henry. Not coincidentally, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski was quoted via MLB.com’s Justin Beck:

We not only like his ability to play second, but we think that perhaps — and he hasn’t really done much of it — he could have some versatility where we might be able to move him to the outfield and get some playing time there

In the 1st round of the AAA phase, the Red Sox “struck” again by taking Boston native Jack McGeary, while Hector Nelo was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round. Unlike the MLB phase, these players do not have to be offered back to the original club.

McGeary had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and has only pitched 25⅓ innings in 2011 and 2012 — all but 7⅔ innings in the GCL. He was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2007 draft.

Nelo was signed as a minor-league free agent in April 2011 after being released by the Texas Rangers. While capable of throwing in the triple digits, the 26-year-old Miami-born Floridian had a radar-gun strike zone, meaning the higher the number the more likely it was a ball if the batter did not swing.

As expected, the Nationals did not make any picks in the MLB phase. A slight surprise: They also passed in the AAA and AA phases as well.

The 2012 Watchlist
has been updated to reflect the selections.

Dec 062012
 

The Rule 5 Draft is this morning, the anticlimactic denouement to the 2012 Winter Meetings.

As written last month, it’s nearly certain that the Nationals will not be taking anybody in the major-league phase, which is rather typical for first-division/contenders. Instead, there’s a chance that a couple of farmhands may be taken as they were a year ago.

However, there’s a difference between players selected and actually being gone for good. Both picks last year — Brad Meyers and Erik Komatsu — were eventually returned.

Here’s another pass at who might get taken, filtered through the lens of the most common categories of players selected in the MLB phase:

Relievers 4th OF Utility IF
Pat Lehman Destin Hood Jeff Kobernus
Paul Demny    
Pat McCoy    
Rob Wort    

Of this group, only Lehman has AAA experience, which makes him the most likely to get selected, followed by Kobernus. But both are longshots in the big picture. There’s probably a better chance of the Nationals having players taken in the AAA and AA phases (and vice-versa), but as written previously, it’s impossible to even guess who because the protected lists are not publicly released.

Nov 212012
 

Waiting deep into the night to make the announcement, the Washington Nationals added RHPs Nathan Karns and Erik Davis to the 40-man roster in preparation for next month’s Rule 5 draft.

Karns, of course, was the expected selection — the Nationals Minor-League Pitcher of the Year, leader in minor-league wins, strikeouts, WHIP, and opponent batting average, not to mention the mustache. Injuries delayed the 2009 12th-Rd. pick’s ascent, with shoulder surgery sidelining him for 2010 and limiting him to 13 appearances in 2011, in which he went 3-2 with a 2.28 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and 59K in 55⅓ innings. This past season he went 11-4 between Hagerstown and Potomac with a 2.17 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and 148K in 116 innings. The Texan native turns 25 on Sunday.

Davis was the wildcard pick. Even with the benefit of hindsight (i.e. Rizzo’s habit of favoring guys that he acquired), this is still a mild shock. As many of the beat writers pointed out, Davis’s strong showing in the Dominican Winter League — 3-0, 0.56ERA, 16K in 16IP — was likely a predicating factor for the move. After finishing 2011 with a demotion from Harrisburg to Potomac (and even worse numbers in High-A than AA), Davis turned it around in 2012 with a 8-3, 2.71, 1.247 pitching line overall, with 40 appearances for Harrisburg and eight in Syracuse. The Stanford grad/native turned 26 last month.

Nov 202012
 

Today is the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters in preparation for the Rule 5 draft on December 6th. Like the Kardashians, this gets WAY more attention than it deserves, but people can’t help themselves from writing about it, largely because we’re in a dead zone between the end-of-season awards and the Baseball Winter Meetings.

Unlike years past, the Nationals are more likely to “lose” a player than get one (at least in the major-league phase). Quotes because both players lost last December — Erik Komatsu and Brad Meyers — were eventually returned, both undergoing surgery during the season.

The rules are pretty simple: Players that signed at 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years or players that signed at 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years — if they’re not on the 40-man by tonight, they’re eligible. As noted in the comments, this basically boils down to 2009 college picks and 2008 HSers and IFAs.

ELIGIBLE FOR THE FIRST TIME

Pat Lehman* Destin Hood* Paul Applebee* Graham Hicks
Jeff Kobernus* Sean Nicol Matt Swynenberg* Dean Weaver
Danny Rosenbaum* Justin Bloxom J.P. Ramirez Bobby Hansen Jr.
Paul Demny* Nathan Karns* Adrian Nieto* Shane McCatty
Trevor Holder Rob Wort Taylor Jordan Andruth Ramirez

Asterisks are for the 2012 Watchlist players and italics are for players that were either hurt, had surgery, or are believed to have had surgery. I’m italicizing both Karns and Jordan to illustrate the more salient point that other organizations may deem their health as suspect. I’m focusing on the first-timers because picks on subsequently eligible players are uncommon (you can look at last year’s list if you need further convincing).

As you can see, there aren’t very many players that were both healthy and high-profile — just five of these 20. Of those five, just two played at AA (Demny and Rosenbaum) and one at AAA (Lehman). Teams picking anyone else are going to be gambling that the player’s injury is healed and didn’t impede their development.

As of this writing, there are only four spots available on the 40-man roster. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Nationals will both add players and outright players to preserve space for free agents and waiver claims. I’ll admit to being fuzzy on the precise rules, but there doesn’t appear to be any restrictions on waivers made prior to the November 30th non-tender deadline.

I believe we’ll see two players protected: Karns and Rosenbaum. While both are starting pitchers currently, both could be hidden in a losing ballclub’s bullpen. Here’s why I’m not convinced on the others at the AA level or above. This is not an indictment of the player, just an interpretation of how/why the Washington Nationals will decline to add him to the 40-man roster…

…Lehman, like Josh Wilkie before him, is probably going to be exposed to the draft because he doesn’t throw hard enough for the organization’s tastes.

…As mentioned yesterday, scouts have noticed a drop in Demny’s velocity, which, coupled with his struggles at Harrisburg, might be enough for most teams to pass.

…The signing of Will Rhymes is a hint (to me at least) that Washington may risk losing Kobernus, not to mention his injury history overall.

…Hood is just too unaccomplished at AA and lacks the Eury Perez-like defensive/pinch-running tools to be stashed on an MLB bench.

Dec 082011
 

Just 12 players were taken in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 draft, but two of them were Nationals — RHP Brad Meyers and OF Erik Komatsu.

The Nationals passed with the 16th pick.

Meyers was the expected choice, but Komatsu was the wildcard and was actually taken ahead of Meyers by the Cardinals with the 22nd pick. The Yankees took Meyers with the 29th pick.

Gut reaction: We’re going to see at one of these players returned in early March (Komatsu), the other by late March (Meyers). For their sakes, I hope I’m wrong, but the odds are in my favor.

In the AAA phase the Nationals acquired C Beau Seabury from the Colorado Rockies, a 26-year-old that has never played above High-A. Much will be made of his UVA connection. Offensively, Seabury has been a late bloomer, having cracked the plateaus .250/.300/.400 just twice in his career: his rookie season as a 22-year-old in the Pioneer League and this past season as a 26-year-old in California League (the minors’ equivalent to Colorado).

In the AA phase, the Nationals selected RHP Matthew Buschmann from the San Diego Padres, a 27-year-old that has languished in AA and AAA for the past three seasons, bouncing between the bullpen and the rotation. Buschmann was originally drafted in 2006 out of Vanderbilt.

At first blush, these two picks resemble a replacement for Brian Peacock and a Erik Arnesen-like swingman. As stated in the reviews, the Rule 5 draft is not what it used to be, But thankfully for the Nats, its importance has changed from being a hope of getting someone for the bench in the majors to someone to plug a gap in the minors.