Rule 5: Who Could Go?

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.

Karns, Davis Added To 40-Man Roster

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.

Rule 5 Thoughts

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.


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.

Rule 5 Draft Results

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.

Rule 5 Preview, Part 2

Picking up where we left off yesterday (sorry, but this time of year, whenever I can break up a post idea to keep the site fresh, I’m gonna do it), Baseball America has listed its potential targets for the Rule 5 draft.
I’m passing along the 21 non-Nationals named, grouping them by type…

Blaine Hardy, LHRP (Royals) — Turns 25 in March, features an average slider that’s deceptive due to a short-arm delivery. Pitched mostly at AA in ’11 with 1.109 WHIP in 39⅔ IP before making like a narc at biker rally in 29IP at Omaha (1.966).

Brandon Sisk, LHRP (Royals) — Unlike Hardy, Sisk went from AA to AAA and did even better, dropping his WHIP form 1.047 to 1.000 on the nose, despite a rise in his walk rate (2.2 to 4.5). Features average FB and CU and a “fringy” CV. Turns 27 in July 2012.

Joseph Ortiz, LHRP (Rangers) — Just turned 21 (August), Ortiz’s best offering is a slider which is tough on lefties (.200/.243/.308 in the Carolina League) considering the low plane that the 5’7″ southpaw works with.

Trevor Reckling, LHSP (Angels) — A drop in velocity (from 91-94 to 86-89) is BA’s explanation for his exposure but has a deceptive delivery and a killer curve that could make him a LOOGY project. Turns 23 in May 2012.

T.J. McFarland, LHSP (Indians) — A solid starter in his days at Kinston (11-5, 3.13 in ’10) that features a sinker, slider, and change but rarely cracks 90. Keeps the ball the ball on the ground (2.5:1 GO/AO in ’11 for AA Akron). Turns 23 in June 2012.

Diego Moreno, RHRP (Pirates) — High-90s FB to complement a sinker/slider but has durability concerns (never thrown more than 50IP as a pro), not to mention the 25-y.o. Venezuelan has just 14IP at AA.

Bryce Stowell, RHRP (Indians) — An elbow injury, which shortened his ’11 to 38⅔IP and dropped his velocity from high 90s to mid-90s and fringy secondary pitches are the “yeah, buts” for this just-turned-25-y.o. that BA thinks could be a setup man.

Johan Yan, RHRP (Rangers) — A converted infielder, this recently turned 23-y.o. Dominican throws from a sidearm angle to deal low-90s two-seamers and sliders. Limited AA exposure (26⅔ innings) but BA considers his ceiling as a setup man.

Brett Lorin, RHSP (Pirates) — Had hip surgery in 2010 but put in 117⅓ IP for Hi-A Bradenton. A sinker/slider/command pitcher without AA experience but has the size (6’7″, 245) that most folks covet.

Ryan Searle, RHSP (Cubs) — Dominant at Hi-A (1.59 ERA, 1.165 WHIP) but less so at AA (3.51 ERA, 1.465), this 22-y.o. Aussie has had both command and attitude problems. Throws classic repetoire (FB/CH/CV/SL) but has had trouble vs. LHBs (.336 OBA).

Justin Fitzgerald, RHSP (Giants) — Turns 26 in March, and has moved up the ladder steadily. A college closer but has started the past two seasons at Hi-A and AA, using a cutter, slider, change. Mostly worked in 87-91 range, but could occasionally hit 94/95.

Caleb Brewer, RHSP (Braves) — A roll-the-dice candidate per BA, given his career 5.7BB/9 and his mid-90s FB and sharp low-80s SL. Turns 23 in February but has just 21IP above Low-A — four starts for the Lynchburg Hillcats (5.14ERA, 1.857WHIP).

Dae-Eun Rhee, RHSP (Cubs) — Missed most of ’09 with TJ surgery but is coming off two consecutive 100+ IP seasons in the FSL with strong ratios (8.25K to 3.0BB) and utilizes the aforementioned classic arsenal. Turns 23 in March 2012.

Abraham Almonte, OF (Yankees) — A switch-hitting Dominican speedster (30SB in ’11) who lost most of ’10 to injury. Has yet to play in AA but is considered defensively advanced. Doesn’t turn 23 until June 2012.

Eduardo Sosa, OF (Yankees) — A 20-y.o. Venezuelan that, like Almonte, has the legs and glove to be stashed on a deep A.L. bench and then returned to the minors for further development.

Jiwan James, OF (Phillies) — Drafted as a pitcher, but converted to hitting when shoulder problems arose. At one point Philadelphia’s #9 prospect, BA says he’s a tools guy learning to develop skills.

Jordan Danks, OF (White Sox) — Yes, he’s John Danks brother. Has spent the past two seasons at AAA Charlotte putting up a modest .251/.329/.400 line and could be drafted to be a platoon OF, though he’s a defense-first player despite 6’4″, 210 size.

Ryan Flaherty, UT (Cubs) — Could be this year’s Michael Martinez due to his comp as a LH version of Mark DeRosa with his five-position defensive skills and .809 OPS in 450 games. Turns 26 next July.

Justin Henry, UT (Tigers) — Zero power but another can-play-anywhere type (has played every position but catcher) and gets on base (career .373 OBP). Turns 27 next April.

Drew Cumberland, MI (Padres) — Spent 2011 on the DL with bilateral vestibulopathy (a.k.a. vertigo) Allegedly he’s been given medical clearance to resume playing. Prior to his spin, er, stint on the DL, he put up a .350/.385/.430 line over 75 games in 2010. Turns 23 in January.

Beamer Weems, SS (Padres) — A defense-first SS with a strong arm and good hands, but bats from the right side without plus speed = harder to carry him as a reserve. Turns 25 in July.

Rule 5 Preview, Part 1

As we’ve discussed previously, the Rule 5 draft is no longer what it once was, thanks to the rule changes that have effectively turned it into an exercise of roster-filling. Sadly, that’s a reference the minor-league phase, for which the information is sorely lacking. As I summed up last year (dates adjusted, of course):

There are also two other phases, the AAA and the AA, which are something of a misnomer because there’s no requirement that the player has played or will play at that level in 2011 or 2012. Basically, it amounts to teams being able to protect up to 38 players in the AAA phase and up to 37 players in the AA phase. Who is or will be protected is anyone’s guess. This information simply is not released to anyone outside of baseball.

If you’ll recall, the Nationals chose Elvin Ramirez and Brian Broderick in the major-league phase and Michael Allen in the AAA phase. None of them “stuck” with the club, with Ramirez spending the season on the DL, Broderick famously flaming out in early April (and struggled for AAA Memphis), and Allen was released in late March.

Two Nationals were named in the BA stories that previewed the potential targets: Brad Meyers and Josh Smoker. As we mentioned yesterday, Smoker is considered the most viable by the prospect pundits. Here’s the upshot from BA:

His fastball touched 98 at times and sat in the 91-94 mph range, and his curveball and changeup have their moments, with the curve flashing plus. He’ll never throw a ton of quality strikes; as one scout put it this summer, “(The Nationals) have told him, ‘To hell with teaching you to throw, just let it all hang out.’ That’s what he’s doing.”

Brad Meyers was listed among “Other Possibilities” without comment. A recently discovered list of Rule 5 eligibles, describes Meyers thusly: “6’6″ 195 LBS with Deceptive Delivery, Above Average Command of 87-92 MPH Fastball, 3 Average Offspeed Pitches; Career 2.86 ERA, 3.60 K/BB” It bears repeating that just five of the 19 players drafted last year stuck: four relievers, and former National Michael Martinez. As much as we may value Meyers, the odds are overwhelming that he’ll either not be drafted or be returned before the season starts.

So who are the other potential targets for the Nationals and other teams on Thursday? That’s the subject for Part 2 😉

Rule 5 Update: Brian Broderick Returned

Walkin’ in Memphis

As expected, the St. Louis Cardinals accepted December 2010 Rule 5 pick Brian Broderick back from the Nationals yesterday, ending his brief stint in the Nationals organization.

Broderick had been a surprise candidate to make the big club, despite his Rule 5 status, but his inexperience as a reliever and/or Jim Riggleman’s misuse of him led to disastrous results, with 16 hits and 9 runs surrendered in 11 appearances for an ERA of 6.57 and a WHIP of 1.541.

St. Louis immediately assigned him to Memphis, but his role with the AAA club remains to be determined, particularly with the coinciding move of sending down reliever Mitchell Boggs to be stretched back out as a reliever.

Rule 5 Draft Results

A quick peek at how the Nats fared in the Rule 5 draft.

Our commenters passed along the news first, but to summarize…

In the major-league phase, the Nationals selected RHPs Elvin Ramirez (Mets) and Brian Broderick (Cardinals) and RHP Michael Allen (Twins) in the AAA phase. The Phillies selected IF-OF Michael Martinez to the Phillies, which isn’t a terrible move because the odds are he’ll see less than 200PA, he can play multiple positions, and he can run. For $50K if he doesn’t stick and the MLB minimum salary if he does, that’s not a bad gamble.

As the pic suggests, here’s what I could find out about the new guys…

  • Elvin Ramirez — Converted to relief in 2010 and has been clocked at 98-99mph in the Dominican Winter League. Also throws curve, changeup and slider but has been prone to walks. He’s 22 years old and is listed at 6’3″ and 208 lbs, with a strong lower body.
  • Brian Broderick — Rather than summarize, let me link you to this detailed scouting report.
  • Michael Allen — Not much to find on him, probably because his numbers are awful (7.84ERA at AA, 5.24 career at A+) but this 23-year-old is clearly a project. The one report I could find described him as big, strong with a 92-94mph fastball, an average breaking pitch as a complement but with potential to be a workhorse

I’ll update later if/when more info becomes available.

AFL Update: November 19, 2010

Steve Lombardozzi was the lone Nat to play in yesterday’s seven-inning 1-0 loss by the Scottsdale Scorpions to the Peoria Javelinas. Lombardozzi led off, played 2B, but went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

If folks haven’t seen them in their online travels, Mark Zuckerman had a good preliminary post about the Rule 5 draft. As folks pointed out in the comments, the last CBA changed the Rule 5 rules, so that list isn’t quite correct. Here’s what Brian had on his draft tracker (I know, something I need to rebuild/update):

2004 H.S. pick
Brian Peacock (DFE)

2005 College picks
Tim Pahuta
Jack Spradlin

2006 H.S. picks
Chris Marrero
Stephen King
Brad Peacock (DFE)

2006 College picks
Cory VanAllen
Zech Zinicola
Cole Kimball
Hassan Pena
Erik Arnesen
Adam Carr
Sean Rooney
Robert Jacobsen

2007 College Picks
Brad Meyers
Adrian Alaniz
Jeff Mandel
Justin Phillabaum
Martin Beno
Shane Erb
Boomer Whiting
Dan Lyons
Bill Rhinehart

I’ve got a query out to see if/how I can determine which players are on the AA and AAA reserve lists for the minor-league phase of the draft, but I’m not terribly hopeful that I’ll have much success. Generally speaking, the minor-league phase of the draft will move around mostly pitchers and the plug holes. Last year, for example, the Nationals lost Terrence Engles and picked up Nick Moresi.