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Washington Nationals add Donovan Casey & Evan Lee to 40-Man roster; protect both from Rule 5 Draft

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One outfielder acquired at last July’s trade deadline and one 2018 15th Round pick are now on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, protecting both from selection in the Rule 5 Draft.

Surprise Saguaros v. Salt River Rafters Photo by Jill Weisleder/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Washington’s Nationals selected the contracts of outfielder Donovan Casey and left-hander pitcher Evan Lee on Friday afternoon, adding them to the 40-Man roster, protecting both of them from selection in this year’s Rule 5 Draft.

Casey, 25, is one of four prospects the Nationals acquired (along with catcher Keibert Ruiz, and pitchers Josiah Gray and Gerardo Carrillo), in the trade deadline deal which sent both Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers back on July 30th.

A 2017 20th Round pick by the Dodgers, Casey put up a combined .269/.329/.430 line, 26 doubles, and 16 home runs in 123 games and 523 plate appearances between Double-A in the Nationals and Dodgers’ organizations and Triple-A with the Nats.

Casey is ranked 18th in the Nationals’ system by MLB Pipeline, with the Nationals noting in a press release on today’s moves that he was, “listed by Baseball America as the ‘Best Athlete’ in the Nationals’ Minor League system,” and before trade to Washington, BA had him as, “the ‘Best Defensive Outfielder’ [with] the “Best Outfield Arm,’” in LA’s system.

“He plays with his hair on fire,” Assistant GM, Player Personnel Mark Scialabba told FBB’s David Driver last month. “He is very aggressive defensively and covers a lot of ground.

“He has a plus arm; he can change the game on defense by holding a runner or making a throw. Then at the plate, he has plus bat-speed, power to all fields. He takes his walks.”

Lee, 24, is a left-hander selected in the 15th Round of the 2018 Draft by the Nationals out of the University of Arkansas who spent the 2021 campaign pitching at High-A Wilmington, putting up a 4.32 ERA, 32 walks, and 104 Ks in 21 games (20 starts) and 77 innings pitched.

Ranked 21st in the Nationals’ organization by MLB Pipeline, Lee, finished “among Nats’ Minor Leaguers (min. 70.0 IP)” ranked 3rd in K/9 (12.2), 3rd in opponents’ batting average (.239 BAA), 3rd in HR/9 (0.70 HR/9), and in FIP (3.60), while his groundball rate (47.8 GB%) ranked 4th, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.25) was 5th best.

Both Casey and Lee are currently taking part in the Arizona Fall League, where Casey has put up a .255/.368/.447 line, three doubles, two home runs, eight walks, and eight Ks in a total of 13 games and 57 PAs through Thursday night, while the left-hander has put up a 5.19 ERA, a .294 BAA, six walks, and 10 Ks in eight games and 8 23 IP.

Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty noted this past week that some notable Rule-5 eligible players who could have been added to the Nationals’ 40-man roster this week included left-handers Tim Cate and Ben Braymer; right-hander Richard Guasch; catcher Israel Pineda; and shortstop Jordy Barley, none of whom were added by the club in the end.

Those players and others will now be eligible for selection in this year’s Rule 5 Draft, which is being held on December 8th during the Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL.

“Players signed at age 18 or younger need to be added to their club’s 40-Man roster within five seasons or they become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft,” as explained on MLB.com.

“Players who signed at age 19 or older need to be protected within four seasons.”

“Not every club will make a selection, but those that do pick a player must pay $100,000 to the club from which said player was selected. Rule 5 Draft picks are assigned directly to the drafting club’s 26-man roster and must be placed on outright waivers in order to be removed from the 26-man roster in the subsequent season. Should the player clear waivers, he must be offered back to his previous team for $50,000 and can be outrighted to the Minors only if his original club does not wish to reacquire him. A Rule 5 Draft pick can be placed on the Major League injured list, but he must be active for a minimum of 90 days to avoid being subject to the aforementioned roster restrictions in the next campaign.”

With the additions of Casey and Lee, the Nationals have 39 players on their 40-man roster.