Rejoice, we have some actual Major League Baseball news! At least, we kind of do, as yesterday, the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft was able to take place.
While the current MLB lockout prevents the usual free agency and trades from taking place, transactions that don’t involve those on the 40-man roster, i.e. the players who are currently part of the MLB Players Association that is locked out, can still take place.
It’s not much, but in these slow news times, we’ll take it for the time being — so hurry up and come to an agreement, MLB and MLBPA, pretty please.
Anyway, the MiLB Rule 5 Draft allows teams to select players who are not currently on a 40-man or Triple-A roster and place them on their own Triple-A roster. Usually though, placing them on the Triple-A roster is procedural, and once the season starts, players selected in the MiLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft can be placed at any level the organization likes.
Most of those taken won’t see the big leagues and are usually viewed as solid minor league role players, but there have been success stories before, including Tyler Gilbert who was picked in last year’s minor league phase and threw a major league no-hitter last season.
Usually, the Washington Nationals aren’t particularly busy during either phase of the Rule 5 Draft. This year though, the front office got a bit more adventurous and made a whopping four selections to top up their Triple-A roster...
Andrew Young, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
There were few familiar names that popped up during the MiLB Rule 5 Draft, such as Carson Fulmer and Jon Duplantier, both former high draft picks and highly-rated prospects not too long ago.
Young is also a player that has come up in the news cycle more than a few times. The utility man was part of the trade package — along with Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver, and a draft pick — that the St. Louis Cardinals sent to the Diamondbacks in return for Paul Goldschmidt two years ago.
Despite impressive slash lines in the minor leagues, Young has struggled to establish himself at the big league level. In parts of the last two years with the Diamondbacks, he has sported a .205/.319/.462 slash line and 108 OPS+ in 138 plate appearances.
Where Young needs to improve though is limiting strikeouts. In those 138 plate appearances, he’s struck out a whopping 39.9% of the time, something he’ll have to improve on if he’s going to make it to the majors with the Nats, even as a bench bat.
Nationals fans may also remember Young’s name as he took Patrick Corbin deep for a grand slam in April of this past season. Maybe he won’t keep up his 1.600 career OPS at Nationals Park, but he’s hit at every level of baseball he’s been at, making him a nice low-risk flier...
Well, that escalated quickly. pic.twitter.com/kF94mfCYwM— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) April 16, 2021
Curtis Taylor, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
For their second pick of the draft, the Nationals went to the mound and picked up Taylor, a right-handed reliever from the Blue Jays.
Acquired in a trade for Eric Sogard in 2019, Taylor has been a solid minor league reliever to this point in his career. Across 209 frames in five years, the 26-year-old has a 3.32 ERA with 245 strikeouts and 80 walks since being drafted in the fourth round by Arizona in 2016.
2021, however, was Taylor’s worst season to date. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Taylor posted a 5.71 ERA, striking out 41 and walking 17 in 34.2 innings as his command let him down.
The Nationals will be hoping that last season was just a bump in the road for Taylor — which would be totally understandable after a full year without minor league baseball — and that he can get back to his previous form.
Matt Brill, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
The Nationals dipped into the Diamondbacks’ system once again for their third pick of the draft when they selected Brill.
While the team’s previous pick, Taylor, has had a good amount of success in the minor leagues, the same can’t be said for Brill just yet, who appears to be more of a gamble on his tantalizing stuff on the mound coming around with a change of scenery.
Baseball America’s JJ Cooper wrote the following about Brill in his Rule 5 Draft Preview:
An unbelievably high batting average on balls in play (.391) and a below-average strand rate (66.4%) masked some of the positives of Brill’s 2021 season... His ability to command and generate positive outcomes with his secondaries could make him intriguing despite poor statistics in 2021.
In four minor league seasons, the right-hander has a 4.24 ERA and clearly has the swing-and-miss stuff with an excellent 27.3% strikeout rate. While he had bad luck last year, he’ll also need to cut back on his troublesome 13.9% walk-rate is holding him back right now.
If Brill can put it all together, he definitely has the stuff to potentially contribute at the major league level out of the bullpen. If not, well, the Nationals only took a flier on him.
Dakody Clemmer, RHP, Cleveland Guardians
Finally, with one spot left on their Triple-A roster, the Nationals rounded out their draft with another right-handed reliever in Clemmer from the newly-renamed Guardians’ organization.
A bit like Brill, Clemmer has the stuff on the mound to potentially make it to the major leagues as a reliever, however, his command has let him down at times in the minor leagues.
Clemmer was another player that BA’s Cooper previewed ahead of the draft, saying the following:
Mixing a trio of offerings, Clemmer works primarily fastball and slider but will mix his changeup in around ten percent of the time... Despite below-average command, Clemmer has the arsenal to miss bats, drive weak ground ball contact, and provide a unique and uncomfortable look in the late innings.
For his minor league career, Clemmer holds a 3.86 ERA and has struck out 186 in 184.0 innings while walking 86 batters. In 2021 though, the right-hander’s walk rate jumped to 14.9%, the first time it had been above 10% since his first season in pro ball in 2016.
Command isn’t the easiest thing to solve this late in a pitcher’s development, but Clemmer has sometimes shown the ability to be adequate in limiting walks. He’ll need to do that again to have a chance of making it to D.C. at any point in his time with the organization.