RULE 5 DRAFT:
Ahead of this year’s deadline to add Rule 5-eligible players to the 40-man roster, protecting them from potential selection, Washington’s Nationals added just pitchers the club thought they might lose in the draft.
“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 noted on MLB.com, and, any, “… players who signed at age 19 or older need to be protected within four seasons.”
Back in mid-November, the Nationals added right-handed pitchers Zach Brzykcy and Cole Henry, and left-handers DJ Herz and Mitchell Parker to the 40-Man.
“We thought that they were capable of pitching in the big leagues for some team, and we wanted to keep them,” GM Mike Rizzo told reporters before the Rule 5 Draft took place on the last day of the Winter Meetings earlier this month.
“I think all of those guys guys are capable of pitching in the big leagues.
“I think they will all play in the big leagues at some part of their career, and we felt that if we didn’t protect them we would have lost them.”
The Nats did not lose any prospects in this year’s Rule 5 Draft (in either the major or minor league phase), and Rizzo said afterwards that he thought they made the right decisions in choosing which of their prospects to protect.
“We’re happy that we retained all the players that we did,” he said.
Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office made the decision to select a player from the Miami Marlins’ system, taking infielder Nasim Nuñez, a defense-first shortstop (for now) they will have to keep on the major league roster all season in 2024.
“I see him as a shortstop, that’s where his value is,” Rizzo said, “but athletic to play all over the field, but he’s a big-time prospect as a shortstop and that’s where we see him in the future.”
“Scouts have him in that elite level,” the GM added. “He’s got great feet, great range, great arm, great athleticism, that type of thing, good speed, and his first quick step, what all the good middle infielders have.”
Why do they think he can stick in the big leagues all season?
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Rizzo acknowledged, “… because obviously he’s not going to get a lot of at-bats at the big-league level. But I think with the coaching staff we have now, and with the reps he will get other than game-time reps, I think there will be time to — we can really iron out some mechanical issues, he can really hit the weight room and improve his strength and flexibility, And I think he gives [Manager Davey Martinez] an option off the bench: a defensive replacement, elite defensive skills, and a baserunner, base-stealer, and a guy that can help us win games at the big-league level.”
“He’s a great kid who’s willing to learn,”Martinez said when asked how he’d handle the 23-year-old prospect.
“[He’s] willing to make adjustments. We think somewhere down the road he will learn how to hit a little bit more. We’re definitely going to work with him. I’m going to talk to [Hitting Coach] Darnell in the next couple days, and get a plan for him ... but like I said we love the athlete and what he can do, so we’re excited about it.”
NO. 10 PICK IN 2024:
The Nationals were in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, but ended up at No. 2 in the draft lottery, and they selected outfielder Dylan Crews, the consensus-best position player in the draft.
This time around, as noted by MLB.com beat writer Jessica Camerato, “… [the] Nationals entered the Draft Lottery with the fifth-worst record in baseball (71-91) … [but] they [were] not eligible to pick higher than No. 10 in 2024, per the rule that ‘payor clubs’ — categorized as clubs that give vs. receive revenue-sharing dollars — cannot be selected in back-to-back lotteries.”
Was it frustrating to finish with the record they did and end up ... with the No. 10 pick?
“To me it’s just these are the rules and let’s play by them,” GM Mike Rizzo told reporters at the Winter Meetings earlier this month. “We’re going to pick the best guy we can at that pick. We’ve gone through the ebbs and flows of picking high in the draft and then picking extremely low in the draft for a long period of time, so you have to adjust and adapt and pick the right players.”
The positives of not being in the mix for the No. 1 pick this year?
“Less anxiety this year than last year for sure,” Rizzo joked.
As for last year’s pick? Crews, 21, worked his way up to Double-A Harrisburg in his first taste of pro action after signing on with the organization.
What did Rizzo and Co. in the front office learn about their current top prospect in his first run in professional baseball?
“Not much that we didn’t know,” Rizzo said, “… but the stuff that we did know, he kind of reinforced. He’s big on being where his feet are, that’s his big line. I think you saw that through his progression through the minor leagues and that type of thing, and to play the grueling, stressful season that he did and have the success he did in college and then to come to the pro game and grind out those last couple months, I think that was important for him to finish that season in Double-A.”