The Nats get a haul in the MiLB portion of the Rule-5 Draft!

The 2021 Baseball Winter Meetings wrapped up yesterday in Orlando, Florida with little fanfare due to the MLB lock-out. The only permissible activities were on the Minor League side of the business. The highlight for most, was the Minor League portion of the Rule-5 draft. For the past decade, the Washington Nationals have rarely been buyers in the Rule-5, and the last moves on the MLB side were in 2010 when they selected Brian Broderick and Elvin Ramirez. The Nats activity in the past was generally losing players in the Rule-5 draft.

With the re-tooling going on with the Nationals, they were active yesterday in the Rule-5 draft. The Nats selected four players in the Triple-A portion of the draft from eligible players not on active 40-man rosters.

With the Nats first selection in the first round they got Andrew Young of the Diamondbacks. Young is primarily a second baseman with some MLB experience. They also got three right-handed bullpen arms with the picks of Curtis Taylor of the Blue Jays, Matt Brill of the Diamondbacks and Dakody Clemmer of the Cleveland Guardians.

Not surprisingly with the Nats’ 23rd ranked farm system, the team did not lose one of their minor leaguers in the Rule-5 draft. In total, 51 players were drafted in the MiLB portion of the draft.

For a rehashing of the Rule-5 rules, players who are chosen in the Minor League Rule-5 draft allows teams to select players who were not protected on a 38-man Triple-A roster (similar to the MLB 40-man roster). In the MLB portion of a Rule-5 draft, players must remain on their new team’s 26-man roster or injured list (IL) for the entire upcoming season or else they must be offered back to their original teams — but the rules are different for the Rule-5 picks on the MiLB side. Those players selected by the Nats yesterday are acquired for $24,500 each, and initially assigned to the Triple-A Rochester roster, and then can subsequently be demoted or promoted within the Nats’ system. They just must be kept the entire season or offered back to their original team.

Young is the most intriguing pick-up by the Nats. He will be 28 in May and won’t get many more chances. The newest Nat has some MLB experience (70 games) over two seasons with Arizona and has played all over the field. He put up impressive numbers at Triple-A Reno in 2021 with a .304/.388/.598/.986 slashline.

Ironically, one of Young’s few highlights this year was when he smashed a grand slam in Nats Park off of Patrick Corbin. It was Young’s .209 batting average and his awful 43.3% K rate that got him sent down to the minors. The righty crowds the plate and takes his HBPs. His HBP rate in the majors is 6.5%. His power (.484 slug), however, gave him a decent OPS of .782. When he connects, the balls go far. He has also shown power to all fields, and three of his seven career homers went oppo. Fix the K rate, and you have to wonder about Young.

Compare that to Carter Kieboom‘s .619 OPS and almost identical batting average at .207 and the difference really was the power which Young had and Kieboom did not. Young played five games this year at third base. This could be a player we see in 2022 playing for the Nats, and he should get a big league invite to Spring Training as a non-roster player.

Young was the 37th-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2016 draft out of Indiana State University, and he was a piece in the blockbuster trade for Paul Goldschmidt in 2018.

The relievers the Nats got are all older non-prospects with Clemmer as the youngest at 25 years of age, Taylor, is 26, and Brill is at the ripe age of 27.

When the lock-out ends, we will see if the Nats are active in the MLB portion of the Rule-5 draft. The only success the Nats had was back in 2006 when they drafted Jesus Flores. He was looking like the team’s starting catcher of the future until he broke his clavicle and then tore his labrum.

There are the rare instances of Rule-5 players turning into stars like Dan Uggla, but mostly it is the failures that the fan’s remember.

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