LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Nationals added a pair of players in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning, selecting fleet outfielder Theo Bowe in the first round and right-hander Martires Arias in the second round.
Bowe played in 99 games last season for Double-A Pensacola, the Southern League affiliate of the Reds, where he hit .206 with four homers and 16 RBIs. While those numbers might not be exciting, the fact that the 23-year-old out of Milford High School in Ellendale, Del., hit .290 with a .371 on-base percentage and stole 70 bases in 99 tries two seasons ago between low Single-A Dayton and high Single-A Bakersfield caught the Nationals' eye.
With the Nats losing speedster Billy Burns in the trade that brought left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins from the A's, Bowe can help provide some need-specific organizational depth. Bowe was a 21st-round selection by the Reds in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
"He was a 70-stolen base guy in 2012, performed very will at the A-ball level," said Doug Harris, the Nationals' assistant general manager and vice president of player development. "He's young, he's 23. We have quality information on the makeup. Obviously, we lost a 70-stolen base guy yesterday and (to) have an opportunity to obtain a similar tool was appealing to us."
Bowe can play all three outfield positions, though he's primarily a center fielder, already a position of strength in the Washington farm system with guys like Brian Goodwin and Michael Taylor. Bowe is a career .259 hitter with a .331 on-base percentage in six minor league seasons, with 136 steals in 195 attempts,and the leadoff hitter models his game after Michael Bourn. He's sometimes struggled when asked to move up a level on the Cincinnati farm, but has also had success - hitting .287 as an 18-year-old in the Gulf Coast League, .300 for rookie-level Billings in 2010 and .314 at Bakersfield in 2012.
Arias is a 23-year-old undrafted Dominican who stands 6-foot-7, weighs 207 lbs., and still could fill out a little. He's spent the past two seasons at the Mets' Kingsport (Tenn.) rookie-level affiliate in the Appalachian League, but regressed with a heavier workload in 2013, going 1-7 with a 5.81 ERA in 12 games, including 11 starts. The previous year, he was 2-2 with a 2.76 ERA in 12 relief outings.
Through five minor league campaigns, he's struck out 6.1 batters, walked 4.7 hitters and allowed 0.3 homers over every nine innings. But the Nats see potential in his lanky frame and good fastball.
"He's got velocity, we like his body," Harris said. "We think there's some upside there we can tap into."
Unlike the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft - where teams pay $50,000 per selection and must keep the player on their 25-man roster for the entire season or offer him back to his original club for $25,000 - the Nationals now own the contracts of Bowe and Arias. Each pick cost them $12,000.