Nationals lose Adrian Nieto to White Sox in Rule 5 Draft (updated with quotes)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Nationals won’t be selecting anyone in today’s Rule 5 Draft because their 40-man roster is full, but they lost minor league catcher Adrian Nieto to the White Sox with the No. 3 pick in the major league phase of the Rule 5.

Nieto, 24, was a fifth-round pick out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. He hit .285/.373/.449 with 11 homers and 53 RBIs at high Single-A Potomac in 2013.

The White Sox will pay the Nationals $50,000 for the pick. Nieto must stay on Chicago’s 25-man roster for the entirety of the 2014 season, or else he must be offered back to the Nats for $25,000.

The Nats could then choose to pay the money and have Nieto returned to them, or pass and let him remain with Chicago.

The scouts in the Nationals’ system like Nieto, but the chances of him sticking on a big league roster for the entire season when he hasn’t played above high Single-A appear to be pretty slim.

Update: Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of player development Doug Harris said the Nats had gathered some information in recent days that there were teams interested in Nieto in the Rule 5 Draft. They had heard the rumors, and were preparing for the fact that the 24-year-old catcher might be selected.

“He’s done a terrific job,” Harris said of Nieto. “Our staff deserves a lot of credit. Adrian struggled for several years with us and we actually took a step back with him and kind of restarted his career, going back to (short-season Single-A) Auburn, and it jump-started him. He matured a great deal and we’re very proud of what he accomplished.

“We did value Adrian. For us, I think it speaks to the depth of the system. We were obviously at 40 (on the 40-man roster) with some of the moves that we’ve made and those are tough decisions when you get to that next guy or next couple of guys. We do value his skill-set. Obviously we had a catcher in A-ball. We have to prioritize our guys and we made that decision (not to protect him).”

You often hear teams say that a silver lining in having a player selected in the Rule 5 is that other organizations value the talent in your system. That could probably be said of the Nats in recent years, as they had Nieto selected in the Rule 5 this year and two players - outfielder Jeff Kobernus and left-hander Danny Rosenbaum - last year.

“I think particularly in this case, (Nieto) was the second pick in the draft,” Harris said. “Again, we were at 40. Those decisions become more and more difficult every year. It speaks definitely to the depth of the system and the job our staff is doing acquiring players and developing players.”

Both Kobernus and Rosenbaum were returned by the teams that acquired them, and they’re back in the Nats’ system. The same could eventually happen with Nieto, if he doesn’t stick with the White Sox.

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