The Nationals added third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez and right-hander Jefry Rodriguez to their 40-man roster in advance of today’s 8 p.m. league-wide deadline, protecting both prospects from being lost in next month’s Rule 5 draft.
Neither Gutierrez nor Rodriguez appears on the Nationals’ various top-10 prospects list - or is big-league ready - but each is viewed within the organization as worthy of retaining without risk of being lost now.
The Rule 5 draft allows teams to select players away from other organizations who have spent either four or five seasons in the minors - depending on how old they were when they signed their first contract - but have yet to make their club’s 40-man roster. Any player who is drafted (the price has gone up to $100,000) must remain in the majors with their new club for an entire season or else be offered back to their former team.
The Nationals had already protected several of their better prospects who would have been Rule 5-eligible this winter, calling up Victor Robles, Erick Fedde and Andrew Stevenson to the majors during the season and earlier this month adding reliever Wander Suero to their 40-man roster.
Gutierrez, 23, hit .288 with two homers, 16 RBIs, a .347 on-base percentage and .761 OPS in 58 games for Single-A Potomac this season, but he really began to turn heads in the last month. Playing in the Arizona Fall League against elite, upper-level prospects, the Dominican native led the Mesa Solar Sox with a .350 batting average and .438 on-base percentage while producing a .913 OPS. A midseason All-Star in the Carolina League, Gutierrez has for the last two years been cited by Baseball America for having the “Best Infield Arm” in the Nationals farm system.
Rodriguez, 24, went 4-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 12 games (10 starts) for Potomac this season, one in which he served an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a banned performance enhancing substance (a metabolite of Clomiphene). He is one of only a handful of players in the Nationals organization to have been suspended for PED use in the last decade.
Rodriguez, another Dominican native, still is regarded as a promising pitching prospect within the organization. He has the “Best Fastball” in the Nats system, according to Baseball America.
Among the players the Nationals chose not to add to their 40-man roster today and thus have left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft were catcher Taylor Gushue (who hit 18 homers for Potomac and played in the AFL) and third baseman Drew Ward (third-round pick in the 2013 draft).
With today’s moves, the Nationals now have 37 players on their 40-man roster, leaving three spots open for potential free agent signings or trades.