For a good decade, the Nationals would take their seats at the Rule 5 draft, the annual event that always wraps up the Winter Meetings, and sit back and watch as other clubs either selected or lost players. As a perennial contender, they didn't typically have roster room to devote to a longshot prospect, nor did they tend to have many young players of their own coveted by other organizations.
Now that they've entered a full-scale rebuild of their entire operation, both at the major-league and minor-league level, the Nats figured to be far more active in the Rule 5 draft. They're likely to select a player in the big-league portion for the first time since 2010 once the lockout ends and that delayed event can take place. And today, they selected a whopping four players in the Triple-A portion of the draft, which proceeded as scheduled because the lockout doesn't affect players not on 40-man rosters.
The Nationals emerged with a second baseman with some big league experience (Andrew Young of the Diamondbacks), plus three right-handed relievers who will help fill out their minor league bullpens (Curtis Taylor of the Blue Jays, Matt Brill of the Diamondbacks and Dakody Clemmer of the Guardians).
None of the 51 total players who were drafted today were plucked out of the Nats farm system.
Players selected in the major league Rule 5 draft are required to remain on their new club's 26-man roster (or injured list) an entire season or else be offered back to their original teams, but that does not apply to players selected in the minor-league phase of the draft. They are simply acquired for $24,500 apiece and initially assigned to their new club's Triple-A roster, though they can ultimately be moved to any level of the organization. None are currently on the 40-man roster, which is why they could be drafted today while the lockout remains in place.
Minor league Rule 5 picks rarely end up making an impact at the major league level, but some do emerge from the pack on occasion. And in Young, the Nationals have acquired someone who could realistically play in the big leagues in 2022, given the fact he already did for Arizona each of the last two seasons.
The 27-year-old (a second baseman primarily who has also played third base, shortstop, first base, left field and right field) put up big numbers at Triple-A Reno this season: a .304/.388/.598 slash line with 11 homers and 41 RBIs in 224 plate appearances. And over the last two seasons, he has played in 70 big league games for the Diamondbacks, though he has hit just .205/.319/.462 with seven homers, 19 RBIs and a whopping 55 strikeouts in 138 plate appearances.
Young did face the Nationals this season and homered off Patrick Corbin on April 15 in D.C.
Originally a 37th-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2016 draft and then dealt to the Diamondbacks as part of the Paul Goldschmidt blockbuster trade, Young has good power potential but will need to cut down on his strikeouts and find a permanent position he can reasonably handle if he's going to make it long term.
Taylor, 26, delivered good numbers in the lower levels of the minors while pitching in the Diamondbacks and Rays systems, but struggled somewhat this season at the Blue Jays' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. In 30 combined appearances, the right-hander had a 5.71 ERA, 1.529 WHIP, 41 strikeouts and 17 walks in 34 2/3 innings. He was originally a fourth-round draft pick by Arizona in 2016, dealt to the Rays for Brad Boxberger in 2017, then dealt to the Blue Jays for Erick Sogard in 2019.
Brill, 27, has produced a lot of strikeouts (11.2 per nine innings) and a lot of walks (5.7 per nine innings) during his four seasons in the Diamondbacks system. The right-hander spent 2021 at Double-A Amarillo, where he finished with a 6.33 ERA, 1.815 WHIP, 37 strikeouts and 20 walks in 27 innings. He did impress in the Arizona Fall League in 2019, allowing just one run and eight baserunners in 9 2/3 innings against some of the sport's top upper-level prospects.
Clemmer, 25, also finished with lofty strikeout and walk totals this season for Cleveland's Double-A affiliate in Akron. The right-hander had a 3.40 ERA, 1.291 WHIP, 62 strikeouts and 33 walks in 50 1/3 innings. A 19th-round pick in the 2016 draft, he spent his first four professional seasons pitching at Single-A or lower.