The Nationals added five players to their 40-man roster this afternoon, in the process protecting outfielder Rafael Bautista, first baseman Jose Marmolejos, catcher Raudy Read, infielder Matt Skole and right-hander Austin Voth from being scooped up by another organization in next month’s Rule 5 draft.
The additions, which were required to be made before a 5 p.m. EST deadline, leave the Nationals with 36 players officially on their 40-man roster for the moment. (That number will rise to 37 once Chris Heisey’s agreed-upon deal with the club is officially announced.)
Voth and Bautista are the most significant of the players added to the roster today, given their standing within the organization.
Voth, the Nationals’ fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft, went 7-9 with a 3.15 ERA over 157 innings for Triple-A Syracuse this season. The 24-year-old right-hander figures to be among those pitchers under consideration for a big league promotion next season if the Nats need rotation help.
Bautista, one of the potential gems to come out of the Nationals’ Latin American development program, hit .282 with a .344 on-base percentage and 56 stolen bases for Double-A Harrisburg this season. The 23-year-old outfielder, signed out of his native Dominican Republic in 2012, was named this year’s recipient of the organization’s Bob Boone Award.
Marmolejos also was honored at season’s end as this year’s organizational Player of the Year. The 23-year-old Dominican first baseman hit a combined .289 with 13 homers, 45 doubles, 74 RBIs and an .845 OPS at Harrisburg and Single-A Potomac.
Skole, a fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft who has fallen down the organization depth chart a bit, hit .244 with 24 homers, 78 RBIs and a .774 OPS at Syracuse this season. The 27-year-old corner infielder may yet prove to be a potent left-handed bat for the Nationals.
Read was the most surprising player added to the 40-man roster today, but the Nationals need to protect as many catchers as they can and so the 23-year-old was selected even though he has never played above Single-A. Read, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, hit .262 with nine homers, 51 RBIs and a 31 percent caught-stealing rate for Potomac this season.
The most notable player who wasn’t part of today’s moves was Bryan Harper, the 26-year-old left-hander who made a name for himself this season and made a push for a September call-up to the big leagues. Harper (Bryce’s older brother) posted a 2.18 ERA in 40 appearances between Harrisburg and Syracuse but was shut down in mid-August with a strained forearm.
Harper will be among the players now eligible to be selected by other clubs in the Rule 5 draft, which takes place Dec. 8 as the final event of the Winter Meetings (being held this year at the Gaylord National Harbor). In order to be eligible, a player must not be on his club’s 40-man roster and have spent either five seasons in the minors (if he signed before turning 19) or four seasons in the minors (if he signed after turning 19).
Update: Turns out there’s a good reason Harper wasn’t added to the 40-man roster: He had Tommy John surgery earlier this month, according to a club source. Sounds like the team was hopeful his injury was nothing more than the forearm strain but realized after the season it was worse. Assuming Harper will be rehabbing throughout the entire 2017 season, it makes sense that the Nationals wouldn’t have needed to worry about another club taking him in the Rule 5 draft.