Some news and notes for you on this Friday morning ...
* Today is the deadline for all clubs to add players to their 40-man roster and protect them from the Rule 5 draft, so look for the Nationals to make an announcement on a few guys at some point.
The Rule 5 draft, which is scheduled to take place Dec. 10 to wrap up the virtual Winter Meetings, allows clubs to select away minor leaguers from other organizations and add them to their major league roster. Any player drafted for $100,000 must remain on his new club’s big league roster the entire 2021 season or else be offered back to his original club for $50,000.
Who’s eligible to be drafted? Any player who is not on the 40-man roster and signed his contract at 18 or younger is eligible after five professional seasons. Any player who signed at 19 or older is eligible after four professional seasons.
Given that, the Nationals have several potential candidates who they might want to add to the 40-man roster today and protect from being drafted away. (They only have 31 players currently on the roster, so there are plenty of available slots.) Among the names that are in the mix are infielder Yasel Antuna, catchers Israel Pineda and Raudy Read, right-handers Joan Adon and Sterling Sharp, and outfielders Cole Freeman and Nick Banks.
Those of you who follow these things closely already know Sharp was drafted away by the Marlins last year and made his major league debut, but was sent back to the Nats. Well, he’s eligible again, which raises an interesting dilemma: Do you protect him this time to ensure he can’t be drafted, or do you assume nobody will want to take a chance on him again after he didn’t make it in 2020?
Read, of course, has big league experience with the Nationals, but he was dropped from the 40-man roster after the season, so that makes him eligible. You wouldn’t think the organization would take him off the roster in October just to put him back on it in November, but we’ll see.
Antuna is the most touted prospect on this list, but the 21-year-old shortstop/third baseman has never played above low-Single-A and appeared in only three games in 2019 due to injuries. He got positive reviews while at the Nats’ alternate training site in Fredericksburg this summer and is currently playing in the Dominican Winter League.
Pineda, likewise, has never played above low-Single-A, but is well regarded as one of the Nationals’ few catching prospects. The 20-year-old also spent the summer in Fredericksburg, where he caught a number of guys who pitched in Washington during the season.
* We don’t know who’s going to be on the Nationals’ opening day roster. We don’t know if they’ll need a designated hitter. We don’t know if extra innings will be played by 2019 or 2020 rules. We don’t even know if there will be fans in the stands. But we do know the game will be nationally televised to a primetime audience.
ESPN announced a slate of games it will broadcast during the first week of the 2021 season, and that includes the Nationals’ April 1 opener against the Mets. The game, part of an opening day quadrupleheader on ESPN, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Eastern time, and the network said it will have exclusive TV rights for it. (Sorry, Bob, F.P. and Alex.)
Though they traditionally have played day games, this will be the Nationals’ third opening night in club history. They hosted the Braves in the first game played at Nationals Park in 2008, with Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off homer the defining moment. And this past summer, they hosted the Yankees in the first half of an opening night doubleheader on ESPN.