Nats protect Antuna, Adon from Rule 5 draft

The Nationals added two prospects to their 40-man roster today, believing infielder Yasel Antuna and right-hander Joan Adon needed to be protected from being lost in next month’s Rule 5 draft while taking a chance a few others won’t be gobbled up by another club.

Antuna and Adon each had his contract purchased, elevating each player to the organization’s 40-man roster even though neither is on the cusp of making his major league debut. Club officials do believe both prospects have a future in D.C., and weren’t about to risk losing them now.

Antuna-At-Bat-Suns-Sidebar.jpgAntuna is rated the organization’s fourth-best prospect by Baseball America, the 21-year-old shortstop/third baseman currently projected as the Nationals’ best hitting prospect. The Dominican native, who was signed in 2016, hasn’t played above low-Single-A Hagerstown and appeared in only three games in 2019 due to injuries. But he got positive reviews while at the Nats’ alternate training site in Fredericksburg this summer and is currently playing winter ball at home.

Adon also spent the summer in Fredericksburg, his first opportunity to pitch alongside upper level prospects and veterans with big league experience. The 22-year-old right-hander went 11-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 2019 as a starter for Hagerstown, the highest level of the minors he has reached to date. Another Dominican native, Adon also was signed in 2016.

The two additions bring the Nationals’ 40-man roster up to 33, leaving plenty of available space for free agent signings or trades this winter.

Given how many open slots they had, there was reason to wonder if the Nats might add more than those two players. In the end, they didn’t feel like any other Rule 5-eligible prospects were in serious danger of being lost.

The most notable names left unprotected include 20-year-old Israel Pineda (perhaps the organization’s best catching prospect), fellow catcher Raudy Read (who has spent time in the big leagues but was dropped from the 40-man roster last month) and right-hander Sterling Sharp (who was taken by the Marlins in last winter’s Rule 5 draft but was sent back to Washington during the summer).

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