I'll start with those minor leaguer pitchers not on the 40-man roster. There are two distinct ways of looking at the minor leaguers (both pitchers and hitters):
- Rule 5 candidates: A player is eligible for the offseason Rule 5 draft if not on the 40-man MLB roster if he was <= 18 when he 1st signed a pro contract and this is the 4th Rule 5 draft since he signed or if he was >= 19 when he 1st signed a pro contract and this is the third Rule 5 draft since he signed. This was how Tony Blanco ended up on the Nationals and the reasoning behind the additions of Kory Casto, Frank Diaz, and Armando Galarraga to the Nats 40-man.
- Six-year minor league free agents: Like major leaguers, minor league players also enjoy free agency. Their contracts expire after 3 years, and unless their contracts are renewed by mutual agreement, they are released from any obligation to the major league club(If a player is on the 40-man roster, this rule does not apply.) . These renewals can be done for a maximum of 6 years. The rules differ for players who are not with their original organization, the team can opt to sign the player for however many years remain before the expiration of their sixth renewable contract.
There are 48 pitchers in the farm system that could be either Rule 5 candidates or 6-year free agents. In my opinion, there are two guys I would view as potential Rule 5 losses (assuming they are not placed on the 40-man prior to the draft).
- Danny Rueckel, RH RP - The 25-year old was removed from the 40-man roster this year, and may not be in the Nats long term plans. RPs are often times grabbed by teams hoping to find diamonds in the rough.
- Hector Cerezo, LH RP - The 23-year old Cerezo pitched briefly for the GCL Nats. He brings one thing that teams are always looking for Ks from a LHP. I doubt he'll be selected, but he's the type of guy who could go.
Additional names of note that I doubt will be selected but would be available:
- RH SPs: David Maust, and Mike O'Connor
- RH RPs: Saul Rivera, Nick Long, Warmar Gomez, Dan Kolb, Chris Schroder, Anthony Pearson, Gus Hlebovy, Brett Reid, and Mayque Quintero
As for the 6-year free agents, the candidates are: Dan Smith, Brian Powell, Micah Bowie, Chad Durbin, Joe Horgan, C.J. Nitkowski, Donnie Bridges, Jacobo Sequea, Mark DiFelice, Matt White, Justin Echols, Rich Rundles, Saul Rivera, Anthony Ferrari, Dave Gil, Ed Yarnall, and Jason Norderum.
Next I'll take a look at the hitters.