Nationals

Quick Links

Sterling Sharp headlines Nationals prospects who could be picked in Rule 5 Draft

Sterling Sharp headlines Nationals prospects who could be picked in Rule 5 Draft

When the Rule 5 Draft begins at noon ET on Thursday in San Diego, every MLB club will have the opportunity to steal a prospect from another club—with a catch.

Any player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on his new team’s 25-man roster all season, or else be placed on waivers before being offered back to his original club for $50,000.

The Nationals aren’t expected to select anyone during this process, especially after the team signed career minor-league Kyler Finnegan onto their 40-man roster. He carries the same professional experience as a Rule 5 pick but still has three options remaining.

Washington could, however, lose a prospect to another club, with the most likely candidate being right-handed pitcher Sterling Sharp. The Nationals added fellow prospect Ben Braymer to their 40-man ahead of the November deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. But Sharp was left off, making him an intriguing option for other clubs should they select him.

Sharp, 24, was limited to just nine starts at AA-Harrisburg this season due to an oblique injury. When he was on the field, he posted a 3.99 ERA with an 8.2 K/9. That helped earn him an invitation to the Arizona Fall League, where he put up a 1.50 ERA and sub-1.000 WHIP in six starts. He’s a groundball pitcher who still racks up solid strikeout numbers with a three-pitch arsenal that includes two plus-graded pitches in his fastball and changeup. Sharp is also athletic for a pitcher, once going viral for slamming a between-the-legs dunk.

Braymer is left-handed and earned a promotion to AAA-Fresno this season, so it’s understandable why the club chose to protect him over Sharp. But MLB Pipeline actually rates Sharp (13) higher than Braymer (15) on its Nationals Top 30 list, a pedigree that’s more likely to put Sharp on other teams’ radar ahead of the draft.

The other prospects in the Nationals’ top 30 who are eligible to be selected are Steven Fuentes (21), Malvin Pena (22), Gilbert Lara (25), Telmito Agustin (27) and Jhonatan German (28). No other team has six players from their top 30 eligible for this year’s draft.

Up I-95 over in Baltimore, the Orioles are a team that might be more likely to make a selection. In his first Rule 5 Draft with the club, General Manager Mike Elias selected shortstop Richie Martin from the Oakland A’s with the No. 1 pick. Martin played 120 games and was the team’s everyday shortstop by the end of the year, although he hit just .208 with six home runs.

The team’s 40-man roster is already at 38 players, so they could decide to forego a pick in order to use that roster slot another way. But with the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, they’ll have plenty of options to choose from should they decide to make a pick.

Baltimore could also lose a player as well, namely Cody Sedlock, who ranks 17th on their MLB Pipeline Top 30. Sedlock, 24, was promoted to AA-Bowie last season and posted a 3.71 ERA and 9.0 K/9 in nine games (six starts). A former first-round pick out of Illinois, he’d be a risk for another team given his little experience above High-A.

Right-handed pitcher Gray Fenter (30) is the only other Orioles’ top-30 prospect who will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Astros wade through first boo-filled night of many to come

Astros wade through first boo-filled night of many to come

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The only agreed upon factor of Saturday night’s spring training opener was affinity for Dusty Baker. 

Baker, alone at home plate to receive a ceremonial first pitch, raised his hand to the crowd when announced. Both sides cheered. Those in red stood, some shouted his name. Others on the Houston side could unabashedly applaud Baker. He represented what’s next, not what was.

But the past chased the Astros from the second the ballpark opened. Any Houston highlights were followed by hefty boos. “FOR THE H” flashed on the right-center field video board during the evening on what was supposed to be an Astros “home” game. However, there was nothing warm and fuzzy about the location for the Astros, an experience sure to track them outside of Houston throughout the season.

The Astros were booed en masse since Baker did not play any of his regulars. Myles Straw, Jeremy Pena and Taylor Jones began the game against Max Scherzer. It’s difficult to let Nos. 3, 89 and 79, respectively, have it on the first night of spring training. But, those on the team in 2017 remained safely in the dugout, prompting an expansion of targets.

Before Scherzer began his night, the Astros’ mascot, Orbit, ran across the face of the Washington dugout with an oversized Houston flag. He, too, was booed -- with fervor. Anything representing the Astros was in play since their main facets were not on the field.

Two signs carried by Nationals fans were taken by a ballpark employee. Some Washington fans banged on their seats during the game to mimic the Astros’ prior method for stealing signs. Scherzer thought something colorful had a chance to leak into the setting.

“I figured something like that was going to happen,” Scherzer said. “I got a good taste of what it’s like [when] facing [Bryce Harper] last year when we had our whole crowd going. I thought our fans would boo. I didn’t realize it was going to be that loud when I face Harp. That was a playoff atmosphere. Everything gets turned up a notch when the fans get into it.”

Scherzer threw 22 pitches, 13 for strikes in two innings. He allowed a single and struck out two batters he’s unlikely to ever face again. Otherwise, he was nonplussed to face the Astros in a game rain forced to pause, then stop, after two innings and a head-scratching delay.

“We won the World Series,” Scherzer said. “It wasn’t like I have a vendetta to hold. So, for me, over here we’re just trying to move forward and get ready for our season.”

Baker thought the reception went as expected.

“There were a lot of Nationals fans here,” Baker said. “We had a lot of fans here, too. You could tell who was for us and who was against us. All in all, it wasn’t too bad. You kind of expect to get some. But they weren’t too bad, though.”

So, the night ultimately served as the expected start. Scherzer pitched well. The Astros were booed.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Astros booed, fans' signs taken in spring training opener against Nationals

Astros booed, fans' signs taken in spring training opener against Nationals

As if this week hadn’t already been bad enough for the Houston Astros, it got a bit worse on Saturday afternoon when they faced the Washington Nationals in the spring training opener. 

The Astros took the field at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and were welcomed by the fans with an eruption of boos. The two teams share the facility, but it was Houston's home game. 

Since 2017 Washington and Houston have shared their spring training facility in West Palm Beach and made it a tradition to kick off their respective Grapefruit League schedules against each other. They will play six times this spring - though Saturday's opener was postponed by rain after a scoreless two innings. 

One courageous fan really got into the act, holding up a sign reading "Houston *'s" that was eventually confiscated by ballpark personnel, according to the Associated Press.

If this start is any indication of what they will face throughout this season, it's going to be a long 2020 for the Astros. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: