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.
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