Last year, the Nats added four players to the 40 man roster to protect them from being taken: Derek Norris, Tyler Moore, Eury Perez and Jhonatan Solano. Even so, Erik Komatsu and Brad Meyers were both taken by opposing teams (although now both have been returned to the organization). This year, the Nationals have until November 20 to finalize their 40 man roster in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft that will take place on December 6. When Mike Rizzo brought up Christian Garcia in September, one of the important players to protect from the Rule 5 draft was covered. Here's a look at some other intriguing options.
RHP Nathan Karns - The only for-sure guy on my list. While his injury history is long and his minor league track record is short, you just can't give up a guy who struck out 11.5 guys per 9 innings up for free if he has competent control (and this year, he did). Karns is a lot like Christian Garcia in the sense that he has the stuff to get anyone out...if he can stay healthy.
RHP Rob Wort - Remember what I said about Karns just now? Well imagine trying to let a guy who struck out 15.1 per 9 innings this year with even more competent control slip away to another team. Wort's 2011 struggles may be enough to convince other teams not to take him, but I don't know that the Nats really want to take the chance of losing the 2009 30th round pick.
2B Jeff Kobernus - While his numbers don't look fantastic (.282/.325/.333 this year in Harrisburg), middle infielders who are mildly competent with the bat are hard to find (and especially ones who have stolen 95 bases in the last 2 seasons). Kobernus is far from a flawless player, but he's a decent utility player option for the future, and while the Nats already have Desmond, Espinosa and Lombardozzi up the middle, it never hurts to have one more (especially when that one more is not named Mark DeRosa).
OF Destin Hood - Sure, he has all the talent in the world. In 2011 when he hit .276/.364/.445 for Potomac with 13 HR and 21 SB, it turned some heads. But then he went and hit .242/.301/.339 this year, mostly in AA Harrisburg. While Harrisburg was a decent challenge to give Hood in 2012, sticking him in the majors for a whole season a la Tony Blanco in 2005 would be disastrous to his development. If someone takes that path (and it's a possibility), look for Hood to tear it up internationally about 4 years later - Blanco has 121 HR from 2009-12 playing for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan.
OF Erik Komatsu - Komatsu spent from June of 2008 to July of 11 with the Brewers, but has spent time with three different organizations since: the Nats (who acquired him for Jerry Hairston at last year's trade deadline), the Cardinals (who chose him in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft) and the Twins (who claimed him on waivers when the Cardinals elected to remove him from their 25 man roster in May). The argument against keeping Komatsu is pretty simple: he doesn't project to be a major league player. His value comes from his ability to get on base (career .300/.386/.431 minor league triple slash). Komatsu is a corner outfielder that doesn't have much power, and while he can play a little bit of CF, it's not enough to be starting material there. I believe in his ability to be a nice 4th OF/bench bat type, but with Roger Bernadina already in the majors, there isn't a huge need for a lefty hitting bench OF. The Nats took their chances not protecting Komatsu last year and I imagine they'll do the same this year.
RHP Brad Meyers - I was bummed when the Yankees grabbed this righty with pinpoint control in last year's Rule 5 Draft. Meyers went on to injure his shoulder and only pitch 1.2 innings for the A ball Tampa Yankees, and was returned to the Nats this week. Meyers will not need to be protected due to his shoulder injury recovery, but could be a candidate to make it to the big leagues if he can prove to be healthy in 2013 and beyond.
RHP Pat Lehman and LHP Danny Rosenbaum - What have Pat Lehman and Danny Rosenbaum ever done wrong for this organization? Lehman's 3.36 and Rosenbaum's 2.84 ERA since both were drafted in 2009 are excellent. The issue with both is that they don't have the stereotypical "major league stuff" and rely on being crafty and pinpointing their pitches. It worked for Tommy Milone this season (in a huge stadium, though), but teams aren't exactly lining up to take stash junkballers on their rosters all season (that is what Livan Hernandez and Miguel Batista are for, obviously).
If I had to guess, I would say Karns, Wort and Kobernus will all be added to the 40 man roster in the next few weeks with Hood, Komatsu, Meyers, Lehman and Rosenbaum being left unprotected before the Rule 5 Draft next month.