There haven’t been many Rule 5 draft picks in Washington Nationals history, catcher Jesus Flores is the best on the short list.
Knowing the Washington Nationals haven’t made too many Rule 5 selections in their history is a good thing. This means they have had major league ready talent on their roster to begin most years. The thing about Rule 5 picks is, they have to stay on the drafting team’s 26-man roster the entire year, or be offered back to the team they were drafted from. When the Nationals were in their infancy as a franchise they had several losing seasons, and were in the market for some young players to select and stash. Jesus Flores is the player who stands out as the best Rule 5 pick in team history.
Flores was signed as a teenager out of Venezuela by the New York Mets in 2002. He spent three years in their organization never getting above Single A. Left off the 40-man roster prior to the 2007 season, the Nationals snapped him up in the Rule 5 draft that December.
Coming off a 71-91 season the Nationals had little hopes of competing in 2007, making the opportunity to hide a now 22 year-old on the roster possible. With Brian Schneider as the veteran catcher, Flores assumed a backup role for the majority of the year.
In minimal action, Flores hit a respectable .244 with 25 RBIs, and threw out 33% of attempted base stealers.
After the season Schneider was traded, Paul Lo Duca was signed, and Flores was set to receive more on the job training. In 90 games he hit .256 with 59 runs batted in. He was on his way to becoming the catcher the Nationals were grooming him to be, and the reason they put him on the roster to protect him a year earlier.
The opening day starter in 2009, Flores was off to a great start with the bat when the injury bug bit. Hitting .301 with an OPS of .877, Flores was lost for the season after playing in just 29 games. Flores suffered from a stress fracture in his shoulder which would eventually cost him all of 2010 as well.
By the time Flores was healthy, Wilson Ramos was the new catching prodigy for the Nationals, and the window for stardom had closed. He would spend 2011 and 2012 on the Nationals roster though was not the offensive player he was just a few years earlier.
After entering free agency Flores would sign a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and subsequently join four other organizations without making it back to the big leagues during his remaining time in baseball.
Injuries put an end to what was once a promising career. All told, Flores played in 311 games for the Nationals, hitting .241. A solid Rule 5 pick indeed, and the best one in Washington Nationals history.