The Washington Times - December 8, 2011, 09:30AM

DALLAS — The winter meetings are just about to wrap up from the Hilton Anatole hotel here in Dallas, the last act of the annual baseball meetings being the Rule 5 draft.

Last year, the Nationals selected two pitchers, Brian Broderick from the Cardinals and Elvin Ramirez from the Mets. Neither wound up sticking with the team, Ramirez dealing with an injury all year and being returned this offseason and Broderick making the major league team out of camp but flaming out as a reliever shortly thereafter.


But the Nationals have had success in the Rule 5 draft before. Jesus Flores was once a Mets farmhand and while his path has hit a few giant speedbumps, it’s safe to say that (as Rule 5 picks go) that was a pretty good one.

This year, the Nationals are looking at the Rule 5 draft a bit differently than they have in the past. They only have three spots open on their 40-man roster, having already protected catchers Derek Norris and Jhonatan Solano, infielder Tyler Moore and outfielder Eury Perez, so there’s not too much wiggle room. And they’re also in a different place than they have been — closer to contending, less inclined to give up a roster spot to a possibility instead of a sure thing.

“I think we’re in a little bit of a different position than we’ve been in the past,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. “We’re doing our due diligence on the board and we’re going to put together our preferred list and see if there’s a fit and see if there’s any roster constraints that would allow us to have a Rule 5 pick or keep us from making one.”

A few interesting names that the Nationals left unprotected were left-hander Brad Meyers, who could very well be taken by a team hoping they can cash in on his eye-popping K:BB ratio (he walked just 15 batters in 2011 while striking out 116). They’ve also gotten interest in lefty reliever Josh Smoker, a former first-round draft pick (2007), who reinvented himself as a reliever this year. Smoker pitched in 46 games (50 2/3 innings) with a 2.31 ERA.