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The roster crunch facing the Yankees today, and who could beat it

The deadline to add a player to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft is today. Who will the Yankees protect?

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Atlanta Braves Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

A far less glamorous part of the offseason has arrived: roster deadline season. Today is the day the Yankees will have to move players onto the 40-man roster, or else make them available for other teams to select in the Rule 5 draft. The prospects that are eligible to be selected are college players drafted in 2015, or high school and international draftees from 2014.

The Yankees already made that process a little easier by trading for James Paxton yesterday. Two of the prospects the Yankees dealt to the Mariners in that trade, Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson, would have been candidates to be on the 40. By dealing from that reservoir of talent on the farm, another promising player that was a borderline candidate to make the crunch can now make it.

Room would have to be made for any other additions the Yankees make in the offseason, but at the moment, the Yankees have 38 players on the roster. Part of the dilemma with the roster crunch is the Yankees have an abundance of clear major league talent that isn’t going to get removed. Barring any other trades, the guys already on the roster are staying on the roster. The two remaining slots could be filled by a number of candidates, but there are only a few that logistically make sense.


Trey Amburgey, outfielder. Amburgey took his first big leap with the Yankees this past season, spending the entire season at Double-A Trenton. Over 125 games, Amburgey slashed .258/.300/.418 while hitting 16 homers and driving in 74 runs. While Amburgey isn’t ready for the big leagues yet, teams like the Padres have been known to snag prospects in a situation like this, and Amburgey has some value as a lower trade chip.

Dermis Garcia, first baseman. 2018 was a down year for Garcia, dropping .100 points in his slugging percentage, but he is still only at Low-A Charleston and showed promise in rookie ball. Like Amburgey, putting Garcia on the 40 would simply be procedural to protect a trade asset.


Michael King, starting pitcher. King actually isn’t Rule 5 eligible until next year, but with Sheffield gone King becomes the most exciting pitching prospect on the team. King went 11-5 with a 1.79 ERA across three different levels of the organization. The majority of his time was spent at Trenton, and he ended the year with the Triple-A squad at Scranton. At each stop, King’s numbers only improved, to the point where he owned a 1.15 ERA in six starts at Scranton. Promoting King to the 40 wouldn’t be a move to protect him, but would indicate that King could be ready to play in 2019.

Ryan McBroom, first baseman. The Yankees acquired McBroom back in 2017 in a trade with the Blue Jays for Rob Refsnyder. McBroom was solid for Scranton last season, batting .302/.348/.458 with 15 home runs. If either Luke Voit or Greg Bird winds up losing the battle for the first base job and ends up being moved, McBroom could slot into a backup first base role.

Zack Zehner, outfielder. Zehner got off to a hot start in 2018 with Trenton, and the team promoted him to Scranton in June. Then Zehner struggled, and was briefly called back down to Trenton before returning two weeks later. Zehner’s overall numbers aren’t too shabby. He slashed .270/.339/.459 and had some pop in his bat, but he didn’t perform to the level that Amburgey did. For that reason, Zehner could be risked in the draft.

Hoy Jun Park, shortstop. Park had a successful year in his first full season at High-A Tampa, slashing .258/.387/.349. He walks as much as he strikes out, and he’s a threat on the base paths as well. Despite this, Park is only 22 and hasn’t made it out of Single-A yet, and he plays a difficult position to hide on a major league roster. His value is rising, but his odds of escaping the draft are pretty good.


Billy Fleming, second baseman. Fleming is 26 years old, and has had two stints in Scranton, but has yet to play in 100 games in a single season. He’s also playing a position that the Yankees are more than covered for at the major league level, so they don’t need to rely on him for depth despite Didi Gregorius’ injury.

Nelson Gomez, third baseman. Gomez is only 21, but has yet to advance past rookie ball so far. His numbers are pedestrian as well, slashing only .207/.296/.393 in his career. He’s safe for now.

Devyn Bolasky, outfielder. Bolasky tore it up in 38 games for Trenton, slashing .365/.417/432. Those numbers came down to Earth once he was promoted to Scranton, plummeting to .213/.286/.247. He also only played in 30 games there, totaling 68 on the season. Overall, he’s just had too small a sample size at both levels to determine where he stands right now.

Adonis Rosa, starting pitcher. Rosa saw every level of the organization in 2018, but the overwhelming majority of his time was spent at Tampa. Rosa also didn’t have much success in the higher levels of the minors during his short stay there, pitching to a 4.63 ERA in two starts at Trenton and a 3.92 ERA in four with Scranton.

Relief Pitchers, many. Seriously, there are a lot of relievers eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year, and all of them are pretty unlikely to be protected. Jordan Foley, Raynel Espinal, Joe Harvey, J.P. Feyereisen, Cale Coshow, James Reeves, David Sosebee, and Hobie Harris will all be up for grabs. Foley and Harris did go to the Arizona Fall League, so the Yankees may be risking them, but there are higher priorities than relief pitchers on the roster that need to be addressed.