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A brief look at the Yankees and the Rule 5 Draft

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How did the Yankees fare at the Rule 5 Draft, this year and in year’s past?

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

At the conclusion of the winter meetings in Las Vegas, the 2018 Rule 5 Draft took place. The Rule 5 Draft gives teams with open slots on their 40-man roster the option to select eligible players from other teams. Players are eligible if they aren’t on their team’s 40-man, if they signed with their team at the age of 18 and have five years of experience, or if they signed at age-19 and have four years of experience.

The catch is that any selecting team must keep the player on their 25-man roster for the entirety of the season. If the selecting team decides it doesn’t want to keep the new player, they can offer him back to the old team. Most of the time, selected players get offered back; there aren’t many players that can stick in the majors all year that teams don’t have room for on their 40-man.

The Yankees have seen a large number of players selected from their minor-league system over the past few years. That makes sense as the Yankees’ have had a deep farm and a good major-league team at the same time for the past couple years. Every year, they face a crunch to protect their favorite Rule 5-eligible prospects on their 40-man, while inevitably leaving a few interesting players exposed.

Just last year, the Yankees sent away Anyelo Gomez, Nestor Cortes, Mike Ford, and Jose Mesa Jr. in the Rule 5 Draft. As is typical, though, all four players came back and are now in the Yankees’ system again. Cortes was the only one to glimpse the majors, giving up four runs in 4.2 innings with the Orioles.

In 2016, the Yankees actually completely lost a player. The Padres took catcher Luis Torrens and kept him in the majors all year. This was something of an experiment by the tanking rebuilding Padres, as the club selected three young players in the Rule 5 and kept them all in the majors. Torrens, who had never previously played above A-ball, understandably struggled, hitting .163/.243/.203 in 123 at-bats. Torrens posted a .727 OPS as a 22-year-old in High-A last year. Tyler Jones, Tyler Webb, and Caleb Smith were all also selected that year and returned to the Yankees.

What happened with the Yankees in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft? Well, they didn’t suffer as many losses as in recent years. Only one of their prospects, pitcher Nick Green, was picked in the major-league portion of the draft. Green was the 13th player selected and is now with the Diamondbacks.

Green, a 23-year-old right-handed starter, split 2018 between High-A and Double-A. He was fairly effective, maintaining a 3.32 ERA across 132.2 innings. His peripherals were poor, however, as he struck out 102 and walked 64. Green was acquired as the last piece of the Carlos Beltran trade, and reportedly has a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a serviceable changeup.

Green isn’t a great prospect, and it seems unlikely he will be able to stick all year in Arizona. Over at FanGraphs, Dan Szymborski used his ZiPS projection system to forecast all the Rule 5 selections, and Green’s projection isn’t rosy: a 5.43 ERA and as many walks as strikeouts. If Green turns in that kind of performance, the most likely scenario involves Arizona sending him back to the Yankees, allowing him to return to the Double-A Trenton rotation.

The Yankees did lose five players in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. The minor-league phase works similarly to the major-league phase, where players that aren’t on a team’s minor-league reserve lists are eligible to be selected, but players that are selected don’t have to be returned. It is exceedingly rare that good prospects don’t end up on the reserve lists of their minor-league clubs (Double-A rosters, for instance, can go up to 37 players).

The Yankees lost Mark Payton, Anyelo Gomez, Gilmael Troya, Alex Vargas, and Chris Rabago in the minor-league phase. The most recognizable name on this list is Payton, as the 27-year-old outfielder has been in the Yankees’ organization for five years and has at times looked like a decent prospect. He has been sent to the A’s after fizzling out a bit in the high minors the past couple seasons.

The Yankees did select right-handed reliever Adonis De La Cruz in the minor league portion, and traded for outfielder Tyler Hill after the Tigers selected him. It’s unlikely that any of these prospects amount to much, but they are at least worth mentioning.

In all likelihood, the Yankees won’t get burned in the Rule 5 Draft this year. They’ve seen several players selected over the past few years, and Torrens is the only one to have gotten away. Even then, the young catcher has lost his prospect shine during his time with the Padres. 40-man roster crunches are always stressful, but it seems the Yankees have navigated the situation with aplomb once again.