As the MLB season comes to an end, there will be a lot action immediately following the World Series. One of the big events that teams are preparing for is the annual Rule 5 Draft which takes place at the end of the winter meetings. Players not on a 40-man roster that meet the eligibility for the Rule 5 Draft can be selected by any team for a payment of $100,000 to the losing team. The player must then remain on the major league roster or be offered back to the losing team at a cost of $50,000. The Yankees will have a very talented crop of young players reaching the eligibility threshold this season, while other players who have been passed over in the past have taken enough of a step forward that they will warrant strong consideration in this year’s draft.
Players Eligible for the first time this season:
Signed at age 19 or older in 2016
Signed at age 18 or younger in 2015
In recent years the Yankees have seen players such as Tommy Kahnle and Luis Torrens selected out of their system and lost to rival teams. Other players like Mike Ford and Nestor Cortes Jr. were selected heading into the 2018 season only to be returned back to franchise before the end of April that year. Historically across baseball, players such as Roberto Clemente, Bobby Bonilla, Josh Hamilton and Johan Santana have changed teams through the Rule 5 Draft.
Roster spots will open up as players enter free agency, then the Yankees will be making decisions on retaining players who struggled through injuries and ineffectiveness this season. Some decisions have already been made, as Mike King who was approaching Rule 5 eligibility was added to the 40-man roster in late September. Heading into the 2020 season the expansion of the major league roster to 26 players is a variable that could make this a very active Rule 5 Draft. This rule will gives teams an extra roster spot, and flexibility to hold onto a player throughout the season without putting an excessive burden on the rest of the roster.
Let’s take a look at some of the Yankees prospects who will be added to the roster or draw attention in the Rule 5 Draft.
Several pitchers who finished the season with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are prime candidates to be protected as part of the 40-man roster. The first is the Yankees’ top prospect Deivi Garcia. The right-handed pitcher recorded a 13.3 K/9 rate this season while earning two promotions and finished on the cusp of the major leagues. Nick Nelson also has big strikeout numbers, recording 11.4 K/9 while working the majority of his innings as a starter at Double-A and Triple-A.
In the Conversation:
Chris Gittens is coming off an Eastern League MVP season, and led the league in numerous offensive categories. Rony Garcia finished strong for Double-A Trenton, with five no-hit innings in the deciding game of the Eastern League championship. That start culminated a strong stretch for Garcia, as he finished the season with a 2.98 ERA over his last 69.1 Inning pitched. Brian Keller was a 39th round pick in 2016, and has steadily climbed through the Yankees system, earning a promotion to Triple-A Scranton after throwing a no-hitter for Trenton on August 1st. Miguel Yajure posted a 2.14 ERA, and a 1.07 WHIP on the season. His velocity increased, peaking at 97 mph, and scouts saw a curveball that was better by the end of the season than the beginning.
High Ceiling Candidates:
One of the challenges of constructing the 40-man roster is balancing the number of players who can contribute now with potentially high-ceiling players that are still at least a full season away from the majors. Teams in various stages of rebuilding may have no problem grabbing a player in the Rule 5 Draft and stashing him on the roster. This year the Yankees have numerous high ceiling prospects who fit this bill.
Estevan Florial struggled through a broken wrist that cost him a significant portion of his season. He saw his strikeout rate reach 32.7% when he returned to action with the High-A Tampa Tarpons. While he struggled on the heels of two straight injury plagued seasons, Florial still has above average tools that keep him ranked among the top Yankees prospects. Luis Gil is coming off a very strong season, where he was among the best pitchers in the South Atlantic League, and he earned a promotion to High-A Tampa late in the season. He is currently the Yankees’ fourth best prospect per MLB Pipeline. Luis Medina is another name that will garner attention. His fastball and breaking pitches are considered elite, and he put together the best run of his career to finish this season. Both Gil and Medina have fastballs that can reach 100 mph, and are the type of electric arms that teams have tried to grab in the past and stash through the Rule 5.
Helping pace Trenton to the Eastern League Championship was a strong bullpen. There are multiple members who are likely to be left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. Daniel Alvarez and Brooks Kriske both recorded strikeout rates of over 11.7 K/9. James Reeves was incredible down the stretch, only giving up one earned run in his last 33 innings pitched including the playoffs.
We will see a lot of roster moves in the days that follow the World Series. Players will be removed and added to the 40-man roster rapidly over the span of a few days. Other members of the 40-man will be traded to make space for the talented youngsters coming from below. No player left exposed will constitute a massive loss to the organization, but after watching the Yankees tap into their minor league depth time and again this season it is clear that every piece matters.