While some big moves are potentially going down for the major league team, Wednesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings also featured the annual Rule 5 Draft. Each year, teams are allowed to pick from a pool of players who signed professional contracts at age 18 or younger who haven’t been added to their organization’s 40-man roster within five years, or four years if they signed at 19 or older. These players would then have to stay on the MLB roster of their new team for the entire season, or else they would be returned to their original team.
Interestingly, while there were only 10 selections made overall in the draft, three teams chose to take from the Yankees’ system, starting right away with the first overall pick. Let’s get into who the Yankees lost and where they’re going.
The Oakland A’s had the first overall pick, and they spent it on Mitch Spence, a 25-year-old right-hander who was on Triple-A Scranton’s roster the whole year in 2023. Spence was one of the Yankees’ closest-to-MLB arms that wasn’t protected by a 40-man roster spot, tossing 163 innings of 4.47 ERA ball with 153 strikeouts to 53 walks. Given Oakland’s massive lack of talent after purging their roster of anyone making a decent salary over the past few seasons, it’s fair to assume that they’ll hang onto Spence and see what they can make of him. A’s GM David Forst certainly hinted as much.
The second pick in the draft was held by the Kansas City Royals, and they also dipped into the Yankees’ pitching pool. Matt Sauer, a 24-year-old right-hander that spent most of last year in Double-A Somerset’s rotation, was the pick here, and he posted a 3.41 ERA in just 74 innings combined over three levels of the organization. Sauer’s year started late due to rehabbing a right forearm strain, but he showed a lot of promise once he made it onto the mound. Still, you can already see the dip in major-league readiness here, as Sauer just got his first long-term taste of Double-A and has yet to see Triple-A in his career — it’s a worthwhile shot for a team like the Royals, but there’s a chance they don’t see this pick through the whole year.
Spence and Sauer were likely targets of the draft, but the Yankees lost one more arm late in the round, and it was a bit of a surprising one. The Rangers took Carson Coleman with the 23rd slot in the draft, and he was the last to be selected in the MLB portion of the draft. Coleman was a very solid reliever for Somerset and High-A Hudson Valley in 2022, pitching to a 2.13 ERA combined in 63.1 innings with 93 strikeouts, but an elbow surgery held him out for all of 2023. It’s definitely a gamble for Texas to take him given the lost year and his lack of exposure to the top levels of the minors, but if they think they see something in him, a reliever is the likeliest to jump a few levels and find some level of success.
The Yankees did not take anyone in the major league side Rule 5 Draft, but they did gain and lose a few more names in the minor league portion. These are players of the same age restriction who did not make it onto the Triple-A roster either, and are simply eligible to be taken by a team without worry of returning. The Yankees lost first baseman Eric Wagaman to the Angels, catcher Mickey Gasper to the Red Sox, right-hander Michael Gómez to the Rays, and infielder Marcos Cabrera to the Pirates. They took right-handers Gabriel Barbosa and Kervin Castro from Colorado and Houston, respectively.