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Looking ahead to the Yankees 2017 Rule 5 roster crunch

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The Yankees have more prospects than they know what to do with

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Glendale Desert Dogs at Scottsdale Scorpions Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In 2016, the Yankees lost several players in the Rule 5 Draft when Luis Torrens, Tyler Webb, Tyler Jones, and Caleb Smith were all taken. If you felt like that was a lot, just wait until next winter. I’ve counted 35 players of note that will be eligible for the draft for the first time next year. The Yankees obviously won’t be able to protect them all, so they are going to have to make some tough decisions and likely cut some deals in order to get something in return.

Let’s start with the easy ones first. We know that they are going to protect the likes of Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Jordan Montgomery, Dustin Fowler, and Tyler Wade—some of whom might receive a call up this season. The Yankees only added eight players to their roster in preparation for the draft this year, but they have so many more names to consider in 2017.

Domingo Acevedo and Ian Clarkin are both gifted starters, but have been limited by injury and are probably still too far away to definitively say what the organization will do. It’s possible that with Torres and Wade on the roster, they might also think that Thairo Estrada is expendable, despite his promising this past year. The likes of J.P. Feyereisen, Matt Wotherspoon, and Nestor Cortes have the ability to make the jump to the majors this year, if all goes well, so they may be out of the way by November. Then there’s Albert Abreu, who the Yankees will probably want to keep around after acquiring him for Brian McCann.

That still leaves the team with far too many players to simply lose for absolutely nothing.

A former fifth rounder, Jordan Foley is still only 22 years old and just pitched to a 3.06 ERA with a 12.2 K/9 in 62.2 innings as the closer for High-A Tampa. The Yankees moved him to the bullpen full time, so if they think he can move quickly up the ladder, it might be a matter of how soon can he get up here before he gets taken.

The Yankees just traded James Pazos for Zack Littell to free up some roster space for this offseason, however, they will have to consider keeping him in 2017. This year, the right-hander pitched to a 2.66 ERA with good peripherals of 8.5 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 165.2 innings between Low- and High-A. He’s still just 20 years old, so they could have something here that shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Erik Swanson came to the Yankees through the Carlos Beltran deal. He transitioned to the rotation this year and pitched a 3.46 ERA with a 8.7 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 96.1 innings of Low-A ball. The organization will need the 2017 season to evaluate him as a starting pitcher and see what they have before they can figure out what to do with him.

Rashad Crawford and Billy McKinney, who both came over in the deal for Aroldis Chapman, are caught in the middle this year. Crawford turned it on when he came over to Tampa and is certainly worth something. McKinney, meanwhile, was once one of the top prospects in the game but has seen his stock drop in recent years. I can see either of these guys go, but it’s a matter of whether or not they can stick somewhere.

Mark Payton and Devyn Bolasky are two college outfielders in Double-A who could be drafted next year. The Yankees have plenty of outfield depth at this point, so losing one wouldn’t phase them much. Losing both, however, could leave them light in the upper levels. Outfielder Tito Polo and pitcher Stephen Tarpley, who both came over in the Ivan Nova trade, are also at risk of being snatched up.

With so many players eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, the Yankees will need to get creative and find ways to get some kind of value for the players they are about to lose. The catch will obviously be that they will have to find teams with ample room on their 40-man roster before exploring any kind of a deal.

In the end, however, all that really matters is Frazier, Torres, Montgomery, Fowler, and Wade. A few others trail after them, but then it won’t be too devastating if they lose some of the players above for absolutely nothing. These players wouldn’t be in this position if they were definitively worth keeping, it would just be nice to get something back before we lose them.