As the Yankees consider which prospects they want to move for major league assets near the trade deadline, they will presumably consider prospects’ eligibility for the Rule 5 draft this winter. If another team selects a prospect in the Rule 5 draft, the Yankees risk losing them for virtually nothing. That means that the Yankees are likely to try to include prospects who are Rule 5 eligible in their trade offers in the days ahead. But how exactly would the Yankees be at risk? How can they protect their guys? And who would they risk losing?
To be clear, the Rule 5 draft rules are as follows: All players selected to a major league club’s 40-man roster are exempt from selection. Of all players not on the 40 man roster, those who signed before they turned 18 and have played five minor league seasons are eligible. So are players who signed after turning 18 who have played four minor league seasons. As a note, if a player loses a season to injury, it does not add a year to their clock.
In order to protect a player from the Rule 5, a team like the Yankees would need to roster that player on the 40-man. But because of the Yankees’ wealth of young prospects, they have virtually no choice but to move some of these prospects. The Yankees already started to take care of this problem with Tuesday’s trade with the White Sox. While Blake Rutherford was only in his second professional season, the two other prospects in the deal, pitcher Ian Clarkin and outfielder Tito Polo, were both eligible for Rule 5 selection this winter.
So who else is left? There’s a hodgepodge of several dozen prospects who would be eligible. The bulk of them could be classified as “organizational depth,” guys who did not really progress through the system and older players who still have not made the majors. Some other players, like former top outfield prospect Jake Cave and pitching prospect Chaz Hebert, have been in the system long enough that they can declare minor league free agency. Between that and their veteran status, they may not be able to be moved for very much. Several of the higher profile names, like Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, Dustin Fowler, and Jordan Montgomery, have all earned the call to the major leagues and are thus on the 40-man roster and protected from selection.
That leaves us with a handful of higher-ranked prospects who are at some risk of being poached by another team but who may not be protected. These guys are solid candidates to be floated in trade offers to rebuilding teams who have more room on their 40-man roster. Here are 10 guys of note. They have been ranked in terms of presumed value to the Yankees organization (i.e. if none of these guys are traded, this is a guess at how likely it is the Yankees would protect them).
1: Domingo Acevedo– Generally regarded as a prospect in or near the team’s top 10. Throws really high heat (consistently high 90s, has hit 103 mph) as a starter. 6’7” 250 pound righty — looks like Pineda or Betances. Changeup above average, as is control. Has issues with durability and mechanics. Unclear if he can cut it as a starter, but has the right stuff for the late innings.
2: Albert Abreu– Acquired from the Astros in McCann deal. Borderline top-10 team prospect. Has a 100 mph fastball and strikes out a lot of guys but inconsistent control and secondary pitches. Currently on DL for over a month with undisclosed injury.
3: Zack Littell– Another righty, came from Seattle last winter. Curveball is his best pitch and his fastball sits in the low 90s. Knows how to mix his pitches. Has good control. 14-1 with a 1.94 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning between Tampa and Trenton this year.
4: Billy McKinney– At least a 4th outfielder, maybe more if his power holds up (10 HRs this season, including four in his last 15 games). Lefty hitter who slumped in 2016 & in April this year but has found approach this summer. Prime trade candidate.
5: Thairo Estrada– Known primarily for his glove. Plays second, short, and occasionally third. Good contact, hitting .315 in Trenton this year, plus good discipline. Little power and not much base stealing, although he is speedy. Blocked by Gregorius, Castro, Torres, Wade, Mateo, Andujar. Another candidate to be traded.
6: JP Feyereisen– 24-year-old hard-throwing reliever. Sits in the mid-90s with fastball but has thrown 100 mph before. Still needs to work on slider as consistent second offering. Could be a solid big league middle reliever. Might even be up in September if not dealt.
7: Nestor Cortes– 5’11” lefty “finesse” pitcher. Four pitches but none stands out. Has been productive as both starter and reliever (career 2.17 ERA in 286 minor league innings). Yankees might take their chances and hope his lack of a big tool helps him avoid selection.
8: Abiatal Avelino– Homerless with Trenton and hitting .267 there this year. Had a rough stint in AAA but still only 22. Like Estrada, blocked by middle infield depth, but could be a future trade asset. Yankees may seek to include him in a deal.
9: Daniel Camarena– 24-year-old lefty, a bit undersized for a pitcher at 6’0”, 210 pounds. 3.51 ERA in 13 starts between Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Good command and location but less-than-elite velocity. Could provide bullpen help even this season.
10: Rashad Crawford– 23-year-old center fielder hitting just .229 with a .300 OBP for Trenton this season, but showed promise hitting .291 for Tampa last year after being acquired from Cubs. Good speed- has 12 stolen bases. Might be taken in Rule 5 for another team to use as pinch runner.