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Rule 5 Draft Season

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By Ed Botti

It’s that time of the year again, Rule 5 Draft season. For us Baseball Junkies, its one step closer to next year!

Each year I always get a little anxious and nervous at the same time, wondering who will be exposed to the draft and if the Yankees will lose a quality player.

We read about the prospects, we may even have seen a couple play during the prior summers in the minors, and in doing so, we arrive at our own anticipated projections and evaluations for each.

What exactly is the Rule 5 Draft?

In simple terms it is a mechanism for teams across the league that provides a method for teams to complete their 40-man rosters by selecting prospects from other teams that are not part of their current team’s 40-man rosters.

For some players stuck in the minors, it is a welcome day; they just may get a shot in the show.

For others, they sit on pins and needles awaiting the results. Remember, some of these young kids have known nothing else since they were 16 and left home.

Just like the Rule 4 Draft (amateur draft), the selection order of the teams is established by each team’s won-loss record from the prior regular season. Teams may decide not to select a player with their pick, passing to the next team in the queue.

The clock is ticking, teams have until Nov. 20 to decide who will be on their 40-man rosters and who gets exposed to the draft. Prospects that do not make the cut will be eligible to be taken by the other 29 teams on December 10 of this year.

Who is eligible?

Players that were signed at age 18 or younger will need to be added to their team’s 40-Man roster within five seasons or they will become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Players who signed at age 19 or older need to be protected within four seasons.”

“Protected” basically means that a player is added to their team’s 40-man roster, which removes them from the Rule 5 Draft pool of eligible players.

If a player is selected in the Rule 5 draft, he must be kept on the selecting team’s 26-man major league roster for the entire season that follows the draft. He cannot be optioned to the minors at all.

The selecting team may, at any time, waive the player. If a Rule 5 drafted player clears waivers by not signing with a new team, he must be offered back to the original team.

If a Rule 5 drafted player sticks with his new team for the entire season, his status reverts to “normal” and he than can be optioned or designated for assignment.

Roster management is a tricky game. Many moves are made with the intent of creating roster space.

This year, the Yankees only have four open spots on the 40-man roster, as of today.

Making matters more perplexing, clouded and risky, is the fact that 2020 had no minor league baseball. No games to judge the development of their talent, and they are now forced to do so, or risk losing the player. and many other sources list the following as the top Yankee prospects eligible for the draft, if not added to the 40 man roster.

Oswald Peraza, SS

Alexander Vizcaino, RHP

Yoendrys Gomez, RHP

Roansy Contreras, RHP

Trevor Stephan, RHP

If history is any indication, Pitchers are a more common Rule 5 Draft target. Let’s take a quick look at some of them eligible for the Draft, as of today.

Alexander Vizcaino signed with the Yankees just before his 19th birthday in May 2016. Most of the top international prospects sign at 16 years old or so. Since he was 19, he is a rare find for teams to poach a top prospects in the draft, as he is older and more experienced. He is considered by many scouts to be the owner of the best change up in the entire organization. I believe they will protect him.

Before being sidelined with Tommy John surgery in 2019, Garrett Whitlock rapidly soared through the organization, reaching Double-A Trenton by 2019.

He is now fully healed and since there was no 2020 minor league baseball he has had valuable extra time to manage his rehab program. He has a career 2.41 ERA with a respectable walk rate while throwing a lot of ground balls. He is on the bubble.

Yoendrys Gomez saw his stock rise from a moderate prospect to one of the best in the Yankees’ system. He is armed with a 98 mph fastball that he can command at the top of the strike zone, making his tight curve ball even more effective. I believe they will protect him.

Roansy Contreras is currently ranked by as the # 19 Yankees prospect. He pitched the entire 2019 season at Low-A Charleston while only 19 years old. He finished very strong by ending with a 1.80 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in his final 11 starts. He is on the bubble.

Ex Yankee David Hale yielded Addison Russ in a trade with the Phillies during the 2020 season. He finished the season at the Yankees’ alternate training site in Scranton. He is considered to be a better prospect than Brooks Kriske, who they protected last year. He is on the bubble.

Additional prospects that may need to be protected are SS Oswald Peraza (No. 4), and RHP Trevor Stephan (No. 24). I believe they will protect Peraza, Stephan is on the bubble.

There probably are others that the Yankee brain trust might protect that aren’t on this list, and the Yankees can also make roster moves to provide roster space for these prospects and others. However, time is not on their side; they’ll have to make those conclusions before November 20 to protect them.

At the same time, The Yankees can also look to raid another team, and select a player from their system.

It really can be a crap shot, but there have been some great players left unprotected that ended up being signed by other teams.

Below are some exceptional players that were selected in the Rule 5 Draft in previous years.

· Roberto Clemente, 1954 – Hard to believe the Dodgers let him get away.

· George Bell, 1980 – Picked by the Blue Jays, from the Phillies

· Josh Hamilton, 2006 – Picked by the Cubs, from the Devil Rays.

· Johan Santana, 1999 – Picked by the Marlins, from the Astros

· Jose Bautista, 2003 – Picked by the Orioles, from the Pirates

· Paul Blair, 1962 – Picked by the Orioles from the Mets

· Jeff Nelson, 1986 – Picked by the Mariners from the Dodgers

· Darrell Evans, 1968 – Picked by the Braves from the A’s.

As you can see, some gems can be found and lost in this draft.

It will be interesting to see what Mr. Cashman decides to do in the next couple of weeks.

Let the anxiety begin….


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