Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rule 5 Draft: Who Could Be Coming?

Good morning Fackers. Today is the final day of the Winter Meetings, culminating with the Rule 5 Draft. As we know by now, the Yankees have wrangled the top overall pick from the Nationals as their return from Monday's Brian Bruney trade.

As we mentioned earlier this week, this is unique territory for the Yankees. They've made just two Rule 5 picks since 1995. Their roster isn't usually constructed in a manner where they can afford to fulfill the Rule 5 requirement and carry a fringe player on their Major League roster all year. For that reason, I'm inclined to think there's some validity to the rumors that the Yankees may in turn flip whoever they have the Nationals choose for them today.

That said, it's not inconceivable that the Yankees could find a usable part for themselves. While it's nice to dream about finding the next Johan Santana, Joakim Soria, Dan Uggla, or Shane Victorino - all former Rule 5 picks - the reality is that finding such diamonds in the rough are few and far between. A Rule 5 pick is generally left unprotected for a reason, and the best a club can realistically hope for is a nice complimentary piece.

To that end, several folks have parsed the hundreds of available players and put together short lists of potential Yankee picks: Mike Axisa at River Ave. Blues, Greg Fertel at Pending Pinstripes, Steven Schwartz at Bronx Baseball Daily, and Chad Jennings at the LoHud Yankees Blog. I won't pretend to know much about fringe minor leaguers from other organizations, but I will share a few thoughts on the possibilities.

First, I think it would be a major, major mistake to use the pick on Arquimedes Caminero unless the Yankees are going to flip him. Fanhouse's Frankie Piliere, a former scout, is big on Caminero, and I respect his opinion. Caminero's career K/9 of 10.4 is enticing, but his career BB/9 of 5.1 is very off putting. For my liking, that's far too similar to the guy the Yankees traded just to get this Rule 5 pick. The fact of the matter is Caminero will be 23 next year, has thrown just 138 innings in four professional seasons and has topped out with just 2.1 IP in A+ ball. To think he can make what amounts to a four level jump, overcome his obvious control problems, and last a full season in the Major Leagues - let alone in the AL East - is a monumental leap of faith.

There are a few OF/1B types who can also catch in Chad Tracy, Matt McBride, and Brian Jeroloman. I'm not necessarily advocating that any of them be the pick, but I am intrigued by the prospect of adding another player to the roster who can catch. I have the utmost confidence that Francisco Cervelli will be a capable back-up, but if Jorge Posada is going to see semi-regular time at DH, or if Posada or Cervelli gets dinged up, it would be very valuable, if not necessary, to have another catching option at hand. And as we saw with the Kevin Cash debacle last year, it will likely be difficult for the Yankees to convince a capable veteran to take a AAA deal - especially with Jesus Montero and Austin Romine charging up the ladder. The Buck Showalter era Yankees had success with a catching triumvirate of Mike Stanley, Matt Nokes, and Jim Leyritz, aided by the fact that all three were capable of DHing or subbing elsewhere in the field.

There are several rumors that the Yankees may use the pick on one of their own eligible players. This would virtually ensure they keep the player, because if he doesn't stick on the Major League roster the Yankees would be returning the player to themselves. Both Zach Kroenke and Colin Curtis have been mentioned. I like Kroenke and given my doubts about Mike Dunn, I'd like to keep Kroenke all the more with Phil Coke gone. Curtis is virtually a non-prospect, but he had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League and would provide AAA OF depth, something the Yankees are virtually devoid of with Austin Jackson now gone.

Despite all that, I find it very unlikely that the Yankees swung such a deal just to take one of their own players, who they chose not to protect just two weeks ago - unless that was part of the plan. That is, knowing they were going to have to include Coke as they negotiated the Granderson trade, they made the Bruney trade as a way to retain Zach Kroenke, who is far less expendable with fellow lefty Coke now gone.

That's what the Yankees stand to gain. We'll be back shortly with a look at who the Yankees stand to lose today.

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