Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rule 5 Draft: Who Could Be Going?

While the Yankees are sitting in the driver's seat with the top pick in today's Rule 5 Draft, they also have several unprotected players who are good bets to be drafted by other teams. In theory, the Rule 5 is designed to target talent rich organizations like the Yankees, or more specifically, it's designed to protect their minor league prospects from getting buried.

With the Yankees having rebuilt their system over the past few years and not having the luxury of breaking in more than a few young players at a time, the Yankees are ripe to lose guys through the Rule 5. Last year they had four players taken: Reegie Corona (second overall), Zach Kroenke (12), Jason Jones (14), and Ivan Nova (20). All four were returned, but the Yankees then promptly traded Jones, who had some unflattering comments about the Yankees' organization, back to Minnesota.

The point is even if the Yankees lose some players today, they may well be back. Twenty one players were selected in last year's Rule5 Draft. Fifteen were returned to their clubs before the start of the season. Of the six to see Major League service time, only three lasted the season with their new club.

Corona and Nova are protected this year, Kroenke is available again, but as we explored earlier, there's a chance the Yankees use their pick on him. If they don't, he's almost assured to be selected by another club. We touched on Colin Curtis earlier as well, who may make a good reserve OFer on a lower tier team. Here are some other Yankees ripe for the taking today:

  • Grant Duff RHP: Probably a goner. He saw a major jump in velocity this year and did well in the Arizona Fall League. Like most potential Rule 5 guys he has warts. His K rate doesn't measure up to his velocity and his control is spotty.

  • George Kontos RHP: Was having a great season last year until an elbow injury derailed his season and required Tommy John Surgery. Someone could take a flier on him and stash him on the DL, but I believe they'd still have to fill the Rule 5 roster requirement the next year, and no one can afford to have a guy work his way back from TJS like that. Very, very longshot to be selected.

  • Josh Schmidt RHP: Had a great year out of the Trenton bullpen and made five starts as well. He's currently doing well in Winter Ball, predominantly as a starter. This increases his versatility and as a 27 year old who hasn't been above AA, this may be Schmidt's best, and only, shot at reaching the Bigs.

  • Kanekoa Texeira RHP: A throw in from the White Sox in last year's Nick Swisher deal, he too had a great year in AA, making 35 relief appearance and 6 emergency starts. He put up just over a hundred innings at a 2.84 ERA, had decent control, and gave up just 0.6 HR/9.

  • Kevin Whelan RHP: Part of the haul for Gary Sheffield after the 2006 season, Whelan is ripe for the picking. He'll be 26 next year, and unlike the pitchers above (save for the injured Kontos) Whelan has pitched at AAA. He's not just a good bet to get picked, he's a good bet to stick wherever he goes. If he doesn't, his lack of control (career 5.4 BB/9) will be his undoing. In his defense though, he K's a ton of batters (11.4 per 9) and gives up very few home runs (0.3 per 9).

  • Alan Horne RHP: The 2007 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, injuries have limited him to just 100.2 IP over the last two seasons combined, and they haven't been pretty. I can't imagine anyone taking a flyer on him.

  • J.B. Cox, RHP: Similar to Horne, Cox looked ticketed for the Bronx three years ago. Injuries have derailed his career since, and while he hasn't officially retired, he went home mid-season last year to ponder his future. Another guy who isn't going anywhere - and likely isn't coming back for that matter.

My prediction: Duff, Schmidt, Texeira, and Whelan all get selected; Duff and Texeira get returned at some point. If the Yankees don't use their pick on either Curtis or Kroenke they're both gone too, but I don't think Curtis will stick.

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