Note: This article is part of a series looking at the 2019 Rule 5 draft and which Yankees minor leaguers it will affect.
The Yankees have until November 20 to decide which minor league prospects to protect from the annual Rule 5 draft. While there are many big names that are now eligible for the draft, the Yankees must decide which of them to protect.
Deciding on which prospects to protect can be a challenge. You never know how a prospect may develop in the three option years they have, and injury certainly can play a role. Also, they must decide whether it is worth protecting a player that is further away from the majors than others but may have a higher potential ceiling.
In 2020 Major League Baseball rosters will be expanding from 25-men to 26-men for the regular season. That small change is enough to make it easier for teams to select a player in the Rule-5 draft and have him spend the entire season on the everyday roster.
Out of all of the prospects, the Yankees have three that fall into the must protect category. Coincidently, they are currently the top three prospects in the entire system at the moment (not including the recently signed Jasson Dominguez).
RHP – Deivi Garcia
The biggest name on the list of players the Yankees must protect is none other than right-handed pitcher Deivi Garcia. The 20-year-old out of Bonao, Dominican Republic quickly rose through the farm system in 2019. He opened the season with Class-A Advanced Tampa and was quickly promoted to Double-A Trenton after four games.
While with the Tampa Tarpons, Garcia went 0-2 with a 3.06 ERA and an 0.93 FIP over four starts and struck out 33 batters in 17 2/3 innings of work. While with the Trenton Thunder in Double-A he earned a 4-4 record, struck out 87 batters in 53 2/3 innings of work with an ERA of 3.86 and a FIP of 2.20.
On July 11, 2019, the Yankees promoted him to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders where he struggled for the first time this season. While adjusting to the new ball, Garcia was touched for a 5.40 ERA and a 5.77 FIP over 11 games, six starts, for the Yankees Triple-A affiliate. He struck out 45 batters in 40 innings of work.
Garcia projects to be a number three starter for the Yankees with a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s but can get up to 97 miles per hour at times. Combine it with the plus curveball he throws in the 77-79 miles per hour range, his changeup and the new slider he developed he could be a big part of the Yankees future success at the big-league level. Sometimes you have to remember that he is only 20 years old and has not finished developing physically and with that growth, he has the ability to add more velocity to his pitches.
OF – Estevan Florial
The prospect fatigue has set in for many in terms of outfielder Estevan Florial. Injuries and a failure to make it passed Class-A Advanced, aside from a brief cup of coffee in the Eastern League playoffs, has seen many fans and prospect evaluators dismiss him. However, Florial still posses some of the best tools in the Yankees farm system, and in baseball.
Florial was impressing everyone with his ability at the plate and play in the field during spring training before the injury. In 13 Grapefruit League games, he hit .355/.429/.516 with two doubles, a home run, four RBIs, and four walks while also stealing five bases for the Yankees. However, he would lose most of the season when he suffered a non-displaced right wrist fracture and dislocation after colliding with the center-field fence while trying to make a catch in a spring training game against the Blue Jays.
That injury limited Florial to just 74 games for the 2019 season, all of them with the Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League. He hit .237/.297/.383 in those 274 at-bats with 10 doubles, three triples, eight home runs, and 38 RBIs. As expected, after suffering such a bad injury and having limited playing time in 2018 due to a hamate bone injury he struggled. That does not mean that Florial is not the prospect he was.
It is important to remember that though we have been talking about Florial for some time now, he is still just 21 years old. As with many international prospects, their clock to be protected begins much earlier than US-born prospects which can cause prospect fatigue quicker. If he were to be left unprotected, Florial would be among the first players taken in the Rule 5 draft and with the 26th man in MLB in 2020 he has a high probability of sticking.
RHP – Luis Gil
Right-handed pitcher Luis Gil is a newcomer to the Yankees farm system, after being acquired by the Yankees prior to the 2018 season from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for outfielder Jake Cave. Gil was signed by the Twins on February 12, 2015, making him a part of the 2014-2015 international free agent class and eligible for the Rule 5 draft this season.
At 21-years-old, Gil is the same age as Florial and ended his season in the rotation of the Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League after spending most of his 2019 season with the Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League. Gil appeared in 17 games for the Yankees full-season affiliate in Charleston where he earned a 4-5 record with a 2.39 ERA and a 2.50 FIP. He averaged 12.14 strikeouts per nine innings while walking 4.23 batters per 9, all while striking out 112 batters in 83 innings of work.
Gil was promoted to the Tarpons on July 25, 2019, where he pitched in three more games before ending the season on the disabled list. With Tampa, he was 1-0 with a 4.85 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 13 innings of work. While he was moved to the injured list for precautionary reasons, it did cost him the remainder of the 2019 season.