Dating all the way back to Spring Training, minor league players try to display their ability. Players putting on the uniform take it as yet another opportunity to prove themselves. Sometimes it is convincing their own big league team that they have what it takes to make an impact.
Other times, and perhaps more frequently, it is proving the same to the other 29 clubs in the league. As the trade deadline approaches, here are a handful of Yankee prospects to keep an eye on due to their eligibility in the Rule 5 Draft.
Rule 5 Breakdown:
For those who don’t understand the complexities of the Rule 5 draft, here is a brief explanation. From the MLB website, “players signed at age 18 or younger need to be added to their club’s 40-Man roster within five seasons or they become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Players who signed at age 19 or older need to be protected within four seasons”.
This basically means that teams have a certain period of time to “protect” players via their 40 man roster. If the players are on the 40-man, they are untouchable from other teams in the Rule 5 Draft. But 40 man roster assignments are often ones that cause great debate and stress for decision makers. Because of this, a lot of attention is paid towards players in the organization who are “Rule 5 eligible”.
It is impossible to protect everyone that you want to in your organization. Thus, teams have to decide on who they will protect for the upcoming season. This means they must clear space on the 40 man for up and coming prospects. Many teams resort to trading away eligible Rule 5 players from their organizations before the deadline.
This tactic usually nets the organization some players who can help the major league roster. The Yankees are no exception to this. Last season, they traded away Hayden Wesneski, Luis Medina, Ken Waldichuk, and T.J. Sikkema, all of whom were going to be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.
Let’s take a look at some of these players:
(All stats as of July 20 and prospect rankings from MLB.com)
Jasson Domínguez / OF / Yankees #1 Prospect
Domínguez, nicknamed “The Martian”, has been known by Yankee fans ever since he signed as an international free agent in 2019. Domínguez has had mile high expectations on him since he was 16 years old.
He has been a steady climber in the organization, currently splitting between center field and left field for Somerset. His stat line for the 2023 season as of July 20: .216/.351/.374 for a .725 OPS. With 12 HR and 45 RBI, his power has dipped slightly from what he enjoyed last year.
He is facing better pitching in Double-A than he did for the majority of last year in Hudson Valley and Tampa. Unless he is dealt for a superstar player, Domínguez, still only 20 years old, will remain in the organization and be placed on the 40-man this winter.
Austin Wells / C / Yankees #2 Prospect
A former first round draft pick in 2019, Wells has been the backstop in Somerset for most of the season. Many in baseball debate where his future lies in the field. Some question his ability behind the plate and the potential of his sticking there for the long term.
It is important to note that Wells has always been considered a “hit-first” player. The hope for Wells is that his bat carries him into playing time at higher levels. On the season so far, he is slashing .237/.327/.443 for a .770 OPS. He has 11 long balls and 14 doubles in Somerset. The next step for Wells is to reach Scranton in 2023, though that path may be backed up with the catching depth in the organization.
In the meantime, Wells will focus on elevating some of his Double-A hitting statistics and proving that he is an adept defender behind the dish. External buzz surrounding the position change that Wells may be forced to make has not affected either party. The Yankees, along with what Wells has said publicly, are adamant about his future behind the plate. He’s the best total package they have in the system, after Breaux, Seigler, and Gomez have disappointed in their development.
Like Dominguez, parting with Wells would require a big time major league player. Assuming the Yankees do not go after a big fish and Wells remains following the deadline, he should expect a spot on the 40-man in 2024.
Clayton Beeter / SP / Yankees #13 Prospect
For better or worse, Beeter may be remembered by Yankee fans as the return in the Joey Gallo trade. Beeter has proved that he deserves more than just that recognition. He is making a name for himself in the organization.
Starting the year in Somerset, he posted a 6-2 record with a 2.08 ERA in 12 starts. After these impressive two months, Beeter was promoted to Scranton. Thus far, he is pitching to a 4.11 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 15 IP. Limiting his walks is one area of improvement going froward, but Beeter is performing like the top pitching prospect he is.
The Yankees hope to keep using him as a starter in the rotation going forward but could also transition him to the bullpen. Beeter’s 40-man roster spot is pretty interesting. Because of his lower rank in the top 30, some have mocked him in trades to opposing teams.
He is definitely a name to keep an eye on going forward with trade discussions, as teams would love to add him to their staff. The Yankees will have a tough decision to make with him, but one that should bring value one way or another.
Elijiah Dunham / OF / Yankees #16 Prospect
Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020, Dunham has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees organization. Playing mostly left field, Dunham has risen as high as Triple-A this season. He struggled a little bit at the plate in Scranton, mustering a .670 OPS with 87 K in 69 games. Dunham was demoted to Somerset in the beginning of the month.
He has taken his demotion as motivation and is putting together great numbers in his short time back down. His OPS sits at .884. Dunham is in the range of prospects that are heavily looked at as trade pieces for certain major league players.
Dunham’s best chance to reach the majors may lie with another team, as there is outfield depth lined up ahead of him currently. The Yankees may look to offload Dunham before the Rule 5 draft or run the risk of his selection in December.
Matt Sauer / SP / Yankees #20 Prospect
Taken in the 2nd round in 2017 with an over slot bonus, Matt Sauer has been tough to pin down over the years. His velocities are impressive for a starting pitcher, but has lacked consistent command, leading to Sauer dropping off of of various Yankees’ Top 30 prospect lists
He is a six-foot-four pitcher who has potential to stick as a starter. Sauer has consistently battled injuries, including a UCL reconstruction (Tommy John) surgery, leading to questions about his future in a rotation. In two starts this month in Somerset, he has pitched to a 4.32 ERA with 8 H, 5 BB, and 11 K in 8.1 IP.
Unless other teams around the league see high potential in Sauer, it may make the most sense for him to continue his bounce back from injury with the Yankees.
Carson Coleman / RHP / Yankees #26 Prospect
Coleman was pitching incredibly well in 2023. He has a double-plus fastball according to some scouts, which will drive his value up as he continues to better his command. He posted a 2.86 ERA in 44 IP with 15 saves in Somerset before an elbow injury ended his season. An unfortunate end of his season, but someone that the Yankees should keep a strong eye on down the line for a future bullpen arm.
As expected, RHP Carson Coleman will be out for the remainder of the season, Somerset announced recently. I was looking forward to seeing him on the mound, but believe he had TJS too.
RHPs Gray Fenter also xfer'd to Full Season IL and Justin Wilson to the 60-day.
— John Brophy (@jbrophybaseball) July 19, 2023
Juan Carela / SP / Yankees #29 Prospect
Carela has spent the entire year in High A with Hudson Valley, posting a 3.51 ERA with 98 K in 77 IP. Carela is still only 21 years old which will be factored into his future with the organization. There is still a lot of time to find out what Carela brings to the table, especially as he grows into his body.
Right now, he is measured at six-foot-three and 186 lbs. This projectable frame should be enticing to those in the front office who are expecting good things from Carela. His placement on the 40-man roster will be an interesting evolution.
Would the Yankees protect a pitcher who has yet to reach Double A? They did it in 2020 with Yoendrys Gómez and he has still yet to reach Scranton. Carela is an intriguing name to keep an eye on going forward.
Jared Serna / IF / Yankees #30 Prospect
Not to be confused with his cousin RHP Luis Serna (Yankees #17 prospect), Jared Serna has impressed in his first season with the Tampa Tarpons. He has slashed .292/.355/.509 with 18 HR, 18 doubles, and 64 RBI. Still a young prospect (just turned 21), the Yankees might be able to get away with exposing him to the draft and hoping that no one picks him up along the way. As seen below, John Brophy talked with Jared Serna earlier last month about his positional versatility:
I asked #Yankees infield prospect Jared Serna on his thoughts about converting to a util player because to me I see a lot of Oswaldo Cabrera in him given the tools he has. This is what he said: pic.twitter.com/sil7c4D5zF
— John Brophy (@jbrophybaseball) June 5, 2023
Edgar Barclay / LHP / Current Level: Double A
The 25-year-old southpaw has had a great 2023 season. Starting in High-A with Hudson Valley and now being part of the Somerset Patriots, Barclay has carved out a role in the bullpen. So far in Double A, he has pitched to a 1.05 ERA and 38 K in 25.2 IP.
While an older pitcher based on league average, Barclay will still have time to develop and prove that he can continue climbing in the organization. He should be a pitcher that the Yankees would be willing to expose to the draft and hope that he is not selected. There is probably not enough of a track record for teams to fall in love with Barclay, though there is risk in losing him in the minor league portion of the draft.
Jesús Bastidas / INF / Current Level: Triple A
Bastidas is enjoying a fine year in Scranton, showing his ability to play many infield positions. Originally signed as an international free agent, Bastidas is having one of the best offensive seasons in his career thus far. With a current OPS of .756, he is on pace to record his most total bases of his career.
Bastidas would be a great piece to have in the organization as a do-it-all infielder. He has been Rule-5 eligible before and was not taken. As his development continues, the Yankees might hope that he can fly a little under the radar until a more definite decision has to be made.
Andres Chaparro / 1B & 3B / Current Level: Triple A
A consistently steady riser in the organization, Chaparro started the 2022 season in the Gulf Coast League. He has shown no signs of being over-matched in his first season in Scranton. As a corner infielder, the right-hander has slashed .251/.339/.483 as of July 20 with an OPS of .822. He has consistently displayed his strong power hitting abilities, with 18 HR and 17 doubles.
Some fans want Chaparro to keep the pinstripes for this season and beyond. The struggles of some veteran hitters on the major league roster create some intrigue for his future. Chaparro has impressive reverse splits, meaning he mashes right handed pitchers.
He has hit 17 of his 18 home runs against right-handed pitchers and has found great success in the month of July. He is batting .340 with a 1.063 OPS as of July 20th. To that end, if the Yankees were to deal Chaparro, now would be the best time to maximize his value.
Christopher Familia / OF / Current Level: High A
Familia opened his 2023 campaign scorching hot at the plate. In 21 games with the Tampa Tarpons, Familia posted a 1.402 OPS with 11 HR and 7 doubles. Since his call up to Hudson Valley, Familia has struggled. He has struck out 21 times in 14 games with an unremarkable .493 OPS. The sample size is still small but the 23 year old center fielder needs to pick up his production as we head into the last two months of the season.
As a player in High A ball currently, Familia may not be too high on opposing team’s radars as we look at trades. How he performs in Hudson Valley for the rest of the year will dictate a lot of what his future in the organization will be going froward.
Carlos Narvaéz/ C / Current Level: Triple A
The 24-year-old catcher is standing out as one of the best backstops in the organization this year. Narvaéz has posted his best offensive year to date, and is shining in Scranton. After starting the year in Somerset, he has not missed a step since his call up.
His current slash line is .278/.416/.459 with a .875 OPS. At his current clip, Narvaéz would be on pace to hit around 26 HR with 71 RBI in a full Triple-A season. These incredible power numbers are something to keep an eye, especially on at the catcher position.
He is going to be a fascinating player to watch over the next few weeks and months. The Yankees currently have 3 catchers on their 40-man roster. With Austin Wells and Narvaéz needing protection, there may be some interesting decisions coming.
Carlos Narvaez walks it off in Tampa! 👏 pic.twitter.com/OHF5VO3xKV
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) March 1, 2023
Agustin Ramirez / C / Current Level: High A
The 21-year-old catcher has had a tremendous year at the plate. He opened the season in Single-A Tampa but was promoted to Hudson Valley at the end of June. Since arriving in the Valley, all he has done is hit. His current slash line through 14 games is: .404/.443/.667 with a 1.109 OPS.
While still a small sample size, there is a lot to be excited about in the progress of Ramirez. Another part of his game that stands out is his plate discipline. In 56 games with Tampa to open the year, he struck out 41 times and walked 43. Better pitching at higher levels may shift this stat, but it is an intriguing point of data to watch as he progresses as a player.
It may be very unlikely that he will be placed on the 40-man roster. However, he is definitely someone that the Yankees will want to keep in house. He is another name to add to a list of impressive minor league catchers climbing the ranks. (FanGraphs has Ramirez as the Yankees #13 prospect).
Osiel Rodriguez / RHP / Current Level: Single A
Rodriguez opened the 2023 season in Rookie ball and was fantastic. He appeared in 11 games, compiling 17 IP and 26 K. He was just recently promoted to Tampa (July 18) where he has 1 IP and 1 K. For someone who just reached A Ball, it is surprising to see Rodriguez on the list of Rule 5 eligible players. We have to go back to 2018 to see Rodriguez’s first encounter with the pinstripes.
The Yankees signed him as an international free agent at 16 years old. He was ranked the best international free agent pitching prospect and was compensated as such, earning a $600,000 signing bonus. Rodriguez’s trajectory will be intriguing to follow, as the right hander turns 22 after this season. If the Yankees can keep him, there is potential to see fast climbing through the organization in the next few years.
Mitch Spence / RHP / Current Level: Triple A
Mitch Spence was drafted in the 10th round in 2019 and has been a part of the rotation in Scranton for the last year. His numbers do not drop any jaws and he may have slightly taken a step back in 2023 from 2022. His numbers from 10 starts in Scranton last year are relatively better than his 18 starts this year. He had a higher K/9 and a lower BB/9 and HR/9.
While not startling, Spence will need to prove that he can stay in the rotation and continue to develop. Spence may not move the needle too much in one way or the other as this season comes to a close. The Yankees would hope that they can keep Spence for the future to see if they can bring out some of his better pitch qualities.
Rule 5 Effect:
The effect of the Rule 5 draft adds an added layer of excitement in the MLB season and trade deadline specifically. As we watch players grow in the minor leagues, it is natural to hope they achieve their dreams of making it to the big leagues.
Occasionally, they wind up sticking with the organization and contribute at the big league level. The Rule 5 Draft is a great way for players to have an external incentive for playing well, especially if they are blocked in their current situation.
Trade season brings many questions as to how the organization views certain players. There is risk involved in choosing players to protect and which ones to make available. In a few weeks, we will hopefully have clearer answers to these roster questions.