Tomorrow night is the deadline for all major league teams to set their rosters and the New York Yankees have some tough choices to make. First, they only have 2 open spots on their 40-man roster with at least 9 players who would need to be protected.
The first thing the Yankees would need to figure out is if they want to open up some space on the roster. We saw them do this last year when they released Slade Heathcott and Vicente Campos only to later sign them to minor league contracts. Now both are back on the 40-man roster and could contribute in 2016. The obvious choice for the Bombers is to do something like this with Domingo German and Chase Whitley. Both pitchers are recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely won’t contribute to mid-season at the earliest, Whitley likely more towards the end of 2016. I would release them and bring them back on minor league contracts, allowing them to continue their recovery and see if they can contribute.
Of the big name prospects on the list which ones should the Yankees protect?
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Many are calling the 2015 season Davis’ break out season after he threw 130 2/3 innings over 25 games between the Tampa Yankees and Trenton Thunder earning a 8-7 record with a combined 3.86 ERA. He combines a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s curveball and a developing change up. A three-pitch repertoire that could play very well in the majors. There is still a lot of development to go for him, he is the type of guy a team could take in the Rule 5 and hide in their MLB bullpen for a season before optioning him to Triple-A to continue his development as a starter.
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The silent riser in the Yankees farm system, Chaz Hebert has done nothing but pitch well this season. The left-handed starter has impressed coaches with his command and ability on the mound, even earning himself a spot in the annual Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game. The 2015 season saw him spend time at 3 levels, including 3 games in Triple-A where he was 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA over 17 innings for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He pitched just 2 games with the Charleston RiverDogs, where he was 1-1 with a 0.87 ERA in 10 1/3 innings, the bulk of his playing time came with High-A Tampa. With the T-Yanks he was 7-6 with a 2.95 ERA with 106 2/3 innings over 21 games, 15 starts. This fall he has continued his success, posting a 1.06 ERA with 2 wins over 6 games, throwing 12 2/3 innings.
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The Yankees acquired Tony Renda mid-season when they traded right-handed relief pitcher David Carpenter to the Nationals in exchange for the young infield prospect. The trade has worked in the Yankees favor as Carpenter is now a free agent and Renda has impressed with his abilities to handle second base. This season he hit .269 between the two Double-A teams he appeared on and with the Yankees currently thin up the middle in the upper levels it will make sense for them to try to protect him. If he continues to develop as he has he could be play himself into MLB consideration within the next year.
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At 20 years old Miguel Andujar is one of the youngest players eligible for the Rule 5 draft and also one of most toolsy. This season saw a regression of sorts for the third base prospect, hitting just .243 for the Tampa Yankees in the Florida State League. Many consider him one of the better overall prospects when it comes to raw tools but he has yet to put it all together. That doesn’t mean he is out of time as he could easily turn things around in 2016. He is most likely going to start the season with the Tampa Yankees but if he starts to hit to his ability he could find himself in Double-A.
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The 2015 season saw Dietrich Enns return to the mound after Tommy John surgery and the 24-year old did impress. In 13 games he threw 58 2/3 innings working mostly as a starter, striking out 55 batters. He is a guy that could stay in the rotation or move to the bullpen. A bullpen move could make him a major league option sooner than later. He is a solid choice for a prospect to be taken in the Rule 5 draft, teams love lefty relievers.
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The Yankees got Johnny Barbato last off-season when they traded Shawn Kelly to the Padres. In his first season with the Bombers he pitched to a 2.67 ERA over 67 1/3 innings in 40 games. While he was 2-2 with a 4.04 ERA in Double-A he really turned it on when he earned the promotion to Triple-A, throwing 25 innings and allowing just 1 run for a 0.36 ERA. Barbato would provide the Yankees with even more bullpen depth and can help in the big leagues in 2016, there is no doubt about it.
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The 2015 season was the year of Ben Gamel. No one prospect had a bigger year than former 10th round pick. He opened the season as the fourth outfielder off the bench for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and ended it as the International League Rookie of the Year. In the time between he hit .300 with 28 doubles, 14 triples and 10 homeruns over 129 games for the RailRiders. However he finds himself low on the depth chart in a Yankees outfield that already has 2 other extra lefty hitters in Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott.
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Jake Cave has fallen on the Yankees outfield depth chart, mostly due to the return to form of Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott but also the emergence of Ben Gamel. This past season he hit .269 in 125 games for the Double-A Trenton Thunder before moving up to Triple-A where in a 7-game cameo he hit .458. The Yankees will likely take their chance leaving him unprotected.
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Tyler Austin is likely not going to be protected or selected in the Rule 5 draft. He has had a strong AFL season but his stock fell after struggling in 2015. Former first rounders Dante Bichette Jr. and Cito Culver have been disappointments. Culver has reached as high as Triple-A but is now considered more of an organizational prospect. Mark Montgomery has been solid in the Venezuelan Winter League, a team could take the chance on him but it is likely he would remain a Yankee.