While everyone was talking about CC, AJ, Melky and Mike yesterday, the Yankees lost four players in the Rule 5 draft, the most of any organization (the Angels lost three pitchers, the Rockies were the only other team to lose more than one player in the major league portion of the draft). To me this is evidence of how well stocked the Yankees farm system is, at least in terms of pitching.
Remember, the Yankees traded away Jose Tabata and three pitchers (Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, and Daniel McCutchen) at the trading deadline (Tabata, Karstens, and Ohlendorf are all on Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster; McCutchen is not yet Rule 5 eligible). They traded two more pitchers in the Nick Swisher deal (Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nuñez, both now on the White Sox’s 40-man, with Nuñez being replaced in the Yankees’ system by the non-Rule 5 eligible Kanekoa Texeira), let Darrell Rasner head off to Japan, cleared out another eight spots on the 40-man roster via free agency (some of which were filled by players activated from the 60-day DL), filled the remaining empty spots on the 40-man, and still had enough talent in their system to be the most targeted organization in the Rule 5 draft. That’s impressive.
Since I didn’t address them at the time, here’s a quick look at the six men added to the 40-man roster this offseason as well as the four men taken in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft yesterday and, for yucks, the two taken in the Triple-A portion of the draft.
First the 40-man additions listed in rough approximation of their proximity to the major leagues:
Steven Jackson – RHP
The last remaining player from the deal that sent Randy Johnson back to Arizona after the 2006 season, Jackson utilized an improved split-finger fastball to have a break out season in relief for Triple-A Scranton this year. After the All-Star break, Jackson posted a 0.87 ERA while striking out 26 in 20 2/3 innings against just eight walks and no homers. On the season, he struck out 91 in 79 2/3 innings while allowing just four homers. A big righty who will turn 27 in March, Jackson could be part of the fungible minimum-wage portion of the Yankees bullpen in 2009.
Anthony Claggett – RHP
One of three relievers obtained for Gary Sheffield following the 2006 season, the 24-year-old Claggett had a solid season for Double-A Trenton this year, posting a 2.15 ERA with 55 Ks and just one home run allowed in 58 2/3 innings. The catch was his 4.6 walks per nine innings.
Eric Hacker – RHP
A late-round draft pick in 2002, Hacker missed the 2004 season due to Tommy John surgery and the 2006 season due to shoulder surgery, as a result, his progress through the Yankee system has been slow. This year marked the first season in which he wasn’t returning from an injury since 2003. After nine strong starts for High-A Tampa, he excelled in his Double-A debut, posting a 2.76 ERA over 17 starts, though there’s some reason to believe that was largely a product of the offense-supressing environment in Trenton. Hacker will be 26 in March and I’m not entirely sure why he was given a roster spot over collection of other 26-year-old righties who had good seasons on the banks of the Delaware, particularly given his injury history.
Christian Garcia – RHP
The Yankee’s third-round pick in 2004, Garcia is another righty starter who has had trouble staying healthy. Garcia managed to make just ten starts in 2006, missed all of 2007 due to Tommy John surgery, and made just 13 more starts this past season. He also suffered a knee injury that required surgery while he was on the shelf due to the TJ surgery in 2007. He spent most of his time in Tampa this year, where he pitched very well in ten starts (2.90 ERA, 60 Ks in 49 2/3 innings, just two homers allowed and a 3.53 K/BB). He’s still just 23 years old, so there’s still hope that he can recover his prospect status at Double-A in 2009.
Wilkins De La Rosa – LHP
A converted outfielder who will turn 24 in February, Dominican beanpole De La Rosa dominated the Sally League in relief this year in his first full season as a pitcher, then moved up to High-A Tampa as a started and posted a 1.10 ERA in three starts. Altogether he struck out 125 men in 106 2/3 innings and allowed just two home runs. Garcia probably has the highest ceiling of the six players on this list, but because of Garcia’s injury history, De La Rosa is the one that interests me the most.
Michael Dunn – LHP
Another left-handed converted outfielder, Dunn wasn’t as impressive at High-A Tampa this year in his second year as a starter as he had been in the Sally League in 2007, but he’s just 23 and has struck out 291 men in 302 innings in his professional career. He could have a future as lefty reliever.
Now, here are the players lost in the major league portion of yesterday’s Rule 5 draft in the order they were taken:
Reegie Corona – Mariners
A typically light-hitting middle-infielder, Corona hit .274/.345/.365 for Trenton last year while stealing 24 bases. That about sums up the 22-year-old’s offensive potential. He makes sense as a minimum wage replacement for fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cairo, but he’s unlikely to be much more than that at any point in his career, though he’ll walk a bit more than Cairo, can switch-hit, and is a strong fielder at both second base and shortstop. He was the second player taken in the draft.
Zack Kroenke – Marlins
A lefty reliever with a 93 mph fastball and a good slider, Zack Kroenke had a solid season at Double-A Trenton this year, but he’ll be 25 in late April, he walks to many men (5.4 BB/9 at Trenton), and he had a reverse split this year. With Damaso Marte and Phil Coke on hand, he wasn’t worth a roster spot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was returned by the Fish.
Jason Jones – Twins
Jones is one of the 26-year-old righties that also had a solid year for Double-A Trenton who was passed over for a roster spot in favor of Hacker. A big fella, Jones was a fourth-round pick in 2004, but seemed to stall out at Double-A after making his first nine starts there in 2006. His strikeout rates–generally right around his career 5.4 K/9–don’t bode well for his success at higher levels, and he’s unlikely to stick on the pitching-rich Twins.
Ivan Nova – Padres
I’ll admit. I’d never heard of Nova before yesterday’s Rule 5 draft. A 21-year-old Dominican righty starter (he’ll be 22 in about a month), he spent this season at High-A Tampa where he posted a 4.36 ERA with unimpressive peripherals. Baseball America says he, “has flashed three plus pitches at times but lacks consistency and deception.” I can’t see how he could stick even on the Padres 25-man roster.
Rule 5 draftees have to remain on their new team’s 25-man roster (or DL) for the entirety of their first season with their new organization. Teams are often successful at using the DL to store Rule 5 players, but that can be even more detrimental to their development than rushing them to the majors, and Jones and Kroenke especially aren’t young enough to absorb the lost year. Of the four above, I can only envision Corona making it all the way through the season, and Corona isn’t a high-upside player. As questionable as the futures of some of the men that did make the Yankees’ 40-man might be, they all have the potential to be more valuable than a light-hitting utility infielder, which is what Corona is.
Finally, here are the two players lost in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft. There’s nothing to see here:
Andres Santos – Pirates
Santos is a 21-year-old lefty who was signed in 2003 and spent last year pitching in the Dominican Summer League. Yes he was good, but he was a 21-year-old repeating a foreign rookie league primarily populated by teenagers.
Josue Selenes – A’s
Another Dominican pitcher, Selenes is a 23-year-old righty reliever who has thrown a total of 6 1/3 innings above short-season ball after four professional seasons