I’ve been getting a ton of emails about the Rule 5 draft, most of them asking which players need to be protected and which are likely to be protected. I was going to go over the whole thing in one post, but it’s a lot of information so I’ll break it into two parts.
First things first, the easiest way to think about Rule 5 eligibility is that high school players drafted in 2005 and college players drafted in 2006 become eligible this year. It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s a good starting point. For more on what determines eligibility, check here, here and here.
Second thing to know is that in order to protect a player, he must be added to the 40-man by November 20.
With that out of a way, we’ll start by looking at guys who are Rule 5 eligible for the first time. I’m sure there are some players I’ve overlooked, but I’m fairly certain I have all of the viable new Rule 5 candidates listed here. And there are some listed here who have almost no chance of being taken.
Pitchers: Jonathan Hovis, George Kontos, Paul Patterson, Kanekoa Texeira
Infielders: Mitch Hilligoss, Eduardo Nunez, Luis Nunez, Kevin Russo, Kevin Smith
Outfielders: Colin Curtis, Seth Fortenberry, Austin Jackson
Austin Jackson will be added to the 40-man. He is the Yankees’ top position prospect other than Jesus Montero and there is zero chance he’ll be left off the roster, barring a trade. Beyond Jackson, three names stand out to me: Eduardo Nunez, Kevin Russo and Kanekoa Texeira.
You might remember Nunez from spring training. He had some nice moments in big league camp, then he hit .322 as an all-star shortstop in Double-A Trenton. He made 33 errors, but that bat is very nice for a middle infielder. As for Russo, he was the International League’s postseason all-star second baseman last year. I watched him all year and honestly believe he was the best lead-off hitter in the league, as a rookie. He’s a good defender at second and third with limited experience at shortstop and in the outfield. I believe both Russo and Nunez are worth protecting and would almost certainly be drafted, but with Ramiro Pena already on the roster, that’s a lot of 40-man spots to devote to middle infielders.
Texeira was a bonus of the Nick Swisher trade. I actually have no idea why the White Sox included him, but he had a 2.84 ERA with Trenton. He’s primarily a reliever but made six starts. I didn’t see him in person so I can’t tell you much about what he throws, I just know that I’ve heard good things about him.
The rest would probably pass through the Rule 5 undrafted. George Kontos is a Triple-A starter who would have been a great Rule 5 candidate, but he had Tommy John surgery last season and isn’t expected back until May or June. That might keep him safe. Colin Curtis could and probably should also draw some attention as a toolsy center fielder — he’s having a great Arizona Fall League — but I’m not sure there’s room for him on the Yankees 40-man.
Beyond Jackson, I’d say that at least one of Russo and Nunez — maybe both — will be added. Maybe Texeira as well. How many of the newly eligible players are protected might depend on how many of the second-timers are protected this time around. We’ll get into that this afternoon…