The Rule 5 draft is pretty much the finale of the Winter Meetings. It begins this morning at 9, and most executives will get out of town within a few hours of the last pick. I’m kind of a geek about this sort of thing, so I really enjoy the Rule 5. It’s become much more significant for the Yankees now that they’ve traded for the top pick (Washington will take whoever the Yankees tell them to pick, then trade the pick to New York).
I know a lot of Yankees minor league and scouting officials, but I haven’t heard a definite choice. There seem to be three theories about who the Yankees are going to choose.
1. LHP Zach Kroenke — This became a popular rumor late last night. Kroenke is currently with the Yankees, but they didn’t protect him from the Rule 5 and the idea is that they now want him to replace Phil Coke. It makes some sense. I first saw the idea here, then Ed Price said he heard the same thing. Then I read it again. John Manuel, though, says it’s not going to happen. Manuel says the Yankees are more likely to pick Ben Jukich or Ben Snyder if they want a left-handed reliever. As an aside, Kroenke was taken in the Rule 5 last year, but the Marlins didn’t keep him. I believe (but I’m not positive) if he’s taken and offered back a second time, he has the right to become a free agent rather than accept a minor league assignment. That might be another reason for the Yankees to take him, to have control over that.
2. RHP Arquimedes Caminero — The hard-throwing right-hander was the early favorite when Steve Henson reported the Yankees were leaning toward Caminero. Yesterday afternoon I got into an email discussion with Frankie Piliere who has scouted and loves Caminero’s arm. I also heard yesterday afternoon that the guy the Yankees were going after was getting legitimate interest from other teams (Jayson Stark reported that the Yankees were shopping the pick, but this was a different source saying it’s not just the Yankees trying to shop, it’s other team’s trying to acquire). That sounds like someone like Caminero. I didn’t know much about him until yesterday, but his fastball is supposed to be huge. Bigger than unprotected Yankees right-handers Kevin Whelan or Grant Duff.
3. OF John Raynor — This is Jonathan Mayo’s pick, and Raynor had some buzz going into this week’s Winter Meetings as well. He and Caminero are both in the Marlins system, and Raynor was ranked as their No. 11 prospect by Baseball America entering this season. “He could challenge for a big league starting job by the end of 2009,” the magazine wrote. Problem is, Raynor had a career .490 slugging percentage but slugged an awful .360 in the Pacific Coast League this year. That’s significantly lower than light-hitting shortstop Doug Bernier slugged in his two PCL seasons. Might have simply been one bad year in an otherwise strong minor league career. Could be worth taking a shot.
Ysterday I wondered if the Yankees might take an outfielder who can catch (there are two legitimate Rule 5 candidates who fit that description and it would give them a third catcher on days Posada is the DH). That was pretty much my own attempt to think outside the box, but if the Yankees really are planning to take someone who’s generating trade interest from multiple teams, that doesn’t sound like a quirky catcher/outfielder.
I talked to another team’s scout about some of the Yankees who could be drafted. The Yankees lost four guys last year — all were returned — including Kroenke. The scout said his team wasn’t likely to take anyone in the draft, but they did talk about two Yankees: Kroenke (“Just like last year, a left-on-left guy,” the scout said) and Duff (“I would not be surprised if Duff went just because of the velocity”).
Colin Curtis has gotten some buzz after a great stint in the Arizona Fall League, the scout I talked to said he couldn’t see Curtis sticking on a big league roster all season. He liked him as a guy to potentially call up if a player gets hurt, but he didn’t expect a team to carry him on opening day. “He’s a good baseball player,” the scout said. “But keeping him in the Major Leagues all year might be a reach.”
My own list of eight Yankees who could be taken:
Colin Curtis, OF — Good tools across the board, but no overwhelming minor league numbers until the Fall League.
Grant Duff, RHP — Touches the upper 90s with his fastball, burst onto the scene this year.
Jason Hirsh, RHP — Starter acquired from Colorado in August. Once a huge prospect, has significant major league time, but injuries knocked his career off the tracks. Good numbers with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Alan Horne, RHP — Another big prospect hurt by injuries. He’s healthy now but hasn’t pitched much the past two years.
George Kontos, RHP — Would be a huge risk to be taken, but he had Tommy John surgery last summer and won’t be ready to pitch until May or June.
Zach Kroenke, LHP — If the Yankees don’t take him, I think someone will.
Kanekoa Texeira, RHP — The other piece brought to the Yankees in the Nick Swisher trade had a 2.84 ERA in Double-A this year.
Kevin Whelan, RHP — Great stuff (big fastball, terrific split) but has 161 walks in 266 career innings. Control was much better in Triple-A this season.