As the sort of unofficial end to baseball’s Winter Meetings, the Rule 5 draft takes place this morning at 10 ET. A quick Rule 5 explanation from the Winter Meetings handbook sent out by MLB…
During the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, players left unprotected may be selected for $50,000. The Selection Rules provide that a player must remain on the drafting team’s active Major League roster during the following season or be offered back to the original club at half the original price.
The draft order is the reverse order of finish from last season. Since the Yankees had the second-best record in baseball, they choose next to last. I’ve heard — and Brian Cashman has basically said — that the Yankees have some targets in mind, but they’re not sure they’ll still be available by the time they pick.
In the past two years, the Yankees have taken three Rule 5 picks, none of whom stuck with the big league club. They took outfielder Jamie Hoffmann in 2009 (at a time when they had a serious lack of outfield depth) and they took a pair of pitchers last winter (at a time when they seemed to have at least one bullpen spot up for grabs).
This year, a left-handed reliever would seem to be an obvious target for the Yankees. They might be interested in someone who could provide long relief, and maybe a versatile bat off the bench, a lefty seems to make the most sense. I can’t pretend to know all of the eligible players from other organizations, but MLB.com and Baseball America have some names that might make sense.
As for players the Yankees might lose, I’d say the most notable candidate is switch-pitcher Pat Venditte. Not sure he’s the best bet to be taken, but he’s probably the most recognizable Yankees name available. Scouts have always seen Venditte as a fringy prospect with fringy stuff, but his results have been steady and he’s pitching well in winter ball. I wonder if some team might want to take a closer look.
When I looked at players the Yankees might protect, I mentioned center fielder Abe Almonte and corner infielder Brad Suttle as notable prospects left exposed. Both have potential that might intrigue other teams, but Almonte still hasn’t played above High-A, and Suttle’s stock has taken a serious hit through injuries and underwhelming performance.
Associated Press photo of Venditte