Friday is the deadline for teams to add minor leaguers to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft (for other key offseason dates, be sure to check out our offseason calendar). As of this writing, the Yankees have four open slots available. They could open up another spot or two via trade in the coming days, but at the same time, the organization may not feel the need to protect more than four players.
For a full list of draft eligible minor leaguers, head over to Pinstriped Prospects. I’ll briefly profile a few of the notable players the Yankees have to consider protecting.
Oswald Peraza | SS | 20 y/o | Single-A | 4th-best team prospect per MLB Pipeline
Peraza’s minor league numbers don’t jump off the page, but he has a good contact-oriented approach, plenty of speed, and is projected to stick at shortstop. It’s hard to imagine him sticking in the majors next year, but his prospect status makes it risky to expose him. I wonder if the Yankees are still scarred from losing catcher Luis Torrens, who was at the same level and age when the Padres drafted and stashed him.
Alexander Vizcaino | RHP | 23 y/o | High-A | 8th | 2020 Player Pool
Vizcaino was an older J2 signing in 2016 but has impressed in the minors. He can touch triple-digits with his fastball and has a plus changeup to boot. Clearly, the Yankees like the righty quite a bit because he spent this summer in Scranton. Even though he’s pitched exclusively as a starter over the past couple of minor league seasons, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him hold his own in a big league bullpen next season. I expect the Yankees to add him the 40-man this week.
Yoendrys Gomez | RHP | 21 y/o | Single-A | 9th
With just 26 2/3 innings above rookie-ball, Gomez seems like a longshot to be drafted. Still, the Blue Jays selected and kept 19 year-old Elvis Luciano in 2019 who hadn’t yet exceeded rookie-ball. Apparently, Gomez has added 5 MPH to his fastball since signing in 2016 and can touch 97 on the radar gun.
Roansy Contreras | RHP | 21 y/o | High-A | 19th
The righty had a strong season in Charleston in 2019. He threw 132 1/3 frames, and though his strikeout rate wasn’t exceptional, his control helped him record a 3.33 ERA. He profiles as a back of the rotation starter and may have finished 2020 at Double-A had there been a minor league season. Now, the decision is trickier considering he’s not out of A-ball.
Trevor Stephan | RHP | 24 y/o | Double-A | 24th
The Yankees’ third-round pick in 2017 has nasty stuff but doesn’t always know where the ball is going. He was demoted from Trenton to Tampa mid-2019 before returning to Double-A for two more starts to end the season. His fastball-slider combo has the makings of a big league reliever in the not too distant future. It was mildly surprising to not see him in the player pool this summer even after an up-and-down 2019.
Other notable first timers
Addison Russ | RHP | 26 y/o | Double-A | 2020 Player Pool
Newest Yankee Addison Russ throws a splitter has an 11.8 K/9 in his professional career.— Lucas A (@DBITLefty) August 21, 2020
Apparently, Bryce Harper helped him stop tipping the pitch during spring training last year. https://t.co/gDDiZ2txff pic.twitter.com/hLObKpzFan
The Yanks picked up Russ from the Phillies in exchange for David Hale this season. He posted an impressive 34.2 percent strikeout rate and respectable 8.4 percent walk rate Philadelphia’s Double-A bullpen in 2019. It’s almost certain that he will join the 40-man roster.
Garrett Whitlock | RHP | 24 y/o | Double-A
FanGraphs pegged Whitlock as the team’s 41st-best prospect. He moved quickly after being drafted in the 18th round in 2017, but succumbed to Tommy John surgery while in Double-A last summer. He’s probably not at risk of being drafted, even assuming his rehab has gone well.
Glen Otto | RHP | 24 y/o | High-A
Otto has started in the minors but was a reliever at Rice before the Yankees used its 5th round pick on him in 2017. Eric Logenhagen at FanGraphs, who ranked him the team’s 30th-best prospect, noted that he had blood clot issues in his arm in 2018 and has a violent delivery. But considering that he’s shown a double-plus curveball and mid-90s fastball, perhaps a team tries to take him for a bullpen role. It doesn’t seem like the Yankees will protect him though.
Kaleb Ort | RHP | 28 y/o | Triple-A
He may be older, but Ort is interesting in that he fanned 36.6 percent of hitters faced in 2019 while mostly in Scranton. Ort does walk a lot of batters though (13.1 percent in 2019). I doubt he is protected but maybe another team is attracted by his strikeout totals.
Eligible again and worth mentioning
Chris Gittens | 1B | 26 y/o | Double-A
Gittens won the Eastern League MVP and was a non-roster invite in spring training, but didn’t make the team’s player pool in Scranton. I found that a bit surprising, but then again, I guess the team didn’t need a first base only righty slugger around. Gittens was a minor league free agent and just re-signed with the Bombers, so he’s clearly liked within the organization. But they’ve left exposed in the Rule 5 before and I anticipate the same once again.
Kyle Holder | SS | 26 y/o | Double-A | 2020 Player Pool
We wanted to protect Holder last year, but he was not added to the 40-man roster and went undrafted. This year, the defensive whiz was in the player pool and I wonder if he showed enough to push the envelope this time around. Plus, middle infielders Thairo Estrada and Tyler Wade have just one minor league option left. We put him on the 40-man in our plan this year too.
Oswaldo Cabrera | 2B/SS | 21 y/o | High-A
FanGraphs has Cabrera as the Yanks’ 16th-best prospect and cited that he generated some of the top exit velocities in the organization in 2019. He held his own as a 20 year-0ld in Tampa (104 wRC+) but the reported exit velocities didn’t appear to help his power too much (.118 isolated power). Considering his Rule 5 status, he seems like someone really hurt by the lost 2020 minor league season. He probably would have finished this year in Trenton and been on the precipice of a roster spot.