Part Two: Who to Protect?
There is no way that the Yankees will be able to protect all the players that are eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Out of the 46 players, the Yankees have that are eligible for the Rule 5 draft, there are five players that the Yankees must protect, or they will be lost in the draft.
At the top of the list of prospects that the Yankees must protect is infielder Gleyber Torres. The natural shortstop is considered the top prospect in the minors. Since coming over in the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Cubs in 2016 he has been the top prospect in the organization, and the reason the Yankees were able to deal Jorge Mateo to the A’s to get Sonny Gray. He owns a .282/.360/.416 hitting line in 356 minor league games and was hitting .309/.406/.457 in 23 games in Triple-A before going down with an injury in June.
Torres underwent Tommy John surgery and began his road to recovery shortly after being placed on the disabled list. He has resumed baseball activities and is spending the winter working out at the Yankees minor league complex down in Tampa with the assistance of Yankees coaches like Jody Reed.
Right-handed pitcher Domingo Acevedo took a significant step forward in 2017. The 23-year old out of Villa Los Almacigos, Dominican Republic went 5-1 with a 2.38 ERA in 14 games for the Trenton Thunder while striking out 82 batters in 79 1/3 innings in his first taste of Double-A. He also had a two-game cameo in Triple-A where he went 1-1 with a 4.38 ERA in 12 1/3 innings of work. The flamethrower is a shoe-in for protection.
Albert Abreu, 22, came over to the Yankees from the Houston Astros in the Brian McCann trade. He has quickly risen to become one of the top pitchers in the organization and is spending his fall in Arizona pitching for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League. Abreu went 2-3 with 3.38 ERA over 14 games during the regular season over three different levels of the minors. In Arizona, he is 0-2 with a 3.18 ERA over five games and struck out 23 batters in 22 2/3 innings pitched. While out in Arizona he is working to perfect his secondary pitches and his pose. Manager Jay Bell noted that it is essential for him to have composure as he moves up the ladder.
Infielder Thairo Estrada, 21, made a name for himself in 2017 when he hit .301/.353/.392 for the Trenton Thunder over 122 games. Estrada is a natural shortstop but has had time playing both second base and third base in the minors, expanding his flexibility. If he is not protected there is an excellent chance that another team will select him in the major league phase. Teams will be able to hide him on the roster as a defensive replacement/extra-infielder type. He is closer to making his major league debut than Luis Torrens was last year, and Torrens lasted a full season on the Padres roster.
Billy McKinney, 23, is working on expanding his versatility while playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. The former first-round pick came over along with Gleyber Torres in the Aroldis Chapman trade as sort of a project. The risk has seemed to pay off this season hitting .250/.339/.431 over 69 games for the Thunder before being promoted to the RailRiders on June 30. In Triple-A he hit .306/.226/.541 in 55 games. He went on a tear in Spring Training, hitting .400/.400/.880 over 20 games for the Yankees. McKinney has taken well to first base according to Jay Bell. His success and impending addition to the 40-man roster means that one of Tyler Austin or Garrett Cooper will be moving on from the Bronx Bombers.