The New York Yankees have a system stacked with prospects.
Up and down the organization, each minor league team has an abundance of players that arguably should already be at a higher level than they will be starting the season. This is a good problem to have, but one that creates a domino effect with each roster decision.
It’s not as simple as saying that Jordan Montgomery had a good spring training, let’s put him in the rotation. Instead, because he is not on the 40-man roster, he is sent to Triple-A while everything is sorted out. This causes another player to be moved down to Double-A, and someone from there down to Hi-A.
Major League Baseball has a 40-man roster to protect players from being stuck in the minor leagues for too long. A high school player that was drafted in 2013 will need to be added to the 40-man roster before the end of November this year or will be subject to the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings in December. In addition, college players from the 2014 draft are eligible for this year’s Rule 5 draft.
Once a player is on the 40-man roster, he cannot be removed without going through waivers. If a player is claimed off waivers, the team that claimed him will retain his rights. This happened recently when the Yankees tried to remove Jacob Lindgren and re-sign the injured pitcher to a minor-league contract, but instead, he signed with the Atlanta Braves.
I am going to go through the entire Yankees’ system and list a handful of prospects that are likely to see some time in the Bronx this summer. Then, I will go through some scenarios of who is a potential player that will be removed from the current 40-man roster to make room, if necessary:
Gleyber Torres is one of baseball’s hottest prospects. First, he ripped through the Arizona Fall League; then he did the same to the Grapefruit League. Many were calling for him to replace the injured Didi Gregorius to start the season. He is only 20 years old, and not only is he struggling in Double-A but he just returned from injury. He has shown there are things he needs to work on but the talent is there.
Clint Frazier is a 22-year-old who also will be Rule 5 after the season. He is already in AAA and had a solid spring training. If he can cut down on his strikeouts, he may be up to the majors by the middle of the summer.
Jorge Mateo is already on the 40-man roster. He will be starting the season back in Tampa, learning to be a center fielder. With his 80-grade speed, I expect him to be the Yankees’ pinch runner when rosters expand in September.
Aaron Judge is on the 40-man roster. He has earned his spot as the Yankees’ starting right fielder. The Yankees hope he can be a cornerstone of their lineup for years to come.
Chance Adams was also drafted in 2015. Unlike Kaprielian, he pitched all last year and excelled. He will be starting the year in Trenton, but if he pitches like he did last year, a promotion or two is very possible.
Dustin Fowler will be Rule 5 eligible after this season. He had an excellent season last year and continued that into spring training. Like Torres, we may see him get a taste of the big leagues later this summer.
Tyler Wade was in contention to break camp to take Gregorius’ spot at short. If the injury was deemed more serious, that is probably the route the team would have gone. Since it was a short-term replacement, Pete Kozma was added instead. Wade will be Rule 5 eligible this year. I expect that he will have already spent significant time as the Yankees’ super utilityman by then.
Jordan Montgomery was added to the Yankees 40-Man Roster when they called him up to the big leagues to become their fifth starter. Overall he has been impressive in his first few games at the major league level.
Ian Clarkin is also Rule 5 eligible. If he is healthy and has a solid season, the team may reward him with a call-up in September.
Chad Green is on the 40-man roster. He is starting the year in Trenton and is also in contention for the fifth spot. Same goes for him as with Montgomery. No team goes all year with only five pitchers. He will lose his status as a prospect by June.
Mason Williams is on the 40-man roster. He will be the first one called up if an injury happens to one of the four outfielders in the majors. For him the key is to stay healthy and on the field, if he does that he could find himself in consideration for the fourth outfield spot in the near future.
J.P. Feyereisen will be Rule 5 eligible after the season. As long as he is throwing strikes, he will be added to the roster and will be part of Joe Girardi’s bullpen. He will have options, allowing the team to send him to Scranton when a fresh arm is needed.
Jonathan Holder is on the 40-man and made the big league roster. So far he has pitched well out of the bullpen for the Yankees, striking out nine batters over seven innings and giving up just two runs.
Ben Heller is on the 40-man roster and had an excellent spring. The only reason that he did not make the opening day roster is that he walked too many batters. He is likely destined to be part of the famed “Scranton Shuttle.”
Dietrich Enns is on the 40-man roster and had a very strong season last year. Before his injury we expected him to be making starts in the Bronx later this summer to see what they have for next year and beyond.
Miguel Andujar is on the 40-man roster. He has started the season in Trenton. But is slumping so far and has not shown the ability to field third base cleanly.
Billy McKinney is also going to be Rule 5 eligible after the season. The former first-round draft pick had an outstanding spring training but is struggling so far with the Thunder.
Giovanny Gallegos, Domingo German, Ronald Herrera, and Yefrey Ramirez are all on the 40-man roster. They were all signed at a young age and needed to be added or risked being selected. If any of them were to excel, they could be promoted easily.
Tyler Jones, Caleb Smith, and Tyler Webb were all selected in the Rule 5 Draft last year from the Yankees. They were all returned this spring. Each of them could be potential bullpen arms later in the season.
These players are potential candidates to make the majors this year at some point or another. The players that are already on the 40-man require less additional moves to be made. Every player that gets added to the 40-man roster has a corresponding move which results in another player being removed.
Some of the possible transactions that will be made will be determined by the team’s place in the standings. Contract status and production will also be a factor. No team wants to lose a player for nothing; trade value also will play a role.
As the season begins to progress, players that are currently first in line to advance may be surpassed by several others that have gained valuable experience and are deemed ready.
Here are players that are currently on the 40-man roster that are candidates to be moved at some point:
Jacoby Ellsbury may have signed one of the most untradeable contracts in the history of Major League Baseball. The only way that the Yankees are moving his contract is by eating at least $60 million of the $90 that is left on it. If they find a trade partner, and Ellsbury is willing to waive his no-trade clause, I suggest that they do it. By eating much of the money, they will receive a prospect or two. If they pay all his contract in 2019 and 2020, they will save $15 million a year in 2017 and 2018, assuring that they get under the luxury cap — saving them much more in penalties. This will also free up a position immediately for one of their prospects.
Rob Refsnyder was once a top prospect in the system. He currently is stuck in a system where playing time will be difficult to find. His best chance at finding regular playing time will be if they can trade him to a team that gives him the opportunity to play in the big leagues and see what he can do.
Mason Williams is currently the number five outfielder on the Major-League depth chart. It is only a matter of months, if not weeks, until he is surpassed. Like Refsnyder, the opportunity may come in another uniform.
Aaron Hicks has been a darling to the Yankees’ management for quite some time. He has all the talent in the world. He is great defensively, has a cannon for an arm, and runs well. In his age 27 season he has been hot so far, forcing his way into getting regular playing time.
Ronald Torreyes has been nothing but impressive this season as the termporary replacement for Didi. Now with Didi back in the lineup time will tell if Torreyes can keep it up or if he slumps. If that is the case, Tyler Wade could replace him as the super utility man — able to play a different position every day and hit while doing it.
Chris Carter signed a free agent deal worth $3 million for the season. He is probably going to serve as a pinch hitter. Throughout his career, he has been a high-strikeout player that gets hot with regular playing time and in turn, hits many home runs. If he is on the bench, he will not get hot, and will just strike out too much. If this happens, they will probably release him.
Tommy Layne is a 32-year old lefty specialist. This kind of player can have a career that lasts 20 years. In the process, he may also be released by seven or eight teams.
This time last year, Tyler Austin was available to any other team, and no one took him. He had a resurgent season and rode it all the way to the majors. As quickly as he ascended last year, it could all fall apart this year.
If the Yankees are contenders at the trade deadline, they may decide to package several of their young players in a package deal for a front-line starter. This could open several spots on the 40-man roster.
If the Yankees are out of contention, they have several players that may once again be attractive pieces to other teams to further bolster their farm system.
Dellin Betances has three more years of team control. Arbitration did not go smoothly this past offseason. He would bring in the best haul.
Masahiro Tanaka has an opt-out clause in his contract, allowing him to also become a free agent this year. A healthy ace would bring back a tidy sum.
Austin Romine is a catcher under control that is being pushed by another with more power. There is always some team in the market for a cheap major-league catcher.
Starlin Castro has three years left of team control and several middle infielders that will be ready to take his spot. They should start taking calls on him soon.
Matt Holiday signed a one-year contract. If he could bring in a package the way Carlos Beltran did last year, it would be the best free agent signing of the winter.
Chase Headley and Brett Gardner will both have a year and a half and roughly $18 million remaining on their contracts. That should be very attractive come the trade deadline. That is if there is a third baseman and left fielder ready to take their place respectively.
CC Sabathia will be an interesting case. If he is pitching well and the Yankees are out of it, does he waive his no-trade clause to pursue a championship? If he is pitching poorly, do the Yankees buy out the last few months on his contract and send him packing to check out some of their younger pitchers?
The roster configuration of the New York Yankees will be changing an awful lot in the next several months. This year is going to be very exciting on the field, and could be just as interesting to keep track of their moves off the field. We will continue to break it all down for you.