The 2015 Winter Meetings came to an unofficial end Thursday morning with the Rule 5 Draft. Everyone usually heads home afterward. The Yankees did not make a pick in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft today even though there were rumblings they were considering it. They haven’t made a Rule 5 pick since taking Cesar Cabral and Brad Meyers in 2011. Here are the Rule 5 Draft results.
The Yankees did, however, lose two players in the Rule 5 Draft. Outfielder Jake Cave was selected by the Reds with the No. 2 pick, and left-hander Evan Rutckyj was selected by the Braves with the No. 3. Atlanta really seems to love their ex-Yankees, huh? This is getting kinda creepy. Anyway, by rule, Cave and Rutckyj must remain on the 25-man active roster all season in 2016, or pass through waivers and be offered back to New York.
Cave, 23, was the Yankees’ sixth round pick in the 2011 draft. I ranked him as the No. 19 prospect in the organization prior to the season. Cave hit .276/.337/.356 (102 wRC+) with 25 doubles and two home runs in 134 games at Double-A and Triple-A this summer. He’s a lefty hitting fourth outfielder type — not enough power for a corner and just enough defense for center. The Reds have little outfield depth, which bodes well for Cave. He might stick next year.
The 23-year-old Rutckyj (pronounced root-ski) was the Yankees’ 16th round pick in 2010. He’s a surprise Rule 5 Draft pick for sure. Even Rutckyj seems surprised. The southpaw had a 2.63 ERA (2.59 FIP) with a 31.5% strikeout rate in 61.2 innings with High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this past season. Rutckyj’s a low-to-mid-90s fastball guy with shaky command. The Braves have a disasterpen, though it still would be a surprise if Rutckyj stuck all season.
The Yankees did select three (!) players in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft: righty Yefrey Ramirez (Diamondbacks), righty Julian Aybar (Cubs), and catcher Santiago Nessy (Royals). I can’t remember the last time the Yankees took even one player in the Triple-A phase, though I could be forgetting someone obvious. The minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft works differently than the Major League phase. These players are Yankees now, no strings attached. There are no roster hoops to jump through.
Ramirez, 22, had a 5.35 ERA (5.78 FIP) in 69 rookie ball innings with the D’Backs in 2015. Aybar, 23, had a 1.82 ERA (2.33 FIP) in 39.2 rookie ball innings for the Cubs this summer. The 23-year-old Nessy hit .220/.287/.340 (82 wRC+) in 62 games split between two levels of Single-A with Kansas City this past season. He’s the guy the Blue Jays traded to the Royals for righty reliever Liam Hendriks last offseason.
The Yankees also lost four players in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft: righty Luis Niebla (Rockies), outfielder Danny Oh (Athletics), catcher Eduardo de Oleo (D’Backs), and righty Yoel Espinal (Rays). As with the three guys the Yankees picked up, none of these four are prospects. They’re all organizational player types. The Yankees lost two righties and a catcher so they took two righties and a catcher to replace the depth. That’s all.
So, all told, the Yankees selected three players in the minor league phase while losing six players total, two in the Major League phase and four in the minor league phase. Rutckyj is probably coming back at some point. Cave might stick though, and even if he does get offered back, the Yankees might opt to work out a trade to let him stay with the Reds. The Yankees have a lot of Triple-A outfield depth and there are only so many at-bats to go around.