What are the Yankees going to do with the first pick of the Rule 5 Draft?


Update (10:30am): I’m an idiot. Tosoni was drafted in 2005, but not signed until 2006 as a draft and follow. He has one more year left before he’s Rule 5 Draft eligible. So, this is embarrassing…

Rene Tosoni's backTalk about topics I didn’t think I’d be writing about when I woke up yesterday morning. When the Yankees traded enigmatic reliever Brian Bruney to the Nationals, they received one of those generic players to be named later, and no one thought much of it. Bruney was gone, meaning the Yanks saved some cash and I would need a new reliever to despise (early favorite: Phil Coke). Not long after the trade, I mused that maybe the return would be the rights to the first pick of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft, and whaddya know? That’s exactly what they’re getting.

Trades involving Rule 5 picks aren’t uncommon. The Reds worked out a deal with the Cubs to get Josh Hamilton in 2007 because they were afraid the Marlins would take him before they got a chance to pick. The Cubs took Hamilton with the third pick, then immediately send him to Cincinnati for $100,000.  The same basic thing is happening with the Yanks and Nats this year, except the player the Nats take will be sent to the Yanks as the PTBNL. And yes, the Yanks will tell the Nats who to pick, otherwise this deal wouldn’t make sense.

As per the Rule 5 Draft rules, the Yanks will have to keep the player on their 25-man Major League roster all season in order to retain his rights permanently. If they don’t, then the player has to pass through waivers (if a team claims him, the Rule 5 rules follow him) before being offered back to his original team. I thought it was a very shrewd move by the Yanks, because now they get to choose their return for Bruney from a massive pool of players, rather than being limited to one organization and the players they’re willing to move.

Through the magic of common sense, we know that players from 28 teams are possible picks. A team can’t pick a player from it’s own system, so that rules out everyone in the Nats’ system, and the Yanks aren’t going to have the Nats take one of their own (New York’s) prospects. It’s possible to unearth a gem in the Rule 5 Draft (Dan Uggla, Shane Victorino, and Johan Santana are R5D alumni), thought it’s extremely unlikely. The latest CBA took all the fun out of the Rule 5, because it gave teams another year before they had to protect players.

So, realistically speaking, the Yanks don’t have many places to hide a Rule 5 player. There’s always the back of the bullpen and the bench, and given their current situation, leftfield. I’m going to rule out an infielder because the Yanks felt compelled to add the likes of Eduardo Nunez and Reegie Corona to the 40-man last month. Let’s run down some possibilities after the jump, listed alphabetically.

Tommy Mendoza, RHP, Angels
The Halos’ fifth round pick in 2005 was ranked as the system’s 10th best prospect in both 2006 and 2007 by Baseball America before injuries and 50-game banned substance suspension (amphetamines) dropped his stock in 2007 and 2008. He rebounded in a big way in 2009, making 24 starts between Double- and Triple-A while posting a 3.89 FIP. With a three high-80′s/low-90′s fastballs (four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter), an average curve, a show-me change, and good command, Mendoza projects as a back of the rotation arm that’s ready to step into the big leagues.

Yohan Pino, RHP, Indians
A former Twin, Pino was shipped to Cleveland this summer as the PTBNL in the Carl Pavano trade after spinning his wheels in Double-A for parts of three seasons. He finally took a step forward in 2009, posting a 2.89 FIP in 14 starts and 26 relief appearances between the two highest levels of the minors. At his best, Pino is a five pitch pitcher with excellent control (125 BB in 512.2 IP) of a low-90′s heater and four breaking pitches. He throws two curveballs and two sliders; a slower, sweepy version and a hard-biting version of each. Like Mendoza, he’s a back-end arm that can start and relieve on the cheap.

Aneury Rodriguez, RHP, Rays
Probably the best pure talent featured in this post, Rodriguez was the player the Rays received from Colorado in exchange for Jason Hammel back in Spring Training. He had a bit of a disappointing year in Double-A this season, posting a 4.44 FIP in 27 starts, however Rodriguez has proven himself durable by never missing a start in his five year career. With a big, projectable body (6′-3″, 180 lbs), a lively low-90′s heater, as well as a solid curve and developing changeup, Rodriguez will be a hot target because he’ll be able to soak up innings on the cheap.

Chad Tracy, C/1B/LF, Rangers
It seems like an eternity ago, but I actually lobbied for the Yanks to draft Tracy way back in 2006. No relation to the big leaguer of the same name (although he is the son of Rockies’ manager Jim Tracy), Tracy’s developed into a versatile power bat that should a useful bench player in the Majors. A career .273-.339-.458 hitter, he took off after giving up catching in 2009, putting up a .279-.333-.488 batting line with 32 doubles and 24 homers in 594 Double-A plate appearances. Even though he’s better suited for the NL, Tracy could be the righty half of a platoon with Juan Miranda should the Yanks choose to go that route.

Rene Tosoni, OF, Twins
One of the bigger breakout prospects of the year, Tosoni was a victim of the numbers game and left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft by the Twins. Not only did Tosoni participate in the Futures Game this year, he was named MVP thanks to his pinch-hit, go-ahead double off Trevor Reckling (Angels) in the 7th (final) inning. His greatest skill is his ability to work deep counts and grind out at-bats (.383 career OBP), and he added some power to his game last year (.184 IsoP) at Double-A. The New Stadium should boost the lefty hitter’s power even more. Tosoni is also a smart and speedy baserunner that can handle all three outfield spots, and he’s even got an above average arm to boot. He projects as an everyday player, which makes him a Rule 5 Draft gold mine.

Obviously, the Yankees can pick from a pool of literally hundreds of players, but these are just five four to keep an eye on. If nothing else, all five will be selected early in the draft. Brian Cashman & Co. could also opt to go for an older player, perhaps one who’s been in the big leagues before but stalled out, similar to what they did with Josh Phelps in 2007.

I teased it earlier, but I think Tosoni’s the guy. The Yankees don’t have much outfield depth (majors or minors), and there’s no harm in bringing in some competition for the younger guys. Tosoni’s a potential 15-15 outfielder that can get on base 35% of the time and play a solid outfield. There’s a ton of value in that, especially with three pre-arbitration years ahead of him.

Brian Bruney was an expendable bullpen piece, one that was probably going to be non-tendered or buried in low-leverage spots, and the Yankees turned that into some payroll savings and a potential cost effective player. It was a very smart and creative move by a team that can succeed with brute force, and even if the player they select doesn’t stick, the process is correct. You know how teams will make a pool of say, five prospects available in a trade? Just think of this as a pool of 500 or so prospects being available to the Yankees. How can you not like that?

Photo Credit: Flickr user Dulamea

Categories : Minors


  1. jsbrendog says:

    man i cant wait for this. when is the rule V draft??

  2. Jordan says:

    That Cashman…always thinking.

  3. Accent Shallow says:

    What about Bobby Cassevah? He’s an extreme groundballer:

    Out of the players listed, I’d like to have Rodriguez or Tosoni, solely from an upside perspective.

  4. Would Tosoni get the starting job for CF?

  5. V says:

    Love it. It has to be Tosoni or Rodriguez.

  6. 2010 OF depth chart

    RF Swish (S)
    CF Melky (S)
    LF Damon (L) OR Cameron (R) OR Granderson (L) OR Holliday (R)
    #4 Gardner (L)
    #5 Tosoni (L)

    That sound right? I can live with that.

  7. I’d love to take Yohan Pino, though, but only if he changed his last name to Santana.

  8. Steve H says:

    If it’s Tosoni, do you think he’s #4 or #5 OF? I know it depends on everything else going on, but could this also be the precursor to any Melky to the Cubs rumors? I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees are happy with Gritner at #4, so if they make the Granderson trade and draft Tosoni, could Melky be on the way out? Could we lose two punching bags like Bruney and Melky in a matter of a few days?

  9. pat says:

    If Tosoni couldnt break spring training with the big club do you think the twins would work out a deal so we could keep him? Maybe we throw them one of our AAA bullpen arms, similar to the Jason Jones deal?

  10. Rose says:

    Rene Tosoni…


    “Yeah, but they got nude beaches!”

    “Not in the winter…”

  11. MattG says:

    “Just think of this as a pool of 500 or so prospects being available to the Yankees. How can you not like that?”

    Well, you already know the answer. He can’t be assigned to the minors.

    Tosoni, 22 year old in New Britian with a slash line of .271/.360/.454. If he can play plus defense, he’s ready for a starting spot on 24-25 teams right now. Why haven’t I heard of him? I read all Callis’s chats…

    And why haven’t the Twins protected him?

    It looks like he is a better option for 4th outfielder than either Cabrera or Gardner. Wow, Christmas came early.

  12. pat says:

    I still think it’ll be a starter that has good stuff but with no control and we look to stash him in the bullpen. Then again, that person might not exist this year so who knows.

  13. Rose says:

    Do you think their stance on Granderson plays a role in whether they take this Tosoni guy or not? You already have Melky AND Gardner…and if this guy would start out as #5 depth? They might want to grab another arm…assuming they let Coke go in the trade as well.

    • whizkid says:

      Actually think if this Tosoni is good as mentioned, clears the way for a Granderson trade… One of the arguments for keeping A-Jax was that he was our next/only major-ready OF prospect…. This way Tosoni can slip into A-Jax role behind Garbrera… Still hinges on what the D-Backs offer us, but IPK/Dunn/Coke/A-Jax/Bruney for Granderson/Tosoni/1-2 prospects seem to be decent trade-off.. Would then ask for pitcher(s) from Backs… Basically IPK&A-Jax for Granderson&Tosoni, then consolidating Dunn/Coke/Bruney into 1 or 2 arms.. Much in the line of Swisher trade.. Also shuts the door on Damon, bring Matsui back for 1 yr/$5 mil.

  14. MattG says:

    16 hit by pitches in 425 at bats. If he’s white, you can say he’s got grit.

  15. Will says:

    Maybe Rene Tosoni will wind up being a nice pickup who could take over Gardner’s role as the 4th outfielder, but it would be a bad idea to allow his selection to alter broader strategy. In other words, his selection should be irrelevant to whomever else the Yankees pursue.

  16. MattG says:

    Do you think Bill Smith is talking to Cashman right now? If the Yankees give the Twins a non-rule 5 eligible player before the draft, they won’t have the rule 5 restrictions to worry about, and the Twins can get something.

  17. Doug says:

    How about this McBride guy from the Indians (writeup is from

    Matt McBride, Cleveland Indians, C/1B/OF: Right now it’s tough to pin a defensive position on McBride, the Indians’ supplemental second-round pick in 2006 out of Lehigh. A catcher by trade, he underwent shoulder surgery after the 2007 season and after missing much of 2008 had not caught again until this fall, seeing his defensive time at first base and in the outfield. But he caught 11 of his 22 games for the Peoria Saguaros, shaking off the defensive rust, including eight of his last nine games. What isn’t a question is his bat. He hit .378 with four homers and 18 RBIs in those 22 games, and his 19 walks versus nine strikeouts gave him a .511 on-base average and .649 slugging percentage. During the regular season between Class A Advanced Kinston and Double-A Akron, he hit .287 with 18 homers, 99 RBIs and 44 doubles, sixth in the Minors and collected a team-record eight RBIs on July 31 for the Eastern League champion Aeros.

    Does his apparent lack of position gives us pause?

  18. Marc says:

    Tosoni was a draft and follow so he can’t be drafted in the Rule 5 till 2010.

  19. MelissaG says:

    The most sensible thing for the Yankees to do with their rule-5 draft pick is to package it in a trade; either with Detroit or Toronto.

    This pick could be part of a package to Detroit for either Curtis Granderson and /or Edwin Jackson. The pick could also be used in a package to Toronto for Roy Halladay.

    A rule-5 draft pick is an atrractive trade chip to a rebuilding team like Detroit or Toronto since it is a highly flexible pick that gives back a major league ready player.

    It makes no sense for the Yankees to allow themselves to be forced into keeping a lower level player on their 25-man roster for a year with the money and player needs they have.

  20. Mike Axisa says:

    Hey guys, I suggest you read the update to the post. I’m a moron.

  21. Mike Pop says:

    Hmm. I guess it would be the easiest to keep Tosoni on the roster for the whole season. He’s only 22 right now. I’d be a fan of either him or Aneury Rodriguez. Trading Bruney for one of those guys? Great deal.

  22. Brooklyn Ed - slacking in class now says:

    Could Tracy be the next Josh Hamiltion pick?

  23. BklynJT says:

    Wow, that’s mistake on the level of Pig Abraham. And by that, I mean his conception was a mistake.

  24. Doug says:

    KLaw mentioned these two guys in his chat last week:

    “Bobby Cassaveh is interesting – fringe-average fastball but an absurd groundball rate. Steve Palazzolo is a 6’10″ righty with an average fastball and some downhill plane.”

    Mike, any opinions on them yourself?

  25. mike says:

    Can i be a bit contrarian? The fact that the player has to be on the 25-man roster is hardly a shrewd move by Cashman.

    This would mean, and this might be really simplistic- but follow me-the Yanks 25th best player in their entire system will not have any place on the ML roster because another team’s 41st best player will take his place.

    Im just saying i would rather Cashman took a prospect in the Nat’s system which would not have to be on the 40 man roster at all ( High A player with OK upside etc.) than be hamstrung with a marginal player for the full season at the ML level, and if the Rule 5 guys fails the Yanks were left with nothing for Bruney.

    Not that I am a huge Bruney fan, and dumping his salary is a help, but this hardly is a coup – it might be an OK move, but unless we are shown what other players/prospects were available for Bruney I believe the ML spot being taken by a guy is an expensive corrolary price to have paid

    • pat says:

      If you look back at some of the names that have been acquired through the Rule V (Hamilton, Santana, Victorino etc.) it is worth a shot. Otherwise, Bruney and his 2 million dollar price tag are guaranteed to fetch you nothing of note. I’d rather take a chance on drafting somebody who might turn out to be a surpise than get someone you know is not going to make it above AA.

    • Chris says:

      While I agree in theory, in practice good players are available in the Rule 5 draft fairly frequently. Johan Santana and Josh Hamilton were both Rule 5 draft selections. In particular, if the guy selected is a reliever, then the impact on the roster is not very significant. You can easily hide a guy at the back end of the bullpen all season and just use him for mop up work without much impact on the overall team.

    • This would mean, and this might be really simplistic- but follow me-the Yanks 25th best player in their entire system will not have any place on the ML roster because another team’s 41st best player will take his place.

      Yes, that is FAR, FAR overly simplistic. Moreover, it’s irrelevant: The 41st best player in another teams system (which, again, is a drastic oversimplification) may be worth more to us than they would be to that other team, given our short-term and long-term roster construction plans.

      Tosoni may not be protected by the Twins not necessarily because he’s their 41st best player per se, but because they needed to protect other players at other positions more and have more of a depth/glut issue on their roster they’re willing to sacrifice him to for internal cost-benefit purposes (i.e., a guy like Ivan Nova for us last year.) Furthermore, a guy like Tosoni may have more benefit for us on our 25 man because he can replicate the job of a backup outfielder better and cheaper than a free agent import, since we don’t have anyone in OUR system like that already (since AJax is too green to put on the 25-man from Opening Day).

    • Chip says:

      It may work, it may not. The thing is, where is the downside? They were probably going to non-tender Bruney anyways. This way they can bring somebody like Yohan Pino or Aneury Rodriguez in to at least compete for a bullpen spot. I mean, he’s got to beat one of Melancon, Coke, Gaudin, Albaladejo, Melancon or Edwar?

  26. A.D. says:

    Per the update:

    Woo Hoo Chad Tracey

    • Reggie C. says:

      Yeah. Chad Tracey looks to be the most intriguing hitter of the bunch.

      Also, since he played strictly at the AA level last season, does this mean the Yanks could put him in AAA, but keep him on the 40?

  27. pat says:

    So Mike I guess the Twins got a 1 year exemption for him not playing in 2006 bc of visa problems? By all accounts he was 19 when he signed his contract which would make him eligible for the draft this year.

  28. danny says:

    aww man and i got all excited for tosoni too… haha

  29. Riddering says:

    Axisa, don’t think I missed how you cheated the alphabet for dramatic effect. A former librarian always knows!

    But I have to say: this was worth all the suspense. Great write-up on the guys available to the Yanks through this clever Bruney move.

  30. Chip says:

    Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees grab somebody that absolutely nobody saw coming. This move really is one of those things that makes you think the Yankees are sitting on one guy.

    I mean, I don’t recall anyone here thinking Ian Nova would get selected last year before he did. Maybe they saw a guy with crazy good stuff that is really low. My idea is Arquimedes Caminero from Florida. Guy throws mid-90′s and a wicked slider. He’s somebody who you could probably hide in the bullpen as he essentially either strikes a guy out or walks him.

  31. Mike Axisa says:

    You know who’s R5D eligible? Scott Proctor.

    Bam. That just happened.

  32. king of fruitless hypotheticals says:

    the thing i like most about this, is that cashman can take an absolute flier on this, and if it doesnt work, he says ‘meh. here…you can have him back.’

    we were going to let bruney go, so what we get in return is a chance to pick darn near anybody in the system, and let him play until we decided that it didnt work, and if i understand the rules, cash even gets to say ‘no backsies’ as he drops off the guy in DC…

  33. [...] Mike Axisa at River Ave. Blues ran down some of the candidates the Yankees could take in the Rule V Draft. It’s a good write up so make sure you take a [...]

  34. [...] To get Granderson, the Bombers gave up their top prospect coming into 2009 in Austin Jackson,  who hit .300-.354-.405 in Triple-A this year. Ian Kennedy’s last act as a Yankee will be pitching a scoreless 8th inning in a meaningless late season game against the Angels, while Phil Coke will be remembered as the guy that gave up two homers in one World Series inning. The move makes a dent in the Yanks’ pitching depth, however the Yanks can make up for some it with the player they take first overall in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. [...]

  35. Ted Nelson says:

    I think you have to go with an arm to hide in the bullpen. No team uses all their relievers in meaningful innings anyway, and the Yankees have dealt Bruney and Coke in the past couple days.

  36. [...] the Yankees 1st pick in the Rule 5 draft. For a preview of the top available players in the draft, check out the River Ave Blues quality post about the top [...]

  37. [...] and Matt McBride, both of whom are right-handed outfielders who can play first base and catch. Mike mentioned Tracy in his Rule 5 post the other [...]

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