Yankees make no picks, lose Jake Cave and Evan Rutckyj in Rule 5 Draft

Cave. (AP)
Cave. (AP)

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.

Keith Law scouts Low-A Charleston

Campos. (Photo via Charleston River Dogs)
Campos. (Photo via Charleston River Dogs)

As I mentioned last night, Keith Law was in attendance for Low-A Charleston’s loss to Augusta on Saturday. He posted his scouting notes today (subs. req’d), so here’s a quick recap…

  • RHP Jose Campos showed “reduced stuff and an arm action that seems destined for further injuries or a role in the bullpen.” He settled at 89-92 with below-average command, pretty much the opposite of what made his such an exciting prospect a year ago. His breaking ball and changeup are still works in progress. “This was far from an ideal look,” said Law, acknowledging Campos missed basically all of last year due to injury, “but what I saw didn’t give me a ton of hope.”
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr. is “a mess on both sides of the ball,” and Law said SS Cito Culver was “running worse than I’ve ever seen from him.” 1B Greg Bird “didn’t seem to be able to pick up anything” at the plate.
  • OF Yeicok Calderon has “bat speed and a strong arm, but his hands are all over the place at the plate and the Augusta pitchers blew him up with velocity.”
  • LHP Evan Rutckyj sat in the 89-91 range with a “fringy changeup and a slider at 80-82 that might give him a chance in middle relief.”

Prospect Profile: Evan Rutckyj

(Photo Credit: www.life.com)

Evan Rutckyj | LHP

Background
Born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, Rutckyj (pronounced Root-ski) did what most Canadians do as a kid and played hockey, getting drafted by the Barrie Colts (a junior team) in the 11th round of the 2008 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection (i.e draft). He also boxed during the summers. Rutckyj gave up hockey in high school and focused on baseball, transitioning from the outfield to the mound as a sophomore. He worked with the Canadian junior national team as well as a private pitching coach leading up the draft.

Baseball America ranked Rutckyj as the second best Canadian prospect and 193rd best prospect overall for the 2010 draft this spring, though rumors of a first round bonus demand scored teams away. Rutckyj slipped to the 16th round of the draft, when the Yankees happily grabbed him 505th overall. After two months of negotiations with Rutckyj and advisor Dan Lawson, the two sides agreed to a contract that included a $500,000 signing bonus and a $155,000 education package.

Pro Debut
The Yankees assigned Rutckyj to their rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliate after signing, where he appeared in just one game. He retired all three batters he faced, recording a grounder and two fly balls.

Scouting Report
Big and tall at 6-foot-5 and 213 lbs., the 18-year-old Rutckyj is a power-armed left-hander. His fastball sat 88-91 in the spring and touched 93, though he projects to add some more oomph once he fills out and getting his mechanics cleaned up. Rutckyj’s out pitch is a sweepy slider in the low-80’s, but he has a long way to go to gain consistency with it. His changeup is borderline non-existent, so there’s a lot of work to be done there.

Because he’s so big and relatively new to pitching, Rutckyj’s delivery can get out of whack rather easily. Professional instruction will go a long way towards helping him develop a consistent motion, which will in turn help his command. Rutckyj is perhaps too in shape; his tightly wound frame doesn’t allow for much flexibility. As cliche as it is, he takes a hockey mentality out to the mound with him, so there’s no fear.

Here is Rutckyj’s draft video plus another clip from the Under Armour All America Showcase.

2011 Outlook
Rutckyj is very raw and inexperienced, so the Yankees will hold in back in Extended Spring Training before assigning him to a short season league when the seasons start in June. I fully expect him to return to the GCL, though Short Season Staten Island isn’t completely out of the question.

My Take
I’m a fan. Anytime you grab a big power arm, especially left-handed, that late in the draft, it’s a coup. Rutckyj certainly has a lot of work to do and a very long way to go, but the tools are there for success. The ceiling is considerable, but so is the risk. For $500,000, a touch more than Ramiro Pena will earn next season, there’s not much more you can ask of the Yankees with their late picks.

Yankees reach deal with 16th rounder Evan Rutckyj

Update (10:51pm): Bob Elliott says Rutckyj received $500,000, still above slot but certainly not first round money. Good deal.

10:33pm: Via Keith Law, the Yankees have reached an agreement with 16th round pick Evan Rutckyj. Financial terms of the deal are unknown, though he was reportedly seeking first round money.

The 6-foot-5, 210 lb. Canadian lefthander was a top 200 draft prospect according to Baseball America, and he throws in the low-90’s with the makings of a wipeout slider. Surprisingly, he has a pretty good feel for his delivery and clean mechanics, but there’s still a lot of work to be done here. He’s a former hockey player that gave up the sport to pursue baseball full-time, so naturally he’s a pretty tough dude. Here’s video, and here’s a list of who the Yankees have signed so far.