As Stacey noted earlier today, the Yankees lost five players in the Rule V draft this morning. New York’s recent signings gave them a full 40-man roster, so the Yankees did not take any players in this year’s draft and lost at least one notable prospect in Ravel Santana. The Rockies took RHP Tommy Kahnle with the fourth overall pick, though he could end up back with the Yankees if he isn’t able to stick on Colorado’s roster for the whole season. Santana, Kelvin Castro, Felipe Gonzalez and Mikey O’Brien were taken in the Minor League portion of the draft, so they do not need to stay on the Major League roster in order for their new teams to retain them. Basically, the chances of appearing in pinstripes anytime soon is rather slim.
So, who are these players and why did the Yankees let them leave? Kelvin Castro, Felipe Gonzalez, and Mikey O’Brien are all right-handed pitchers. Castro is 25 and was an infielder who made it to up Tampa before switching to the mound this past season, making appearances in Staten Island and Charleston. I honestly had never heard of Gonzalez who spent 2008-2011 pitching in the Dominican Summer League. I have no idea what he was doing in 2012, but he pitched in the GCL this past season. O’Brien was drafted out of high school in the ninth round of 2008. He has bounced between Tampa and Trenton over the last two seasons. In his 107 innings in Trenton this year he struck out 90. He was never a major prospect for the Yankees, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets his chance in the Majors in the next couple years.
The noticeable players taken from the Yankees today were Tommy Kahnle and Ravel Santana. Kahnle is a 24 year old right-handed relief pitcher who the Yankees drafted out of Lynn University (FL) in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. He can throw mid-90s (hitting 98 at times) and has a solid fastball and above average change up. His slider is inconsistent and that consistency has been his downfall. Kahnle spent all of 2013 in Trenton, where he struck out 74 over 60 innings and he is particularly tough against lefties, who hit just .159 off him.
Kahnle obviously has some serious potential and it would not have been a surprise to see him get a chance in the Majors at some point in 2014. The question with him has always been his consistency and perhaps the Yankees didn’t think the chances of him sorting that out were worth giving him a spot on the 40-man. Knowing that they need pitching this year (at least at the moment), perhaps they felt better about keeping guys who have already had a taste of the Bronx like Warren, Nuno and yes – even Betances now that he has finally been made a relief pitcher. With his consistency issues and having not ever pitched above Double-A it’s possible the Yankees feel like it was worth the gamble to see if he could hang onto another team’s roster spot for the whole season.
Santana was once a top ten prospect for the Yankees. In fact, prior to the 2012 season we ranked Santana ninth on our Top 30 Prospects list and last season we had him at 14th. So, how is it that this once incredibly toolsy outfield prospect wasn’t even put on the Yankees minor league protected list? It all comes back to that by all accounts nasty ankle injury he suffered in 2011. It was the type of injury that ends careers and, unfortunately, it looks like it at the least has slowed Santana’s down incredibly. The once speedy and powerful outfielder had the chance to move quickly through the minors, but he struggled with Staten Island in 2012 and didn’t see a pitch in 2013. If he is able to get healthy and back to where he was, the Astros may have pulled off quite the steal, having just paid the Yankees $12,000 for a guy the Yankees gave a $149,000 signing bonus to in 2008.