Tomorrow is the deadline for teams to set the 40-man Major League, Triple-A, and Double-A rosters in preparation for next month's Rule 5 draft. The Yankees always seem to be under a 40-man roster crunch and never seem to have enough spots for protection-worthy players who are Rule 5 eligible, and this season is no different. Here's a quick breakdown of where the roster stands, what other moves might be made to clear space, and my thoughts on what players the Yankees will, won't, should, and should not protect. The Roster: Currently stands at 38 players. 21 pitchers, 3 catchers, 6 infielders (not including Ackley), 7 outfielders (including Ackley), and 1 Alex Rodriguez.
Cotham is a 28-year-old MiL lifer who just made his MLB debut in 2015. He pitched to a 6.52/6.55 ERA/FIP split in 9.2 innings and gave up 14 hits and 4 homers. He's most likely a Quad-A player at best, and the Yankees have enough to righty relief depth to make up for his loss.
German will be working his way back from TJS this year, and because of that he's a prime candidate to get the "release/re-sign to a MiL deal" treatment that Slade Heathcott and Vicente Campos got last year. As a 23-year-old who's never pitched above Low-A, German could also be another player the Yankees are willing to lose if it comes to that.
Davis is the most obvious Rule 5 protection candidate to me. He took a big step forward in 2015 and even though his experience at Double-A was limited, I think there's a team out there that might try to snatch him up and hide him in their bullpen next season. He and Cave are also top 20 organizational prospects and the I feel like the Yankees have done what they can to keep guys like that around for as long as possible the last few years.
If they open up any more roster spots, they could use one to protect Hebert. He had a quiet breakout season as a lefty starter at 3 levels and he reached Triple-A before the end of the season. The Yankees obviously like him in some capacity because they sent him to the AZFL. He's been holding his own there as a reliever despite some command problems, and at 23 there is still time to see if he can develop as a starter. The Yankees love their lefties and he's put himself on the map as a potential starter or reliever.
Andujar and Avelino are both toolsy young players who have yet to turn those tools into consistently good production. They've also neither played a game above High-A ball and there's no way a team could take them and expect to get anything good out of them at the MLB level in 2016. They should be safe to leave unprotected and hopefully start to blossom next year.
Barbato could be a goner if he's left unprotected. He's a young, hard-throwing righty who struck out 70 batters in 67.1 innings pitched this past season and posted a sparkling 0.36 ERA in 25 Triple-A innings. Similar situation to Tommy Kahnle when he got snagged by the Rockies a few years ago, and with all the other young Triple-A relievers in the mix, Barbato would be an acceptable loss.
Gamel is in the same boat. He's way down on the depth chart as a lefty-hitting outfielder, but he's also to the point where he could conceivably help next season after a terrific year for SWB. If 2015 was really the year that Gamel put it all together, he could be seen as a helpful 4th outfielder by some teams. I would be bummed to lose him because I've always liked Gamel more than most, but I wouldn't blame the Yankees for leaving him out there due to the depth and redundancy of position.
I used to have a thing for Dietrich Enns. I thought he was a good sleeper prospect a few years ago, but he's lost a lot of time with injuries and might not be ready for Double-A ball next year. He's slipping into the organizational depth category. Ditto for Renda. There are so many young middle infielders coming up through the system behind him that he's not a critical piece. If somebody else thinks they can use him, they can have him.
We'll see what the rest of today has in store as far as additional roster moves go. Chances are very good that the Yankees don't do anything I said here. They're looking to add more big league players as the offseason progresses and they're going to need roster spots to do that. It wouldn't be a surprise to see only 1 player get protected tomorrow and that would be a tough decision for the Yankees to make. Glad it's theirs to make and not mine.