Who should be protected from the Rule 5 Draft?

On Thursday, all 30 major-league teams will add various prospects to their 40-man rosters, thereby protecting them from the Rule 5 draft. At the moment, the Yankees have four available spots for draft eligible prospects on the 40-man roster. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll fill all of them, nor does it mean the Yankees will keep all of the players currently on the roster. For example, Eury Perez might be expendable, while someone like Esmil Rogers is set for a decent payday via arbitration and could be non-tendered.

Below, a list of some of the Yankees’ Rule 5 eligible prospects with my thoughts and decision prediction. This list isn’t wholly inclusive, but features the more prominent names or interesting players that are eligible. In no particular order, let’s get started:

CF Mason Williams (Drafted: 4th round, 2010 | Highest Level: Double-A)

Now 23, Williams has fallen far from his #32 ranking on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list following his strong 2012 campaign. After a disappointing 2013, his bat vanished in 2014 — with questions of his desire, to boot. His defense has consistently received high praise, but the lack of want and ability to hit makes his future look bleak. Nonetheless, a team might consider taking a flyer on him as a fourth or fifth outfielder, using Williams as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement. My guess: Unprotected. It’s a difficult choice, as it’s easy to wonder if that potential can suddenly come back. But he’s fallen enough that I don’t think it’s worth it.

SS Cito Culver (Drafted: 1st round, 2010 | Highest Level: A+)

The former first-round pick never lived up to his draft round, but then again, he was an overdraft in the first place. Baseball America says Culver is the top defensive infielder in the system, and maybe that will carry him to the big leagues someday, but he’s been unable to hit at any level. My guess: Unprotected. He’s too far away and can’t hit.

2B Angelo Gumbs (Drafted: 2nd round, 2010 | Highest Level: A+)

The shine from Gumbs’ prospect status a few years back has dulled. Like Culver, the toolsy second baseman hasn’t produced offensively. Moreover, he’s struggled to stay healthy and is still pretty far away from the majors. He certainly won’t be added to the 40-man, and there’s virtually no way he will be selected. My guess: Unprotected, for essentially the same reason as Culver.

1B Kyle Roller (Drafted: 8th round, 2010 | Highest Level: Triple-A)

The oldest player eligible (26), Roller broke out in 2014 between Double and Triple-A. He’s got some power, shown good patience, but he strikes out frequently. His position will also hinder chances of protection and selection. My guess: Unprotected. I’d be surprised if anyone selects Roller, so I don’t think he needs to be added to the roster.

RHP Danny Burawa (Drafted: 12th round, 2010 | Highest Level: Triple-A)

Burawa, 25, is one of the many interesting relief prospects the Yankees have on the farm. Although he’s posted some impressive strikeout numbers, Burawa’s walk rates aren’t pretty. This will actually be the second opportunity for the Yankees to protect Burawa from the Rule 5 draft, after foregoing the chance last offseason. He’s got the stuff to succeed, but given that he wasn’t selected last season and that his 2014 wasn’t anything special, I don’t expect too much interest. My guess: Unprotected. After leaving him unprotected last season, it doesn’t look like Burawa did enough to merit a 40-man spot this year.

OF Tyler Austin (Drafted: 13th round, 2010 | Highest Level: Double-A)

Austin might be the only sure-fire guy to be added to the 40-man roster. Wrist issues have held back his offense in recent seasons, but he turned it around in the final 33 games of the Double-A season (.954 OPS). That carried over to the Arizona Fall League, until an on-field collision cut the 23 year-old’s time short. If his performance uptick continues in 2015, we could see him with the Yankees in September. My guess: Protected. As offense goes down, even guys like Austin will be protected despite their warts.

RHP Mark Montgomery (Drafted: 11th round, 2011 | Highest Level: Triple-A)

Montgomery’s dominance of High-A and Double-A hitters in 2012 made it seem like he was destined for the major-league bullpen at some point in 2013, but injuries and control woes stalled his ascent. Now 24, Montgomery is still very close to the majors, but his inability to limit the free pass with Scranton has prevented him from making the next step. He doesn’t throw particularly hard, but he’s got a nasty slider going for him. My guess: Unprotected. I think the control holds him back, and his lack of velocity probably puts him below other draft-eligible relievers.

RHP Branden Pinder (Drafted: 16th round, 2011 | Highest Level: Triple-A)

Pinder throws gas, hitting as high as 97, but he hasn’t had particularly impressive results in the minors just yet. However, the 25 year-old did dominate Double-A in a short stint to open 2014, earning him a quick promotion to Triple-A in May. He did okay at the highest rung in the minors, but two trips to the disabled list slowed might explain some of that. My guess: Protected. His stuff and promising start to 2014 seem to have him high on the Yankees’ radar, probably ahead of other eligible relievers like Burawa and Montgomery.

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