Yanks protect 7 prospects from Rule 5 Draft

Ellsbury released, Bird DFA'd amid flurry of roster moves

November 21st, 2019

The Yankees added seven players to their 40-man roster ahead of Wednesday's deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft coming up in December -- right-hander Deivi Garcia (New York's No. 1 prospect and No. 62 overall, according to MLB Pipeline), outfielder Estevan Florial (No. 3 prospect, No. 82 overall), right-hander Luis Gil (No. 4), right-hander Nick Nelson (No. 14), right-hander Luis Medina (No. 20), right-hander Miguel Yajure (No. 26), and right-hander Brooks Kriske.

In corresponding moves, New York released center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and also designated first baseman Greg Bird and left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. for assignment.

Players first signed at age 18 need to be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons.

The Yankees signed Garcia, 20, out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. He advanced from Class A to Triple-A in the span of two years, with a fastball that touches 96 mph and a strong curveball. He spent last season between Class A Advanced Tampa, Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Overall, he made 26 appearances (21 starts), posting a 4.28 ERA with a 34 percent strikeout rate.

Florial, who turns 22 on Monday, has been considered to have the best raw tools of any of the Yankees' position-player prospects, but he has been hampered by injury and subsequent mediocre performance at the plate. The Yankees signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, and he's been limited to 158 games over the past two seasons due to a broken hamate bone in his hand, as well as a fractured wrist he injured while running into a wall during Spring Training. In 84 games with Tampa last season, he hit just .237/.297/.383.

Gil, 21, had a good season in 20 starts between Charleston (17) and Tampa (3), posting a 2.72 ERA while striking out 30 percent of the batters he faced, utilizing a fastball that touches 101 mph and a very effective curveball. Though he was slowed by shoulder surgery early in his professional career, the Dominican native has been moving through the Yankees' system quickly since.

Nelson, who turns 24 next month, was drafted by New York in the fourth round of the 2016 Draft. In 18 appearances (17 starts) between Class A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A last season, he posted a 2.81 ERA while striking out 30 percent of the batters he faced.

Medina was also signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. The 20-year-old right-hander has a 100-mph fastball and a good curveball, but he needs to harness his control. He posted a 6.00 ERA at Class A last season, striking out 127 of the 470 batters he faced (27 percent), but also walking 70.

Yajure, 21, has been very good since having Tommy John surgery in 2017. The Venezuelan native appeared in 24 games in '19, making 20 starts between Class A Advanced (18) and Double-A (two). He posted a 2.14 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with a 92-95 mph fastball and a solid changeup.

The Yankees selected Kriske in the sixth round of the 2016 Draft out of USC. The 25-year-old right-hander has pitched well at each level he's played. Last season with Trenton, he turned in a 2.59 ERA and 32 percent strikeout rate over 36 relief appearances. Prior to his midseason promotion to Double-A, he tossed 12 scoreless relief innings over seven appearances for Tampa.

The release of Ellsbury came after years of the veteran outfielder underperforming and later, being unable to play due to injuries. The former All-Star center fielder with the Red Sox finished his Yankees tenure with a .264/.330/.386 slash line (95 OPS+), and has not taken the field since 2017. He has $26 million remaining on his contract.

Bird was also hampered with injuries after a sensational rookie campaign in 2015, in which he slugged 11 home runs with an .871 OPS in 46 games. But he missed the entire '16 campaign after having shoulder surgery, and he has struggled at the plate, with a .194/.287/.388 slash line in three seasons since.

Cortes, who turns 25 next month, made 32 relief appearances and one start for New York in 2019, finishing with a 5.67 ERA. He also had a 3.86 ERA over seven outings (six starts) for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.