Patrick Teale

The Yankees took it on the proverbial chin in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, a byproduct of a deep farm system.

About the only downfall to having a very deep farm system like the Yankees have now is that there simply are not enough roster spaces to go around to protect the necessary talent. The Yankees found that out the hard way on Thursday when they lost a number of players in the Rule 5 Draft. We take a look at which losses were the greatest and what the chances are those players could be returned.

1) C, Luis Torrens: To the surprise of many, the Cincinnati Reds selected the 20-year old backstop besides accumulating a grand total 165 long-season league at-bats [all at low-A Charleston] in his career and not exactly being the bastion of health over that time either, and then traded him to the San Diego Padres.  The reason is simple; he's already a plus defender at arguably the most important defensive position.  And while he hasn't shown on the field results with the bat just yet [.250 with six home runs in 585 career at-bats], many scouts strongly believe that he has the talent to develop into a plus hitter in due time too.

These kinds of two-way catchers, the ones with plus defensive ability and above average offensive potential, don't exactly grow on trees and it's a major reason why he was still ranked 13th in our Top 50 Prospects rankings recently.

Most cynics would argue that it's going to be incredibly tough for a 20-year old with his lack of at-bats to make the four-jump level to the big leagues and stick for an entire season, and in many ways those folks are right.  However, with an emphasis back on the defensive game and with the Padres completely devoid of many true long-term prospects, finding a way to stash him as the backup catcher for a season won't be too hard if Torrens stays healthy, especially with Christian Bethancourt, already a plus catcher, potentially moving to the outfield and/or pitcher.  Bethancourt's presence gives the Padres a lot of flexibility and provides some Torrens insurance.

Short-term losing Torrens a stinger for the Yankees as Torrens was viewed as perhaps the best catching prospect in the system now that Gary Sanchez has firmly entrenched himself at the big league level.  Long-term, however, it was going to be quite the chore anyway to keep Torrens from being selected in future Rule 5 drafts.  In a nutshell, his Rule 5 selection seemed to be an inevitability for at least a couple of foreseeable years, especially if he stayed healthy.  That was the Catch-22 for the Yankees -- if Torrens stayed healthy he would need to be protected and it's tough to give a coveted 40-man roster spot to another catcher seemingly at least a couple of years away from the big leagues.

Chances Torrens sticks with the Padres: 70 percent.  Usually a player with his relatively limited experience would be a longer shot of sticking but if Torrens stays healthy -- and that isn't a given with his checkered injury history -- he very well could have seen his final days in a Yankee uniform.  If he is returned the smart money says the Yankees are in the exact same boat a year from now.

2) LHP, Tyler Webb: Though selected last among their first round losses for the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, this one could wind up hurting a bit more than critics realize long-term.  On paper it wouldn't seem like a monumental loss as Webb, a former tenth round pick in 2013, spent portions of the past three years in Triple-A Scranton and yet still hasn't gotten his big league shot.  Part of the reason was some untimely injuries on his part and part of it was simply being buried on the bullpen depth chart by other hard-throwing relievers. 

Still, not exactly known for boasting back-end bullpen stuff, Webb's stuff and command had always flashed long-term starting potential even though he made just five of his 129 appearances in a starting capacity.  It remains to be seen if Webb's new organization -- the Pittsburgh Pirates -- plan on shifting him to that role once Spring Training camp opens up, but few question his ability to have some role at the big league level and even fewer don't expect some success at some level. 

Chances Webb sticks with the Pirates: 80 percent.  He seemingly wasn't going to get his shot with the Yankees anytime soon so while this isn't a huge short-term loss if he sticks with the Pirates in 2016 it could bite them a bit down the road like it did with Jose Quintana years ago, another seemingly middling left-handed prospect with just a tick above average stuff who didn't 'wow' scouts but could really pitch and had results to match.  This one could hurt more long-term than short-term.

3) LHP, Caleb Smith: Like Webb, Smith, a former 14th round pick in 2013 out of Sam Houston State, went wildly underrated in what has become a monster of a Yankee farm system in recent years.  Unlike Webb though, it wasn't because of any lack of stuff.  Smith has plus stuff, especially with his fastball-changeup combination, showing incredible movement with both pitches.  In fact, it is that movement that never really allowed his command to blossom and it made the on-the-field results more ordinary than extraordinary. 

He spent his first three professional seasons in a starting role with some decent results, including a 10-7 record and a 3.47 ERA in 2015 [his last year as a full-time starter].  However, everything began to tick up this past season shifting to the bullpen.  The fastball went from averaging 92 mph to sitting more 93-94 mph, the slider added a tick or two, and his walk rate dropped while his strikeout ratio went up.

Chances Smith sticks with the Cubs: 50 percent.  Smith, selected seventh overall in the Rule 5 Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers but then traded to the Cubs, has proven to be quite durable thus far, shows the kind of role flexibility that makes him a welcomed addition to any pitching staff, and has the kind of upside that still might not yet be fully tapped either.  He runs a little more hot & cold than most pitchers so if his command evades him it could shorten his leash with his new organization and make him available back to the Yankees.


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