MLB teams have until Monday, Nov. 20 to assign players to their 40-man roster so they will be protected from December's Rule 5 Draft. The Yankees have an abundance of players deserving of protection, but only some will survive the cut, leaving a collection of strong players available to the rest of the league.
We'll look at five players that are deserving of a spot on the 40-man and then touch on which players could be traded or simply removed from the 40-man roster (the Yankees currently have 38 rostered players) in order to make space. We'll take the players the Yanks could add in alphabetical order.
Note: Prospects ranks (in parenthesis) from MLB Pipeline will show Yankees rank and overall rank if applicable.
Albert Abreu (RHP, Yankees No. 7) came to the Yankees via the Brian McCann trade last offseason. Abreu, 22, hurled 53 1/3 innings across three levels in the regular season (3.38 ERA, 61 Ks and .227 BAA) then tossed another 27 2/3 innings in the Arizona Fall League (2.60 ERA, 23 Ks). Abreu's fastball has zip, sitting in the mid-90s, but he does need to work on control of all his offerings (3.0 BB/9 in 2017 and 4.6 BB/9 in his AFL stint).
Domingo Acevedo (RHP, Yankees No. 6) began the 2017 season with High-A Tampa, making seven starts. Acevedo was then promoted and dazzled in 14 starts with Double-A Trenton, hurling 79 1/3 innings to the tune of a 2.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 82 strikeouts. Acevedo, who turns 24 in March, owns an electric fastball and solid changeup. Acevedo also made two starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he could start the 2018 season.
Thairo Estrada (2B/3B/SS, Yankees No. 17) is a contact machine, ripping 149 hits in 495 at-bats (.301 AVG) at Double-A Trenton in 2017. Estrada, who will play 2018 at his age-22 season, also hit .342 with a .811 OPS in the Arizona Fall League where he played in the Fall Stars Game. Estrada has been the model of consistency with the bat, hitting .287 in 1,600-plus plate appearances in his professional career.
Billy McKinney (1B/OF, Yankees No. 23) was promoted to Triple-A after just 69 games with Double-A Trenton and his offensive game took off. In 224 plate appearances with the RailRiders, McKinney hit .306 with a .336 on-base percentage and a .541 slugging percentage, while smoking 26 extra-base hits (10 home runs). McKinney, 23, was sent to the AFL to learn to play first base in an effort to make him more versatile and, according to reports, he did a fine job. McKinney continued his strong offensive production in Arizona, driving in 20 runs, which was good for second in the league.
Gleyber Torres (2B/3B/SS, Yankees No. 1, Overall No. 1) was on a trajectory to make the Yankees 25-man roster last summer, or at least in September, before succumbing to an elbow injury in mid-June on this non-throwing arm, which required Tommy John surgery. Torres, who will turn 21 in December, has been said to be a candidate to make the club out of spring training in 2018. Torres was used at three infield positions in 2017 to increase versatility and his offense was strong, generating an .863 OPS at both Trenton and Scranton. Torres had a combined .287/.383/.480 slash line in 235 plate appearances.
Other than the five players above, prospects like Nestor Cortes and J.P. Feyereisen may receive strong consideration from the Yankees, but there may simply be no room left for them.
In order to make space, the Yankees will need to trade (the wise choice) or remove three players from the current group of 38. If a trade does not come about to free some space, these are some players that could be sacrificed: Tyler Austin, Luis Cessa, Garrett Cooper, Ronald Herrera, Bryan Mitchell, Austin Romine, Chasen Shreve and Caleb Smith.
Each of these players have legit reasons to be kept on the 40-man roster and as many arguments to be sent packing, making them prime candidates to be on the move in order to create space for the players above. Again, it would make the most sense for the Yankees to swap players on the 40-man roster to make the necessary space as they might be considered valuable to other clubs, so getting something in return is important.