By: Josh Sabo | Minor League Writer
Prior to the 2012 Rule 5 draft, many pundits felt that the Yankees would protect a couple relief prospects. Chase Whitley, Fred Lewis, Danny Burawa and Tommy Kahnle were all hyped up as potential Rule 5 picks. The Yankees took a gamble and didn't protect any of the previously mentioned pitchers. This was somewhat of a surprise as those players have some talent, but the Yankees really didn't have a lot of room on their roster.
The team must have felt that the risk of not protecting these players was smaller than the risk of designating another prospect for assignment. This makes sense because once a player gets claimed on waivers he essentially gone for good, but if a player is taken in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft he can be returned to his original team. Most Rule 5 selections actually end up back on their orginal team, as it is hard for most prospects to stick on the 25-man roster all season.
This fact may benefit the Yankees as the one reliever they lost in the draft has a bit of upside. Tommy Kahnle, was the lucky Yankee prospect who got an opportunity to play in the big leagues; he was taken in the draft by the Colorado Rockies. There are two main factors in determining whether or not the Yankees will lose him for good: the first factor is his own performance, and the second factor is whether or not the team has room for him.
So far his performance has been pretty good. He has pitched 3.1 innings without allowing a hit and only walking two batters. This is of course a tiny sample size but it certainly improves his chances of making the team. Despite his good results he hasn't gotten the type of press one would expect. There is very little being written about his chances of making the Rockies. This could be a very good sign for the Yankees.
The lack of attention may be because the Rockies have a lot of other relief options, and those options wouldn't come with the same restrictions that Kahnle does. By looking at the Rockies roster we can see that they have several intriguing options for their pen. Players like: Rex Brothers, Boone Logan, Latroy Hawkins, Matt Belisle, are virtual locks to make the team. Chances are the Rockies only want to carry 12 pitchers so he will have to win one of the three final slots.
Assuming the team wants a long reliever or a second lefty, we would have to give one of those spots to Franklin Morales. The fact that the Rockies traded for him may suggest that they like him and I think he will get a spot on the team.
That leaves just two spots. One of those spots may go to Wilton Lopez, who has had a pretty good career up until last season. The former Yankee farmhand seemed to lose his strikeout ability last season (his SO/9 fell by about 2 batters), but he has a lot of potential. So far he has shown the ability to strike batters during spring training. Someone with Lopez's track record should probably be able to win a roster spot.
Now there is only one real spot for Kahnle to win and that spot can go to a few different players. Adam Ottavino, is one such player and he did well last season. He had an ERA of 2.64 and had 78 strikeouts in 78.1 innings. His WHIP was rather high but players with that kind of strikeout ability tend to get a lot of chances.
Lastly players like: Tyler Matzek, Chad Bettis, Rob Scahill, and several other prospects might make have a case for that final spot in the pen.
All these players affect Kahnle chances of making the opening day roster, but it's important to remember that even if he makes that roster he still has to stick on the team for the entire season. Because of all these factors I think the Yankees have a legit chance of getting him back.
For those unfamiliar with Kahnle the Yankees would be getting a intriguing later inning reliever, who has a similar ceiling to Burawa. Like Burawa, Kahnle throws a fastball in the upper 90s and has two secondary pitches: a slider and a changeup. Kahnle's changeup is thought to better than Burawa and that might be the reason the Rockies took him over Burawa. Kahnle, and Burawa for that matter, needs better command, but his overall package would make him a major league reliever.
Hopefully the Yankees will get him back because the team needs all the relief depth they can get. As of now David Robertson is the only sure thing in their pen and they can't just wait for Andrew Bailey to come back.